Saturday, 1 January 2011


Resolutions, anyone? Pah. I foolishly wrote mine down last year and helpfully lost them until last week, when I found them, read them and was dismayed. I'd failed with all of them, failed so miserably that frankly I didn't even remember trying.

You want to know what they were?
  1. Put writing at the top of my work priorities.
  2. Exercise and relax every day.
Utterly bloody pathetic. The first was too vague. The second too unlikely. And I had no strategies in place to try to keep them. Mind you, I'm not alone. Listen to this news report from a year ago:

Thing is, 2010 was a rubbish year for me for some reasons I never told you about, and some I did. Somehow, I have to take 2011 by the scruff of its neck and shake it into submission. And for that, we don't need resolutions: we need strategies. Because resolutions fail when they aren't accompanied by strategies.

I will tell you my strategies. They different from resolutions, because they are the means to an end, not the end.
  1. Because I respond well to word-count targets, I have set staged word-count targets for my WIP. I have a deadline (self-imposed, but that's never been a problem for me) and the targets will enable me to meet it. This strategy will probably work because I know this is the sort of thing that generally does work for me. It might not for everyone.
  2. Because I have already over-filled my diary with speaking engagements till the summer, I will now reject all speaking invitations for any week which is currently "free", so that it remains free for writing. If anyone wants me to speak, it has to fit in one of the weeks where I'm already too busy to focus on writing. (Clearly, there may be exceptionally unmissable invitations, but they will have to be exceptional.)
  3. Because I have somewhat high blood pressure, which was diagnosed in 2010, exercise and relaxation are now crucial and are not optional. However, to tell myself to "exercise and relax every day" does not work, because it becomes like a task, goes to the bottom of the list of tasks and becomes a task for which I never find time. However, there is a strategy that might help:
    I need to remember, consciously, that writing and exercising are not options but essentials and they must be done first in the day, not put on a list of tasks. They are not tasks: they are life. So, tasks become separate things, to be done LATER in the day. The knowledge that not doing exercise will make me ill and might shorten my life must be sufficient incentive.
  4. Also, walking, which is great exercise, is my best way of thinking and plotting. So, I will walk in the mornings, to help me write. I will walk as though my life depends on it. Because it might.
By the way, after writing this, I found a sensible video about how to keep a resolution. (Genuinely sensible, not ironically so, or downright hilarious, as my Christmas videos were.) I particularly liked the bit at the end about rewarding yourself with a pair of shoes!

Which reminds me:
5. Buy more shoes. Now, there's a strategy that will work!

I have a huge amount to look forward to this year - Wasted is on five award shortlists, Deathwatch is on one, and Wasted is nominated for the Carnegie. 2010 was a piece of crap for lots of people and for many worse reasons than my relatively trivial crapness. If it was crap for you, I wish you a very very much better 2011. Take it by the scruff of the neck and whip it into shape. Work hard, write hard, have good strategies in place and together we can beat the Forces of Crap. Go us!


catdownunder said...

There are New Year resolutions - or things you can hope for that depend on you. At least, that is what I put in my blog-post this morning. I would rather hope for things that depend on me than make foolish resolutions I cannot keep.
Is that sensible? I hope so.
Good luck with yours - and the dog will appreciate the walks. (We cats can walk ourselves.)

DJ Kirkby said...

I wish you luck with your strategies. Strategy two doesn't apply to me anyway and after reading about how hectic you are I feel I should be grateful! I plan to copy you to some degree for the rest because what you have written in this post makes a lot of sense. Happy New Year :)

Queenie said...

Happy New Year, Nicola. I hope 2011 is a MUCH better year for you than 2010. And I hope you win at least two of those awards. Fingers crossed.

Nicolette said...

I like the idea of grabbing the new year by the scruff of the neck and threatening it.

"This will be MY year, do you hear me, 2011?"

And giving it a vigorous shake, till it falls to the floor in a crumpled heap, begging for forgiveness and offering to give me nice things.

Colette McCormick said...

Can't remember a resolution that I ever kept but a strategy is something to think about.
Good luck and all the best for 2011

Dan Holloway said...

Nicola, all the very very best with 2011. I hope it brings you wonderful success in using the strategies to kick butt. I've always found the most helpful thing psychologically is realising that a blip is a blip. Like when a golfer three putts. The success of any strategy lies not in not making mistakes but in making sure that one mistake doesn't lead to another.

2010 was a pretty dismal year. My wife had a major breakdown and managed to get to work about 10 days in the year; my best friend tried (and thankfully failed) to kill herself; I put on 2 stone; and I lost the last shred of belief in my own creative abilities. No resolutions this year, but I did write myself a manifesto:

Elaine AM Smith said...

Happy New Year!
Good luck with your strategies for achieving your goals in 2011.
Writing, relaxation and exercise are not optional? I like this thinking :)

word verification: pammull - an active, but less painful, massage? ;)

Sally Zigmond said...

2010 was a strange year for me, too, one of heady highs and deep, deep lows, although the latter far outweighed the former. And just when I thought it had ended on a high, it hit the buffers big time just before Christmas and remains there now.

