Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We don't need no stinkin' resolutions

The week between Christmas and New Years Day has always seemed to be a time when we all hit the pause button. Even when I worked in "real" jobs that required me to be back in an office on December 26th, things were unusually quiet, as if everyone was merely marking time (and recuperating from Christmas shopping, parties, and eating) until January 2, when the hustle and bustle of our hectic lives would start up all over again.

I've never been one for making New Years resolutions, because they're so redundant. And boring. And destined to fail. Eat Less. Exercise More. Make time -- hahahaha --for a life that has nothing to do with writing.

However, two years ago, having watched the fervor with which some writers appeared to be tackling career issues, I made the grand announcement, over a New Years Eve family dinner, that I was going to become more high maintenance in my own career. My adult son, who's known me all of his life and a large percentage of mine, seemed to sum up the collectively skeptical mood at the table when he said, "Good luck with that, Mom."

Well, it wasn't easy and although there were many times when I so wanted to just concentrate on THE WORK, as I'm always advising writer friends to do, I managed to stick with that decision all year. And you know what? Not only was it exhausting and time consuming, I'm not sure it made any difference, other than to give me more reasons to fret for twelve long months about things that were totally out of my control.

So, that was one resolution I was more than willing to put behind me. But it got me wondering exactly how far back this resolution thing goes, so I did some Googling and discovered that New Years was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago. (Which represents a lot of broken resolutions under the bridge!) The Babylonian celebration lasted eleven days, which makes us look like pikers, with our midnight champagne toast and horn blowing. Those horns, btw, were meant to drive away bad spirits who might be lurking around hoping to spoil the new year.

The Babylonians were also the ones to begin this resolution thing, though, unlike our modern vows to "turn over a new leaf," the ancient tradition was to pay up one's debts, which was why the most popular resolution in 2,000 B.C. was to return borrowed farm equipment.

So, assuming that you're not harboring your neighbor's plow, what resolutions will you be making for 2007? Or, if you're joining me at the "We don't need no stinkin' resolutions" table, why are you foregoing this annual tradition?

Oh, and because I do have a goal -- not a resolution! lol -- to get rid of some of those boxes of author copies cluttering up our attic, I'm giving away a hardcover copy of IMPULSE and a NO SAFE PLACE chocolate bar to one respondent chosen at random. Hopefully someone who hasn't made a resolution to cut back on chocolate in the New Year! :)

17 comments:

helenb. said...

JoAnn,

The last thing I expected to read about under a blog header of "We don't need no stinkin' resolutions" was the Babylonians! lol You never disappoint, O Queen of Trivia! I gave up making champagne-induced Eve resolutions years ago, save for, perhaps, striving to be a better person. I just never seem to lose that weight or tone those muscles. Grin. But, it's interesting that you brought up the ancient tradition of paying one's debts. Who knew I had so much Babylonian in me! Every year, on the last day of December, I trot off to the library and pay my book fines, so that I start the year with a clean slate. Of course, this year it falls on a Sunday, so I'll be going on Saturday. Hmm. I will be paying more attention to horn-blowing this year. Don't want any bad spirits lurking about!

helenb.

Nancy Morse said...

I think I said this recently (so if I'm repeating myself, just ignore me), but the only resolution I make is to make no resolutions. Why bother? I don't lose those holiday pounds quicker or write any faster, and I already go to the gym several days a week, so if I went any more often, I'd have to live there and man, wouldn't that be expensive. Resolving to be a better person is good, but since I haven't killed any puppies, robbed any banks or told some people what I really think of them, I figure I'm a good enough person as is. Not that I couldn't use some attitude adjustment, just a little tweaking here and there, but if I can't do that on my own without making a solemn oath or placing my hand on a stack of bibles or reciting a litany of resolutions on December 31st as the ball drops, then either I'm a lost cause or I'll just have to accept myself for the way I am. Wait a minute, that sounds strangely like a resolution. You gotta love those ancient Babylonians. I'll bet not many of them faced foreclosure or bankruptcy.

Deborah Matthews said...

At my age, I quit making resolutions years ago. Sure I want to lose weight, exercise more, write more. But setting resolutions to do so just sets me up for failure. This year I'm trying something different--prayer. At least if this fails, it will definitely be my fault.

gailbarrett said...

I like to set goals, so I'm often making resolutions of various types throughout the year. I go in spurts of exercising, healthy eating, and so on. Inevitably I slack off, but pretty soon I make another resolution and start up again because I really do feel better when I'm exercising and eating right. However, I have never had a New Year's resolution succeed. In fact, I normally forget all about the resolution within a week of the start of the new year. Maybe it's because I tend to make those resolutions too big or vague (I will become a sweet-tempered person; I will give up wine forever - ha ha ha). So, after repeated failures, I stopped making New Year's resolutions and just try to keep to the smaller ones throughout the year.

Shanna Swendson said...

I have to admit, I'm a total sucker for resolutions. I love planning, coming up with goals and strategies to achieve them. Not that this gets me anywhere. I still make the same resolutions every year because my enthusiasm seldom lasts until February. I've just decided to make the resolution-making process something I do for fun because I happen to enjoy it rather than having any intention of actually doing anything. Any accomplishment is a bonus. I also like the sense of being able to hit the reset button on my life and make a fresh start.

L. Faye Hughes said...

JoAnn,

I love this! LOL. This year, I'm not making resolutions, either.

