Or, getting curious about a year instead of trying to mold it against its willPhoto by Alin Rusu on Unsplash
I don’t know about you, but the last two years have taken the (false) feeling I had of being on solid ground and replaced it with, well, balancing a hundred feet in the air on the ledge of a building with no safety net — in the middle of a hurricane. Not only do I feel like I have more choices to make, but the stakes feel higher and the ways my life could change because of them seem immensely more varied than they ever did before.
Forks in the road
Looking back, though, I realize this isn’t true. Even if they are a little easier to spot now, forks in the road are far from a new thing. For instance, in 2013, I first started pursuing writing for publication. At the end of 2012, I visualized the next year with a sense of excitement. I had no idea what life would be like in twelve months. But I planned to write my first novel, send queries, get an agent, and end up on the path to traditional publication. So much could change, I thought that December, shivers literally running down my spine in anticipation.
And so much did. That year ended up being one of the hardest in my life to that point, and one of the most unpredictable, too. I finished a draft of my very first novel just like I planned. But as far as ‘just like I planned’ goes, that was the end of that. Instead of the start of a writing career and a straightforward line toward a well-received debut novel like I’d imagined, I ended 2013 in a new home, three months pregnant with my daughter, and very very sick because of it.
Spoiler alert: the goals I made that year did not go well. But so much of my life now had its catalyst in 2013, from the writing I began, to the friends I made, to my life as a mother. Despite those initial sparks toward something new, I felt like a failure for how far I was from where I had wanted to be. I’d set SMART goals. I visualized the results. I checked in monthly to see how it was going. So why was I still so far away from what I’d resolved?
In all honesty, 2013 Me would also be pretty disappointed with where I’m at heading into 2022, too. I had planned a route with short timelines and quick success and no room for pivoting or variation or setbacks. What’s happened to me since, as well as what I’ve decided to do with what’s happened to me, has led me down a path I love, but hadn’t anticipated.
This year, I want to do December Rochelle a favor and not set her up for failure or disappointment.
Once again, so much is uncertain in my life (as it is for many of us). In addition to, well, everything happening on a global scale, I spent 2021 figuratively throwing spaghetti at the wall of my career to see what sticks. I planned, drafted, and created the content for my first course — Fearless Formatting in Microsoft Word — that’s set to officially launch in January. I added coaching writers to my freelance services. I sort of accidentally launched a merch shop. I drafted, revised, and began to query my seventh novel, this one my first in verse. I returned to my fourth novel, one I’d shelved indefinitely, and began a revision process I’m immensely proud of. I began writing for Medium.
And now, in December 2021, I have no idea what my focus will be by the time December 2022 rolls around. Unlike nine years ago, though, I actually think that’s pretty cool, something to lean into instead of avoid. Maybe my main income will be my course. Maybe I’ll take on more coaching clients. Maybe I’ll have more people interested in my merch and shift my focus that way. Maybe nothing will change and my primary income will still be editing novels, non-fiction, and dissertations. I might write a new book, or take the whole year off from writing fiction entirely, or focus on my Building a Novel Layer by Layer non-fiction book I’ve been working on intermittently for far too long.
These deviations in my path don’t scare me. They excite me. Any one of those choices feels true to who I am and who I want to become. What’s changed in the last fifteen-plus years is I trust myself to choose well.
Laziness is a lie
The truth is, I spent much of my childhood being told, directly and indirectly, that I was lazy and disorganized, and much of my teenage years and early adulthood hating that about myself and trying to change it. For me, it’s likely that what was perceived as laziness and disorganization was undiagnosed neurodiversity, which leads me to work in feast-or-famine mode constantly, and made me prone, without tools, to doing my homework the night I got it and then quickly losing it in my disaster of a backpack.
However, more and more, research is showing that laziness is a lie, full stop. Devon Price writes in their book Laziness Does Not Exist that
The Laziness Lie tells us that we’re all at risk of becoming slothful and unaccomplished, and that every sign of weakness is suspect. It has many of us convinced that deep down we’re not the driven, accomplished people we pretend to be. That the only way to overcome our selfish, sluggish instincts is to never listen to our bodies, never give ourselves a break, and never use illness as a reason to slow down.
That’s certainly what my self-talk has looked like for the last twenty years. But here’s the thing: when I don’t have editing work, I get desperate for something to do within a few days. ‘I’ve had as much rest as I can take. What’s next?’ I think to myself whenever I do slow down.
It’s almost like rest rejuvenates us and prepares us for meaningful work again. Huh.
So, what does 2022 look like for me? I have no clue, except that I plan to frame it in questions. I’m starting out with quarterly ones, because that seems a good chunk of time, without having to commit to the same questions for an entire year. Maybe some of them will get answered or become irrelevant, after all. Or some new opportunity will pop up that I’ll want to get curious about. For now, though, these are some questions I’m pondering as 2022 starts.
What does it look like to clean up while I make dinner?What books do I find interesting right now and want to read? When can I set aside time to read them?How do I feel when I drink at least 64 ounces of water a day?Do I think my WIP is ready for another round of revision?Which articles do I want to write this month?Is there a kind of marketing I don’t find awful, and how can I leverage that for my course?
As David Hoffeld notes, our brains are hardwired to look at questions and start coming up with solutions. They jumpstart us into thinking things over and looking for answers. They get stuck in our brain until we find one.
It’s a technique I’ve used in my writing for years: asking the right questions is so much more important than finding the right answers because when you ask the right questions, the answers will follow.
My life is a WIP, anyway. I may as well get curious with questions instead of rigid with tasks. What about you? How could you frame 2022 in questions to answer instead of boxes to tick?
I Set New Year’s Resolutions for 15 Years. I Won’t for 2022. Here’s Why. was originally published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Read more: writingcooperative.com