I wanted a month to see the shape of the year before I did this post. That’s what I did last year and I’m not stopping any time soon. Fight me.
I might be a little naïve in thinking a new year is more significant than literally any point of the year but I am determined to shed my skin and a new year is a symbolic time to do so. A giant reset button in our understanding of time and selves. Today we’re talking about everybody’s favourite part of a new year: goals!
When setting goals I think it’s important to take stock of the why as much as the how. The how is the method and execution but the why is its significance and can lead to insights into your character. I don’t want this post to be daunting to you, like you’re not doing enough. People measure their worth and the very abstract notion of “success” in perfomative and often inflated ways (x amounts of likes, y amounts of money). Tread your path, improve yourself because you want to improve not because you want to appear as though you’re improving. You’ll find the scope of the goals decreases but we’ll get to that in a sec.
I think my goals are fairly demanding but I have a lot of time on my hands so I might as well spend it doing what I’d normally do anyway. I think of them in a progressive way—not a time-constrained thing, but something to continue to work towards even after 2018 expires. Time is something that feels like is disappearing these days so small goals are relevant also. It’s not the size that’s the concern: it’s how achievable it is. You can set big goals but if you don’t meet them then what’s the point? Increase the size over time but start where you need to. Change doesn’t come over night: it takes concerted effort often over long periods of time.
It’s hard but using that knowledge will help you when times are tough. Life gets in the way: you’re sick, going through something deeply disruptive emotionally. We are human. We are powerful if we acknowledge how we cannot be 100% all of the time.
That said, you should make yourself accountable—actually doing what you set out to do. You say you want to read more but are you actively looking at the structure of your days to see where you can sneak 10 mins of reading? (I do it by page number but that is the privilege of time speaking once again.)
Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan, though. Things can change: you set goals that you didn’t achieve or find yourself doing stuff you never would have thought you’d be doing. Mine is poetry. You can expand from there or reduce according to your realistic outputs. Don’t overburden yourself in order to achieve if it’s not working for you: work in your bounds. Or don’t! It’s not a requirement of you. But if you do, be responsible.
In pursuing goals we often don’t stop to reflect on the qualities we possess in the first place. A future self comes about by actions we actively take in the present. It’s the reflection that reveals the significance of the goals in the first place. Learn to appreciate what you have done, not what you could be doing. Sometimes it takes our loved ones to show us what we’ve done—all that we’re capable of. This preamble is important and stuff I lose sight off in my search for more: I’m indebted to my friends and family for keeping me rooted when I’ve drifted off.
On top of the goals I set myself from last year, these are my new things to keep track of:
Poetry: On top what I do monthly, I have a poetry project I’ve begun in earnest that may or may not be a waste of time. I’m in the midst of research and that’s been interesting and exhausting in equal parts. When I’ve synthesised enough of it into usable art I think I’ll be able to showcase it here. Earliest will be March but I make no promises as I imagine there will be new and previously unforeseen avenues to explore. Quite excited though.
Essays: I’ve not written one for quite some time which is hilarious considering that that is why I started this blog: partly to sate my ego but also to inform people of ways they can help themselves improve in various aspects of their lives. I fell off after the last Diamond Age piece in the summer and have been wrestling with that for a while
Anyway, there’s an ever-expanding document with essay topics I want to cover in the coming months and while it says “2018”, it’ll carry on for years, at least. The breadth of topics is expanding—from the advice stuff of early blog, to the more informational stuff that populated the more recent stuff—and will require more technical research … and words. So look out for the huge pieces in the future. They’re fairly labour-intensive so I’m going to stockpile a few smaller ones and hopefully stay ahead that way. There’s one I’m making good progress on and will be ready soon. It’s a little less cerebral than before so my aim is it enjoyable and insightful. In my head there will be three distinct categories of essay: small (500-1500 words), medium (1500-3500), and large (3500+). The road will be long and maybe a bit weird but I hope you’ll join me. I love making these pieces and wish that you find them useful. I’ve enjoyed seeing the developing shape of the blog and the new life it’s had.
Writing: I have a book I want to finish, maybe write some short stories and before year’s end start a new book. Lofty goals all things considered, but I want to work on my book with more regularity than in the focused bursts of July and November in particular. Hopefully I can finish more quickly that way and free up some brain space for the other projects itching for some daylight. On the short story front: I’ve already submitted a 4,000 word one last month. I doubt they’ll accept me but I did it, so more of that. I have a couple of ideas I’m toying with so I’ll say one more is a success while two is an immense one. These are short stories written not necessarily submitted/accepted. I’ll also try to keep abreast of the weekly Writing Challenge, which reminds me that I need to make a page so that you can follow from the beginning. That’s on my agenda.
Music: Guitar playing (what guitar playing?). Regularity is the key here. Gotta practise often, even if it’s 10 mins. I think keeping the calluses on my fingers nice and hard is a good metric—they disappear over lack of use and repeated showers, see—so I’ll keep that as a mental touchstone. I’m also more competent than I gave myself credit for: I got to grasp 2 new chords on the back end of last year. Last month I’ve got a 3-chord song to refine. My goal last year was to have one original written at least and that feels super achievable now. Just have to keep the skills sharp in my mind. Like the short stories, if it’s a case of only one, then it’s a success.
Drawing: More of that. I have long-term illustration goals—we’re talking ten years so it’s not soon but again regularity is key.
Keep in contact with friends: I can’t believe my selfishness in forgetting something like this: only focusing on myself and what I want/need. As you know, I am not in employment. A lot of my friends live in my university city and the ones that live in my home city here are studying or in work themselves. I try to see them as much as my wallet allows but that’s still less often than I’d like. Even when I can’t see them, which is often, I’m going to try to keep on track of my friends. We have the magic of the internet and I use it to idle. Disgraceful.
Okay, that’ll keep me busy. We’ll end there. Tomorrow is the writing challenge so look out for that.
What about yourselves: what do you want out of this year?