The time when we beat ourselves up, determine to improve, and rarely follow through past the 31st.
Don’t tell me you haven’t been there—especially when it comes to your creative endeavors. After all, you’re a storyteller. You’ve got big dreams. You want to write more fiction. Draw more panels. Make more films.
But somehow, in the hustle and bustle of modern life, you lose your way. Almost right away, you’re back to your usual stop-and-go performance. Selective ADD rears its head. And your resolutions? Well, they’re great for mopping up hot chocolate you spilled during another game of Wii.
By February 1st, you’re back to loathing yourself for everything you haven’t done.
Stop it right now.
And while you’re at it, don’t bother making those resolutions at all—particularly the ones about your creative life and work.
I’ve written elsewhere about creatives’ penchant for perfectionism. If you’re a creative, chances are, you’re pretty hard on yourself all ready. So why create an arbitrary standard you’re very unlikely to meet? Last time I checked, depression isn’t very conducive to creativity.
We know we have areas we’re weak at and skills we need to acquire. As creatives, we’re keenly aware of our deficits. But knowing what the problems are doesn’t mean we’re able to fix them effectively. Too often, resolutions simply identify the opposite of the problem (ie: “I procrastinate” becomes “I will not procrastinate”), rather than identifying real solutions.
One of the greatest skills any creative can acquire is a keen ability to reflect on his/her own creativity, environment, and factors that either help or hinder personal performance. By blasting out a list of resolutions—usually as the product of a self-hate session—we tend to short-circuit the self-reflection aspect. Which goes back to #2.
Reputation is everything, and New Years resolutions have a bad one. It’s an arbitrarily-created activity, after all. And its results are notoriously fleeting. In fact, because New Years resolutions have such a bad rap, you may subconsciously dismiss yours before you’ve even had a chance to cement them as a habit—making it easy to give up the first time you “mess up.”
Overall, unless you happen to be a superhero, your resolutions emanate from the same part of your brain that’s thinking it would be cool to write that novel, but isn’t actually writing it. We creatives often get caught up in fancies that don’t help us get creative work done. (Guilty as charged!) So why waste time with wishes wishes when you could invest your time in work?
Resolutions are reactive. They’re born out of the negativity of our past. And as such, they focus us on all our previous “failures.” Looking over your shoulder might be healthy sometimes, but if that’s where you stay, you’ll never move forward. And isn’t that what the New Year is all about? Why dwell on the past when you can be out creating the future?
Drop the “re,” of course! We don’t want to be chasing solutions over and over again.
But seriously, I’ve instituted a practice in my own life that has greatly helped me stay on course toward my larger goals—and doesn’t involve a list of silly resolutions. It’s called a manifesto.
Now I know what you’re thinking when you hear that word: communists, cults, and election season. Three things you really don’t want to see coming.
But in reality, the word has nothing to do with extremism at all. It simply means “a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives.” And that’s what makes it different.
A manifesto is about declaring who you are, what you value, and where you want to be in the future. As a forward-focused, positive document, it does not address past failure. Instead, it validates your most cherish beliefs and serves as a rudder to guide your little ship across the creative sea.
Used well, a manifesto becomes a measuring stick to help you assess all opportunities, decisions, behaviors, and events—so you can quickly and efficiently make daily, weekly, and yearly decisions. Simply put, it reminds you of where you want to be, so you can concentrate on getting there.
If you still want to make goals for the New Year, your manifesto can anchor their focus—ensuring they’re SMART, non-reactionary, and (most importantly) advance your journey toward your intended destination.
So why not write a creative manifesto this year, instead of resolutions?
There are plenty of great places to read more about manifestos. If you want a sample for starters, here’s my current creative manifesto. Mine is very influenced by my faith. Yours should be uniquely “you,” too.
Don’t delay; take 20 minutes and write your own manifesto today. Read it every morning. Refine it. Use it to guide your goals and decisions.
Whatever you do, resolve that you won’t make any resolutions.
That’s the only resolution worth making.
Your turn! Share your creative manifesto here, and tell us about a positive or negative experience you’ve had with resolutions, and why.