So, like you, Nicola, I am hoping that 2011 will find us all in a better place. As the song goes, 'Things can only get better.'

Sarah Hilary said...

Excellent NY resolutions, and great advice about whipping 2011 into shape. My 2010 was rough, dear friend died of excruciating disease that killed my dad ten years ago, financial worries, upheaval etc. But it was saved at the last minute by the agent who signed me up the week before Christmas - guaranteeing that 2011 will be challenging and different. Happy New Year!

Katherine Langrish said...

Good luck with it all, Nicola, and here's hoping for a brilliant year ahead for you (and Wasted)!

Tyler Tork said...

I like your practical, history-based strategy.
One thing I've found helpful is the combination treadmill and writing desk. I had my brother-in-law build the desk part of mine, but you can also buy them pre-made.

Colette said...

Nicola, try yoga! It's great conditioning and helps with relaxation as well (all in one step!)

I just noticed there is another Colette here! And we both spell out names properly (with only one 'l').

adele said...

An inspiring post! I do hope you have a superb 2011 and that your health above all, is tip top. I like your strategy idea and intend to implement it myself. 2010 was a good year in many ways for me but workwise it was, as you say, CRAP! So let us hope that 2011 is much better. As they used to say on the Rikki Lake show: YOU GO, GIRL!

JO said...

Let's hope 2011 is kind to all of us.
Resolutions, strategies - yes, I have those too, but have yet to find a way to fit in a recent announcement that a daughter is expecting twins! How the hell am I meant to write/exercise/eat sensibly/sleep?
So I am joining the army of the well-intentioned, with one single promise - to be kind to myself.
Hope you will, too, Nicola.

Book Maven said...

And don't you have a book coming out in 2011 called Write to be Published?

Have a good one.

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. I think New Year Resolutions are generally impossible and unrealistic goals and usually it's too hard to change our behaviour and habits to meet them. I sympathise with the high blood pressure problem and I know how difficult it is to fit in regular exercise with writing. My solution is to have found a really excellent indoor swimming pool. I like being in the water so much that I look forward to going and it motivates me. A couple of sessions in the pool (ten to fifteen minutes) interspersed with sauna/steam room and then a good shower is a practical formula. Do that twice a week and you'll feel like a new woman. The movement helps to get rid of the writer's RSI as well.

Jemi Fraser said...

LOVE the idea of strategies instead of resolutions!! Brilliant!

I hope 2011 brings you all kinds of joy! :)

Tracy said...

I certainly wish you the best in sticking to your strategies...just remember though, we are all doing the best we can at any given time...cut yourself some slack when you need to most :)

Jane Lovering said...

A far more sensible blog post about resolutions than mine, where I merely resolve to be more promiscuous...

All the best for 2011, keep being as positive and inspiring as you were in 2010, we need to hear it.

Marisa Birns said...

Don't know why 2010 was such a crap year for so many people, my self included. Am usually pretty cheerful sort of person, but the blows of bad and scary news emptied that well, and it affected my writing. Meaning, none was done.

So. Walking first thing in morning is wonderful idea because, as you said, if it becomes a number on a list, it won't get done.

Yes, here's to 2011 being more friend than foe to us all. :)

Whirlochre said...

It's bizarre how 2010 is turning out to have been crap for so many of us.

I assumed my Crap On A Stick was largely the fault of personal self-referential suffering — but no! Crap spurts forth worldwide!

But you're right — resolution is a meany thing not an endy thing.

And 2011 has the enviable quality of not having happened yet.

Could be the year for all of us to write The Best Thing We've Ever Written.

Nicola Morgan said...

To all - thanks so much for your comments and I offer your support right back to you (if that makes sense!).

Dan and Sally - I'm so sorry your 2010s were rotten and I do hope for much better for you in 2011. (Sally, don't forget the RNA longlisting!! Hooray!)

Book Maven - so I do!

Fiona - I actually hate swimming but I am sure it's fab if you love it.

Colette 2 - yoga is good, yes. I'd have to do it on my own though - can't commit to classes. Actually, i did once do classes but I became ridiculously competitive and overdid it despite knowing I had some bad joints, and it HURT!

Tyler Tork - that sounds very very interesting! Do you have a picture?

Sarah - sorry you had such sadness last year but HOORAY about the agent news!

Thanks everyone - sorry haven't replied to every comment individually but GO US!

Sarah Hilary said...

Thanks, Nicola, and yes - GO EVERYONE!

Stroppy Author said...

I really hope it all works out for you this year, Nicola. January 2010 brought another devastating blow for me, so that I scratched out my resolutions and replaced them with a simple and essential goal - 'survive'. I barely made it, but here I am, and so are you, so we both achieved something! This year's one-word goal is 'recover'.

As for 'things can only get better' - it's not true. We can hope they get better, but I've discovered over the last two years that life can carry on hitting you when you're down, even when you think there is no further to fall. Maybe 'where there's life, there's hope' is a more realistic mantra.