Saturday, 23 January 2016

Intentions by Anne Stormont

The writer's road is paved with good intentions.

I'm ambivalent about New Year resolutions. Don't get me wrong, I like the feeling of a fresh start that the dawn of each new year brings. I like the feeling that positive life changes might just be possible, and find hope in the optimistic perspective of a pristine set of twelve new months spread before me. I like to think I will lose weight, get fitter, be a better person. But I've also been through enough Januarys to know that resolutions seldom last for even those first thirty-one days.

So, in this article I'm not concerned with the above relatively lightweight use of resolution. No, here I'm concerned with its use as the opposite of procrastination, that nemesis encountered by many aspiring and experienced writers. Now, I should say that there are perhaps writers who don't suffer from procrastination, for whom the passion and urge to write is irresistible and who never doubt their role as authors. All I can say to those, most likely, pencil-slim, marathon running, all-round nice guys is Happy New Year. But for the rest of us, let's take a look at the type of resolution that's required to produce a piece of writing.

Resolution is a slippery word. It has, according to my Concise Oxford English Dictionary, eight definitions of meaning and, according to my Oxford Thesaurus, over fifty alternative words. So it's a multi-layered and complex word. But isn't that the joy of so many words in the English language?
Amongst the dictionary definitions were determination, formal expression of intention, and firm decision. But while I think all three can be applied to beating procrastination, I was particularly drawn to the less obvious (for writerly purposes) definitions. This was of course partly because, as a writer, I liked their metaphorical applications.

Firstly, there is the definition of resolution as it applies to music i.e. the passing of a discord into a concord during the course of changing harmony. So for writers that could mean moving from the negative voices in the head to the more positive, discarding the defeatist self-talk that says you're not good enough, that the task is too big, and having the courage and self-belief to go for it. Thereby finding a pleasing harmony between effort, output and the satisfaction of completion.
Secondly, there is the definition as it applies in medicine. That is the disappearance of a symptom or condition. So, goodbye to acute I-can't-do-this-itis and/or chronic I'll-do-it-when-I've-got-the-time- syndrome and hello to being cured and proclaiming proudly, "I'm a writer."

And thirdly, the definition of resolution as it applies in science, that is the smallest interval observable by a telescope or other scientific instrument. This is both an inspiring and comforting metaphorical definition for writers. We can break down our novel, memoir, poem, short story or how-to book  (or indeed one thousand word article) into small steps. These can be microscopic -  such as opening a new document on the computer, buying a new notebook or  researching local evening classes in writing.  Or they can be small - such as writing the first sentence or two, or attending that local course. Or there are the slightly bigger steps of a competition deadline, or sharing our work with a real world or online writing group. And so on.

As for the thesaurus alternatives to resolution, there's a rich seam here that can apply to the required mindset for the productive writer: perseverance, persistence, steadfastness, courage, boldness, aspiration, aim, proposal, strength of will.

I was especially taken with the suggested alternatives of decree, declaration, working out, conclusion and ending.  I like the idea of proclaiming my writing intentions (even if only to myself and my diary) and seeing them through to a satisfying (for me and, I hope, my readers) conclusion. I also liked the suggested antonyms to resolution these being, half-heartedness and prolongation. Wouldn't you just want to kick both their rears?

The motto of Leith Academy, the high school which I attended, was Persevere, so if forced to distil all of the above as it applies to my own resolution to make 2016 a productive writing year, then I'd go for perseverance as my one word  resolute declaration of intent.

And I'd take settlement as my back-up, thesaurus alternative to resolution as that just happens to be the title of my work-in- progress.  Now what's the dictionary definition of karma?

Do you have any writing resolutions? Do you find making resolutions in any of the above senses to be effective when it comes to getting those words written? Or do you not see the need to be resolute, as writing is something you're so passionate about, it comes naturally?

Anne Stormont is an author-publisher. She can be a subversive old bat but maintains a kind heart. As well as writing for this fine organ, she writes contemporary fiction for adults and has published two novels so far. She also writes for children, when she goes by the name of her alter-ego, Anne McAlpine. She blogs at  – where you can find out lots more about her.

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