I have a terrible track record with New Year’s resolutions. Like most people, they tend to last about a week and then are forgotten until the end of the year when I’m trying to think of what I should resolve to achieve the following year. They also tend to be the same few things- I don’t think my resolutions have changed much in the last fifteen years, if I’m honest.
One resolution I always make is to do more creative writing. I don’t know when I started to consciously resolve to do this- I used to write almost impulsively when I was in school, poems and introspections and short stories pouring out without me having to stop and think about them. Somewhere along the way, if I had to guess I would say halfway through my degree, this well of creative writing dried up, and I stopped entirely (or almost entirely). So for the last few years, I have made resolutions to cultivate that creative side once again. Inevitably, my resolve never lasts.
This year, I have kind of tricked myself by starting my resolution before January. A few weeks ago, I started carrying around a notebook. I have a habit of putting down any ideas, thoughts or words that capture my interest in the notes app of my phone. I’ve always done this, but looking back at some random words weeks later tends not to be very helpful or stimulating- usually I can’t work out what I was thinking of as it’s been so long since I had the thought. For the last few weeks, I’ve used downtime like my lunch breaks at work or the half hour before getting to sleep, to write. If I get stuck for ideas or can’t get myself started on writing, I look through the notes on my phone and pick one as a prompt to get my writing going. As I’m doing this every day, I can usually remember what I was thinking of when I wrote the note in my phone.
I’ve realised that most of what I’ve written these last few weeks is utterly terrible, but the act of having written anything at all makes me incredibly happy. I’ve gone from writing prolifically, to not writing at all, to writing badly but regularly. Getting my thoughts onto the page regularly is satisfying in a way I had forgotten it could be, and hopefully, if I keep it up, one day it will feel as natural as it did when I was a teenager.
One of the reasons I probably wrote more when I was younger, was that I was less inhibited. I think as we get older we become more self-conscious, more likely to want to fit in and not stand out, and more secretive with our thoughts. As a teenager my writing was often self-absorbed. It was often emotional or tackled things head on, and I never really thought about who might read it. Now I find that the thought of what someone would think of me or of what my writing might say about me, can sometimes get in the way, and I have to push those thoughts to the back of my mind. I know that the stories I’m telling aren’t a reflection of me, that my characters often have personality traits or things which happen to them that in reality I cannot relate to at all- but that’s why I’m interested in them. That’s often the reason I’m writing-to explore something different to myself. And if I let myself be held back by what someone else might think about what I think (it’s convoluted I know!) then I’ll never get to explore these things that I’m interested in.
I suppose my resolution, then, is not as vague as ‘to write more’. It’s also ‘to write without holding myself back.’