Uh oh. Was that a resolution?

LOL.

Have a healthy and happy New Year, everyone!

Faye

Shawna Moore said...

Great post, JoAnn!

New Year's resolutions? What resolutions? ;) I'm more into goals. For the most part, I'm a planner in most everything in my life. Romantic getaways or sexy adventures hosted by my husband or me are main ways I embrace spontaneity. I've always been one who can work extremely well without supervision and set goals as I go along. Usually, I set a couple household "goals" as opposed to actual resolutions before the New Year turns over. This is often to organize storage areas or tackle some cleaning task that has been ignored in favor of writing :) My writing always takes precedence over mundane things revolving around domestic duties LOL I'm not one who really believes in or makes resolutions per se. However, I do analyze my writing career prior to January 1 and also at quarterly intervals throughout the year. Short-term goals may be combined to form longer-term goals, etc.

Here's wishing everyone the best and brightest New Year. May your wildest and fondest dreams become reality :)

Shawna Moore

Cathy said...

I'm not much into making resolutions, and I agree about goals being the way to go. When it comes to chocolate, since I can never cut back, I don't stress about it. I like it, it tastes good, and there can never be enough.

Anonymous said...

Deborah is right. These resolutions just set us up for failure. I did not accomplish the career goals I drew up for 2006. And not for lack of trying. So much in this writing business is out of our control.

I wrote and submitted plenty, but did not make a single sale in 2006. Some proposals still languish on editor's desks; others have been rejected.

The only goal I achieved was landing an agent. I've been trying to get an agent since I sold my first book to Harlequin Historicals in 1997. When that first book won some awards, and I was named Notable New Author, I thought I wouldn't have any problem getting an agent. Boy, was I wrong! I've made ten sales without an agent.

Just the past couple of years I've finally had some agents express interest in representing me, but after I interviewed them, I found some of them not a good fit.

The first Tuesday of 2006 (because I figured agents would be too busy the first Monday), I began CALLING New York agents and talking to them about my career. This worked, and soon I signed with an agent who was at the top of my list.

But she still hasn't sold my work. The proposals she's shopping are, I think, the best I've ever written, and the stories are of characters that many, many readers have begged to see have their own books.

Everything but the writing is out of my control.

Now, I can control other aspects of my life. After consuming a huge portion of the 12 dozen Christmas cookies I baked, I may join Weight Watchers in 2007. That's something over which I have control.

Terry Z McDermid said...

Funny this should be your topic today, JoAnn. On the car radio, I happened to catch the last few minutes of a speaker telling listeners that before the end of the year, they needed to think about how much they had given to others in the past year. That the end of the year is a good time to think about what they will 'sow and what they will reap.' Nothing about resolutions but about catching up with what was missed from the other 362 days of the year. A form of debt resolution, in a way.

I don't make resolutions but I am a goal-setting person. I have large goals broken into weekly and daily portions. I've also been focusing on what is important in my life (my family, my writing, my other business) and if something doesn't move one of those areas forward, I say 'no.' That resolution/goal/decision has really helped this past year. I plan to stick to it again this year (if that could be considered a resolution, ah well!).

Allison Brennan said...

AMEN! I hate making New Years Resolutions.

Teresa said...

I'm not making any New Year's resolutions either, I usually stick to them for a couple of weeks and then that ends. So whats the point. I'm going to try to read more books this year! lol

Joyce said...

I haven't made a new year's resolution in quite a few years. Basically for the reasons already given - they don't last. If I made one it would probably be to try to read less, OK, that wouldn't last.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!

Christie Craig said...

JoAnn, I love hearing everyone's thoughts on resolutions. You know, the whole New Year game of making resolutions has sort of gotten blown out of proportion. Now, I am a resolution maker, but I'm a big goal maker, too. Oddly enough, I have a much better record of meeting goals than I do keeping resolutions. I think the reason for this is that it takes more than just a time of the year, or the tradition of picking up a new calendar, to make changes in our lives.

Let's face it, change isn't easy, and it should really stem from deep within us when the timing is right. Not just because of the time. So maybe what some of us need to do is borrow a little tradition from Thanksgiving and stop trying so hard to force change and start giving thanks for what we have accomplished during the last year.

Happy New Year guys!

Christie

Alfie said...

My family and I sit down after a wonderful dinner on New Years Day with our Goal Sheets. We reveiw how we did on last year's goals and make out new ones for the year ahead. We have lots of fun as we toast our past successes and future plans with a little champagne.
Resolutions? Goals? I'm not sure there's a huge difference but I am sure it feels better to realize you haven't yet reached a certain goal than it is to realize you broke all your resolutions. And this year I am buying bunches of horns for New Years Eve.
Ans one of my first goals this year is to win JoAnn's books and chocolate.
Happy New Year, everyone.

Sheryl said...

The only resolution I'm making is one I know I can keep - to eat as much chocolate as I want without feeling guilty about it in the least. I want to indulge myself more. And tell my friends how much I appreciate them because even though they know, it feels good to hear.

Judythe said...

Okay, for free chocolate, I'll break my resolution never to discuss New Year's resolutions!

JoAnn, I loved all the trivia facts about the silly tradition. Hard to believe that we all indulge in promising to do things we know we won't do.

Wasn't it Ben Franklin who said "To do the same thing over and over and expect different results was dumb?"
That's a judyism of the real quote, but you get the point--I'm with you "I don't need no stinkin' resolutions"