Sunday 17 December 2017

Making New Year's Resolutions - Chitra Soundar

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I haven’t made one in almost a decade and I’m thinking about one, just one for 2018. Maybe two...

When we were growing up in India, making NY resolutions was a big deal. Every child and adult were asked constantly about it from the last week of December to the first two weeks of January. 

My resolutions ranged from learning a new word from the dictionary every day, finishing holiday homework on time to helping Mum with the washing up. I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted more than a couple of weeks of either of those.

As an adult, doing my first job, we were part of a massive training programme that incorporated “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R Covey. We tried to create new habits as part of this programme and again in spite of this directly affecting our daily jobs, I’m sure resolutions flew out of the window when 12-hour long shifts took their toll.

I checked online and found over 100 books including journals for helping people with their NY resolutions. I checked youtube and found innumerable motivational speakers on this too. 

As a writer, I have tried making new resolutions – not necessarily on 1st January. I told myself, as an adult, I don’t need to wait for 1st January and I can start a new habit anytime I want. Here are some of the habits I tried to make and keep – some were more successful than others.
  1. Writing a journal – I try and fail at this often. I want to record feelings, thoughts, observations every day and I often fail. I have started one again in October 2017 and so far I’ve written at least twice a week. Then I found this useful post for writers - 33 ideas to put in a journal and now I'm more confident of keeping the habit.
  2. Write every day for 15 minutes – I picked this up in 2010 when I bought a book titled “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I have bundles of notebook from this exercise – I wrote for many days, keeping the habit for months, recording the amount of time I wrote every day, it was the practice that was important as her book says and as she said to us in person when I went to attend a course run by her in New Mexico. 
    And then it became a habit – I wrote most days – either a new story, or a story I was working on. Then it became part of life and I think it did because I held the habit for months. But also because at some point writing became a vocation rather than just a perseverance.
  3. Writing a poem a day – I have a notebook titled “A Poem a Day” and after a while I had to change the title to “A Poem a Day Sometimes”.
  4. Doing my admin work every weekend – this is one of my biggest failures in spite of my corporate background. I never allocate time to sit and sift through my expenses, bank statements and key them in.
  5. Read one short story and one essay every week – this came from one of Ray Bradbury’s lecture. I tried it a few weeks and then life took over. Sometimes I binge on short stories and essays and other times I hardly find the time to open a book. 
So until recently I told myself I won’t set any NY resolutions. If I want to create a habit, I will work at it knowing I’ll fail and I have to pick up myself. I proved it to myself by starting something outrageously stupid – a carb-free diet combined with running everyday. I failed often, I missed days, but I got back. 
And then I read this opinion piece by Ann Patchett in the NY Times and I thought, ‘Hmm, I have a shopping problem, maybe this NY resolution thing that will give me delayed gratification might be a good idea.’ Anything that is easy is not so much more fun. If I can afford it and I can order it online and I want it even a little bit, I go for it. I don’t put it away to think about it. I think it is a natural rebellion to the eternal voice of my dad in my ears, “DO YOU NEED IT? OR DO YOU WANT IT?”  So I thought I should stop the habit before a giraffe lands on my doorstep with an Amazon delivery card attached.
Having decided to make a resolution for this new year, I decided I have to declare it publicly. 
This TED talk tells me I should be quiet about it. 

But I always like to announce my personal goals in public – like the no-carb habit or the running habit. The more people I tell, the more people I would disappoint if I didn’t achieve my goal. So the pressure is on and of course the support is useful too. Us writers know how to push each other gently and help each other through failures. So I’m not going to follow the advice from this Ted talk.

So are you going to make a resolution? Do you believe in making them? Here are some talks from TED to inspire you to choose one that might tweak your interest. But if like me you prefer profound advice from wise people, then this one is for you. 

If you are making a resolution, then do put it in the comment box if you like to share it publicly like me.

Chitra Soundar tries to juggle her resolutions between writing stories amidst school visits, festivals and book tours and often fails to conquer them. Find out more at and follow her on twitter at @csoundar.


Roger Stevens said...

Interesting piece. And so true. I remember as a child starting the new year with a diary, and writing in it every day until about January 6th. Keeping a notebook's crucial I think. The key is to make sure you actually have it with you.

LuWrites said...

Love the 'write a poem every day sometimes'...that's exactly what happens to me :-)

Chitra Soundar said...

It’s 22nd now and my journal is already suffering from my lack of attention