Well, 2016 was not my favorite year.
It reminded me of another year that lives in infamy in my memory: 1968. At the beginning of 1968, I was halfway through my first year as a boarding student at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School in Salt Lake City, still adjusting to the change from Cedar City Junior High. The classes were harder, the other kids were smarter, the world was bigger and more present in our lives, and it was our job to make the world better, more peaceful, and more just. But then… Martin Luther King was assassinated in April, and riots followed in cities across the country. Bobby Kennedy offered new hope, but he was assassinated in June. There was chaos everywhere, with violent police clashing with protestors in Chicago, student protests in France, and the war on tv every day. With body counts. And don’t get me started on George Wallace’s third party presidential campaign: the politics of rage weren’t invented in 2016. On the positive side, I became an aunt in November of that year when my amazing nephew Joey was born. Even so, I was glad when the year was over.
365 Day Writing Challenge
This year, I’ve signed up for a challenge and committed to write every day. My goal is 1,000 words a day, and I plan to accomplish that through a mix of:
- Editing the novel I finally finished last year. It’s a mystery of the amateur sleuth variety. It’s way too long. It’s lumpy. I wrote part of it during NaNoWriMo or in word sprints with writer friends, so there are scenes in there whose only function is to bump up my word count, not to mention things like unnecessary dialogue tags (“he said”). I’ve been getting feedback on it from my critique group a few pages at a time, and I’ve sent it to my two nephews who volunteered to try to read the whole thing. I figure I can write 1,000 words an hour if I’m not trying to make them good, so I’m going to count an hour of editing as meeting my daily goal.
- Blog posts. I want to finish my self-imposed task of taking notes on Brandon Sanderson’s BYU class and writing them up here. My granddaughter Lorisa pointed out that I don’t have many blog posts that aren’t writing related, so once I’m finished with the Sanderson class I might write a bit more about learning to play the banjo, traveling, and other stuff. One idea I’ve had is to try to compile a one-stop place to find out about all the live theatre that’s happening in the Phoenix area on any given day, with links to the different theatre companies and links to newspaper reviews.
- New stories. In Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing, he described his approach to writing when he was young. He’d write a new story on Monday, revise and polish through the week, and by the end of the week he’d have sent it off. Elsewhere I’ve read that he recommended writing a story a week because it’s impossible to write 52 bad stories a year – it’s bound to improve your writing. I have a couple of books that I’ll use to help me generate ideas.
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that if I don’t write every day, it’s harder to write. I lose the thread of the plot, I forget who the characters are, I don’t know where I’m going. Rachel Aaron‘s first step in going to 10,000 words a day (!!!) was to know what she’s writing before she starts, and you can’t do that if you don’t write every day. At least I can’t.
Health and fitness personal challenge
The Monday before Christmas, I started Weight Watchers with my friend Lois. You could call the timing insane, but I call it brilliant. I lost almost two pounds during the week of Christmas, which I figure is equivalent to losing seven based on my past history of gaining five every year. I succeeded on their program 22 years ago, but gradually crept up to where I started. I calculate that if the same pattern holds, I’ll be over 85 by the time I see that number on the scale again. I love the new Weight Watchers program, which encourages healthy eating by making all fruits and most vegetables zero points and encourages healthy activity by setting a weekly goal. If I stay on the program, I’ll be where I want to be way before the end of 2017.
Two years ago, I started walking my dogs every day. I’ve only missed a few days since July 2015. In July 2016, I added yoga twice a week at Floating Lotus, and I still work out once a week with Jeremy at Funktional Fitness. In 2017, I plan to add another workout to the weekly mix. I’m going to start by trying out some other yoga classes, and I’ll probably drop in occasionally at the Biltmore Studio, the hot yoga studio Lois goes to. I went with her to a hot barre class last week. Or while it’s still cool out, I can play racquetball and climb A Mountain and hike South Mountain. I’m going to keep that fourth workout flexible to start with, but if I find I’m not keeping up with it, I’ll make a firmer schedule.
I’m also going to continue trying to get more sleep. There’s a great iPhone app called Positivity that’s a great help in getting to sleep some nights, and I’ll keep using the Bedtime app that comes with the latest operating system.
I’m continuing my goals from last year to follow some of the advice in Gretchen Rubin’s book. In addition to the ones that overlap with my health and fitness goals, she recommends:
- Good marriage practices like adjusting your own attitude and expectations and managing your own behavior, which is really all you can control. This is still a work in progress after 24 years.
- Keep happy memories alive by doing things like looking at pictures, telling stories, and keeping up traditions.
- Master a new skill like photography or bookbinding. Or writing! I think I’ve written before that I somehow came out of school with the mistaken idea that because I read fiction, I could write it without consciously studying it. Boy, was I wrong.
- Emulate people I admire. I think this is going to be more than ever important in the coming years. Courage and the willingness to stand up for what’s right, take action against what’s wrong, and defend people and the environment. I don’t need to be Gandhi but if I can be a little more like my friends Kim, Ned, and Lucy, the world will be a little bit better.
- Make time for friends.
Goals around the house and so on
Another goal that overlaps with the Happiness Project recommendations is tackling a nagging task. Last month I finally cleared some boxes out of my home office – these were boxes of papers and things that have been sitting there since my mom died in 2012. Even though I didn’t finish the task, I got a tremendous boost from making progress on something that’s been hanging over my head for years. 2017 is going to be the year I get that office into shape.
In 2017, I’m going to design and adopt a daily routine. I retired in 2013, removing the structure of having to be somewhere every day within defined hours. It’s been nice having the freedom to schedule travel whenever I want, stay up late and sleep in, and spend whole days reading the new Stephen King. But now it’s time to develop my own structure, so I can accomplish all the things I want to do. My mornings tend to get away from me because I don’t have to go to the office – I used to get up at 5:30 so I’d have a couple of hours to read the paper, read my book, do the Sudoku, maybe have a hot bath before I had to leave. Now, I don’t have that natural end point, and there’s really no reason I have to do those things early to set my mood for the day.
I don’t think I need to set a goal to keep tracking the books I read and the movies I see – it’s finally a habit I can count on. I am going to tweak my journal to track my banjo practice more effectively and a couple of other things, though.
I think that’s about it. Do you write goals or resolutions? Tell me about them in the comments if you dare. Happy New Year!