It's pretty cool to be anti New Years Resolutions these days, but personally, I'm a big fan. Why wouldn't I use the natural conclusion of the year as a marker to assess personal progress and where I'd like to be a year from now? One of the key successes of this year for me has been finishing the first-draft of my book, currently titled 21 Elephants. I can look back and see that hard work, a commitment to learning more about written form, and creative disciplines have resulted in achieving what I set out to a year ago. If you're someone who finds yourself struggling to get traction on something you've wanted to do for a long time, here's some suggestions on how you might find yourself more satisfied at the end of 2015. Firstly, get the right tools and the right talent to succeed. By this I mean that many set out to be incredible at something and expect that the talent and the ability to do it just lies dormant somewhere within them. Now there may well be a sixth-sense within you that guides you to an intuitive understanding of your craft, but even the greater painters in history despaired daily on the inability of their brush to communicate the vision trapped within their minds. For me, the quality of my writing has been greatly informed by committing to read 20 books this year. That may sound like a lot, but I haven't had a lot of free time this year. I've just made the decision that if I'm going to be a great writer I'll have to surround myself with great written material. I've also put my work before a rigorous editor who isn't afraid to hurt my feelings and tell me where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I definitely have a predisposition towards good writing, but that foundation is being built on by seeking out the tools and talents I don't have in order to cultivate what I do have further.
Secondly, set deadlines. People say you can't hurry the creative process and sometimes that is true, but often it's just that super-creative people struggle with feeling confined. Now if you're happy to create purely for your own personal enjoyment then there is no need for this, but if you are hoping to communicate something to other people you will have to decide on a finishing point before the ideas you've formed in this cultural context become outdated and dry. In the writing process I did this by dividing my book into four parts of an achievable 10,000 words each. The final form of the book has grown beyond this structure but this was the scaffolding that assisted me to build something when I had nothing. Now I have 40,000 words to shape and mould into the final product which would have been unachievable without clear markers of progress along the way. Further to this, assist yourself by creating culmination moments along the way where you can stand back and look at your work from a distance. For me this was the completion of my first draft by the end of this year, for others it may be a gallery exhibition, the releasing of a debut EP or entry in a craft beer competition. Deadlines held by an authority outside yourself like a competition can force you not to flake out.
Finally, carve out a rhythm for creativity in your week. Most people have a happy place like a cafe, an office or a desk in the corner of their bedroom where creativity happens. In the same way we have 'creative locations' we also need to locate this creativity in time. Have an uncompromising time of creative development that may be daily or weekly. For me this has been 2-3 hours every Monday. Life has been very busy this year so I have a to-do list where I take notes of new thoughts, ideas or inspirations that I come across during the week. When I arrive at Monday I get the opportunity unpack all of these again and weave them into the narrative I'm creating.
Beyond this creative framework are some bigger questions about how we live. Are we actively seeking opportunities to develop our tools and talent, are we deliberately putting things in place to stop procrastination, are we living deliberately with a structure or are we just reacting to whatever comes at us? A good New Years Resolution for our generation would be to ask ourselves 'am I living deliberately?'. Society is a river which will drag you to it's natural end unless you decide to chart another course. What daily rituals and habits might need adjusting to ensure you end up with the life you chose, rather than the one life chose for you?