Now is the time a great many of us make resolutions about how we will improve ourselves and our lives. We resolve to give up bad habits and/or take up good habits. My bad habit is eating too much Bombay Crunch and drinking two glasses of wine while watching the evening news. Just to write that sentence makes me nervous that some bossy part of me will dictate that I must give this habit up. My rebel part kicks in. I won’t give up wine and Bombay Crunch! Even if I managed for a week of abstinence, it wouldn’t last.
A good habit that Peter and I have developed over the autumn is a 20 minute walk. The target is to go for this short local walk every day after lunch. Timing needn’t be exact but it’s usually around 1.45. We turn right along the lane, then up a steep hill to the top; turn round, and back home. By 2.15 or so we are at work again, P in his studio, myself in my study. If we have to miss a day, we don’t beat ourselves up. But the reason for missing has to be justifiable. It can’t be just “it’s too cold” or “I’m not feeling like it.”
We’ve found it easy to maintain this habit because the target is so modest. If we’d vowed to walk two or three miles every day, we’d never have managed to keep it up. There wouldn’t be time. We’d sometimes be too tired or we’d have too many other things to do.
Similarly – speaking for myself – my writing targets are modest. The morning is my time. I am at my desk from, say, 9 until 1 p.m. I will sometimes return in the afternoon, but as a treat away from other jobs. How my study hours are spent vary, depending on what I’m working on at the time: it could be writing fluently while in the middle of a novel, or it might be reading background material, or writing a long email descriptive of some recent event. That last I consider essential for keeping my writer’s hand in. Writing is a kind of reflex action to things that happen in life. Sometimes I can’t do anything else until I’ve understood, in the words with which I describe it, what exactly it is I have just experienced.
I never use word counts as writing targets, although I know many people do. The important thing is to choose a target that is easy for you to achieve. It’s the regularity that’s important, not the size of the ambition.
My target for the next month (never mind the next year) is to give up cow’s milk products. Goat’s milk on my breakfast oats was the way I started today. If I find this benefits me, I will be motivated to continue for longer.
Another short-term target is to discover how to block the advertising mailing that comes in disguised as comments on this page, sent by organisations or people who have latched on to my open door policy. One that keeps appearing is about earning money from writing. It has standard wording but is sent in by many different people. The other repetitive comment is about bathroom products. I trash it as soon as I see it, hardly giving myself time to work out what language it’s in, or what it’s about.
But I do click the Approve button for comments on the content of my posts. Thanks to those people who tell me they find them useful and interesting. “Please continue”, they say. And so I resolve to continue into 2017. Happy New Year.