Last New Year’s Day, determined not to set myself up for failure, I chose only one resolution. It worked; I’m happy to say I kept my promise to read 52 books in 2014. I started the year with Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and ended with Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. And what a way to end the year. Woodson’s memoir, written in verse, was hugely inspiring, and so beautifully written I didn’t want it to end.
In between I read fantasy, horror, young adult, science fiction, literary short story collections, historical fiction, and much more. It was refreshing to set a reading goal instead of a writing goal. I’m an ambivalent writer—sometimes writing makes me feel wonderful and other times it makes me feel terrible. But reading always feels good. There’s no guilt involved, no self-doubt, no fear of failure.
Maybe that sounds like a cheat, like setting a reading goal wasn’t a real challenge. But it was—finding time for anything can be difficult—and what helped was tracking and publicly posting my progress with the Goodreads Reading Challenge.
I’m joining again this year, with the same goal of 52 books, only I’ve resolved that half of those books will be nonfiction. This was partly inspired by Woodson’s memoir.
I considered choosing a writing resolution for 2015. In July I turn 40, so there’s already something momentous about the year ahead. In a good way—no birthday so far has ever felt sad to me. When I turned 30 I had this amazing little girl by my side. At 35 I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful son. At 39 I had a book contract and later that year, my first published novel. So when it comes to turning 40, I just feel lucky that my greatest dreams have already been realized.
Still, there are many things I want to accomplish this year. I want to finish my second novel. I want to submit my essays and short stories more frequently. I want to take more chances. I want to stop being afraid of what people think. I want to celebrate my writing successes instead of apologizing for them (thank you, Angela Jackson-Brown). I want to trust those successes instead of doubting their validity. I want to eradicate the aforementioned guilt and self-doubt and replace them with confidence and pride.
Above all, I want to be kinder to myself. I think I can accomplish everything I want to this year, including all of my writing goals, if I just do that one small thing.
New Year’s resolutions 2015:
1. Read an average of one book per week.
2. Read one nonfiction book for every fiction book.
3. Be kinder to myself (and the rest will follow).