Friday, January 9, 2015

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Let’s face it: a resolution often involves little more than changing a habit—typically a bad one—to somehow improve one’s life. We are, however, creatures of habit, so most resolutions are forgotten within days or weeks of making them. It seems that many of us “old dogs” aren’t into learning new tricks.

by John Hernandez on Morguefile
It’s January 2015, and resolutions are all the rage. With that in mind, does it make sense to take another look at developing new habits and setting new goals? On the other hand, it didn’t work last year or the year before or the one before that.

Change is hard—and intimidating. But the benefits can far outweigh the difficulties—a lesson I managed to put off learning until very recently.  

For many years, simplification of my life, though sorely needed, has fallen victim to the Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome: tomorrow's another day. (Procrastination is one of those bad habits.) Now health issues dictate that need has been upgraded to requirement. Procrastination time is over. After unsuccessfully trying to retire—I was bored out of my mind—I have “resolved” to work part-time and write part-time. Because editing and nurturing other writers are special joys of mine, giving that up left a significant hole in my joie de vivre. Aha moment: With making some adjustments, I don’t have to give them up!

by jppi on Morguefile
While continuing to downsize and/or reorganize all areas of my life, I’m discovering that old habits can be discarded and new ones learned. Practical but exciting goals can replace old ones that no longer fit the need or meet current constraints. This old dog is learning some new tricks in order to do what she still wants to do.  

The hardest part for me has been changing the mindset. (I cannot do everything, so it’s time to choose what means the most!) Writing novels has been my goal since childhood, but I have long had a bad habit of letting too many (often less important) things get in the way. Now that treasured work will get its fair share of time. Already, past bad habits pound at the door; tempting as it is to return to my previous comfort zone, I’m not answering. The thought processes have shifted; I think differently. My writer within screams to be heard. She’s getting very hoarse—and quite out of breath—but I’m finally listening.

by dave on Morguefile
Do you have issues with keeping resolutions or cultivating new habits? What are your goals for 2015? Is forsaking old habits necessary to realize those goals? Please tell us what works for you.

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at DenverEditor.com.

8 comments :

  1. My problem is sticking with a project once it hits the mind-numbing last legs. Coming up with it was fun, doing the first draft was fun, but then the work really begins. I assign self-imposed deadlines. I know they can be ignored, but it plants a tangible goalpost. I write quick notes about the other ideas as they come along, then put them aside in a folder. When my desk is cleared, I pull the folder out and prioritize what's in there. Most of the content gets dumped. I also like to visualize a cover at the start of a book and keep it where I can see it to remind me of the purpose of the whole thing.

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    1. Great ideas, Diana: deadlines, goalposts, idea folder, prioritizing, cover visualization. You're obviously a better organizer than I am. Organization: another item to add to my newfound determination to eliminate procrastination from my life.

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  2. Procrastination is such a familiar companion, it's difficult to kick it out the door. I'm doing better at it. Writing full time requires discipline that I sometimes don't have. Great post.

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    1. Those new tricks we need to learn may sound easy, but they most definitely are not. Discipline is necessary, yes, but so is prioritizing. Then we have emergencies and events that could not have been anticipated. And in the end we don't punch a time clock, nor do we collect a regular paycheck. So much for those incentives, which brings us back to that discipline. Whoever said a writer's life was easy?

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  3. Keep it up, Linda, you'll get 'er done! As to me ... well, I plan on writing the book on procrastination ... and I'll start it tomorrow.

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    1. I hope you can hear me chuckling, Christopher. My tomorrow list is already a mile long. :-)

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  4. I think my biggest shift relates to self talk. Is it really any harder to say "I love to write" than "I don't really like to write"? I actually do love to write, once I get started and am in the flow. So I may as well start at that positive point.

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    Replies
    1. As I recall, years ago a song urged accentuating the positive. It was great advice then, and it's the same now. I, too, love to write. Getting started and into the groove, however, proves a challenge more often than not.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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