Saturday, February 11, 2012

February and the Power of Course Correction

Scott D. Parker

Many of us make New Year's resolutions for the most honest of reasons. We want to get fit, lose weight, eat better, or anything else. When you are still in the halo of New Year's Day, the year feels new and young and everything seems possible. We have visions of our new selves, sometime later in the year, all fit, healthier, and with our new habits firmly ensconced in our new selves.

Here in the writer world, many a new habit boils down to writing more. Finish the book. Finish the story. Finish anything. Back in December, I realized that I had not been setting aside time to write. That had become the norm, the habit that was hard to break (ba-dum-dum ching!) I decided to try an experiment: write something, ANYthing, each day. And I've succeeded. As of last night, I've written something, anything of fiction for 64 straight days. What's great and most important to me is the inner urge. It's not back at the full blazing glory I've previously experienced in my writing life, but the pilot light is lit.

There the the flip side, the downside to what I've been doing. Often, I've not taken the time to write until late at night. Once it's past 11, if I'm not writing something I've already planned out--typical for these 64 days--I am in no mood to create. Thus, I'll satisfy my daily duty/habit by writing the bare minimum, around 100 words or a long paragraph. That is no way to get anything done, but it's becoming a habit.

And that's where course correction comes in. I think many of us start a resolution or a habit without a good idea of how to ingrain the habit within us. We fail at our resolutions by the end of January, get mad at ourselves, sigh, and go back to the way it was in December.

But don't forget February. The second month of the year is, in many ways, more crucial than January. It's the time where you can readjust your outlook on your resolutions. Knocking out soft drinks cold turkey too much for you and the failure has already happened? Try cutting back one a week. That's not hard. Then, after a bit, keep another sugary drink on the shelf and out of your stomach. That new story/novel you've thought about and shelved in the internal file cabinet in your mind? Get it out of your head and onto pixel or paper. Chances are you can salvage something.

You see, by February, the year is no longer new. The real world has crept in. You've lived life in the new year, with new challenges to overcome. February is that time where you can see what's not working and fix it. Oh, and the beauty of the months March through December? You can course correct anytime. I just find February to be the best time.

And for me and my new "habit" of writing the barest minimum to for the right to put a red "X" on a calendar? Yes, I've started writing again. No, it's not very good or very productive. It's not working the way I wanted it to. Okay, then, what can I do to change it so that I can continue to move forward? Course correction. Or, to put it another way, the first, big obstacle. Overcome it, and things get much easier, or, rather, manageable.

February. The Month for Course Corrections. Your second chance at resolutions. It doesn't have all the romance that resolutions have in January, but they tend to have more real-world experience with which you can get those resolutions completed.

My course correction for writing is simple: make my time to write be at an hour before the last thing I do every night. Find that secret, special time where I can bust out multiple paragraphs in the space of 15 minutes. And then do it again. Double my effort. In the daylight, if at all possible.

Are there any course corrections y'all are planning to make to better accomplish your resolutions?

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