2023 will be… the year I care for me

Happy new year everyone! I’m wishing everyone a nice, boring, uneventful twelve months. May we all live in less interesting times.

This is, of course, the time of year when it’s traditional to make resolutions. Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve never really liked the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, and this year, after suffering a major burnout at the back end of 2022, I’m feeling even grumpier than I usually do come January. When you make a New Year’s Resolution, it seems to me, you’re only making a rod for your own back. Too-ambitious targets and too-strict regimens lead inevitably to failure before the clocks change, and feeling bad about your lack of resolve. Or alternatively, cheating on your own resolutions, like my friend who did ‘Veganuary’ one year. She managed to stick to a strict vegan diet for the whole month – but ended up craving meat so much that she gorged herself on steaks and hamburgers come February. Now I’m not an expert on Veganuary, but I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work. (For the record her then-boyfriend also did Veganuary and stayed vegan afterwards, so I guess sometimes it works?)

But I digress. The point is, whether resolutions work for other people or not, I’ve found over the past months and years that, when it comes to writing, I have a tendency to set myself overly ambitious goals and then drive myself into the ground trying to achieve them. I tend to look at other writers, see how much they’re writing, and think ‘I should be able to do that!’ When really, I need to accept that:

a) the ‘average writer writes 3 books a year’ factoid is actually statistical error. The average writer writes 1 book a year. Words Brandon, who lives in Utah and writes 10,000 words a day, is an outlier and should not have been counted.*

b) however many books an average writer writes is irrelevant anyway. The important thing *to me* is how many books *I* can write.

Because the fact is that I have two small children and chronic health conditions, so I have only so much time and so many spoons to spare. Repeatedly raiding the silverware drawer and trying to eat soup with a knife and fork isn’t going to work – sometimes I just need to wait for the dishwasher of life to finish the long cycle.

Tortured metaphors aside, I need to try my best to avoid burnout. So my resolution for 2023 is simply this: to look after myself. I look after a toddler (almost) full time so I already know how to care for a willful, determined, and deeply stupid human being. What I need to do now is to apply some of that learning to myself: toddlers are not the only ones who need food, drink, rest, moderate exercise, affection, and the right level of mental stimulation.

Oh, sure, there are things I would like to achieve this year, writing-wise: I’d love to finish a first draft of my current work-in-progress, a Cold War spy thriller (but with magic!) tentatively titled either A Truth More Deadly or Scholar, Soldier, Caster, Spy. I’d love to write a couple more short stories and maintain a regular schedule of blog posts right here on this website. There’s also a Witcher fanfic and a romance novel knocking about in a state of incompletion. But I’m not going to push myself to breaking point, and I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t achieve all these things this year.

Are you, like me, are coming into 2023 feeling a little bit (or a big bit) tired and overwhelmed, dreading the thought of setting targets for yourself you might not hit? If so, may I gently suggest you give yourself permission to take a similar self-care-centred approach? Go on, don’t be harder on yourself than you would be on someone else.

(If you’re feeling super energized and ready to tackle your personal goals, then that’s great. I’m happy for you. Here’s a cherry and guarana smoothie. Off you go on another jog. Please don’t tread in any dog poop.)

Here’s hoping that 2023 is the year we all look after ourselves, and look out for each other too.

*for the benefit of anyone who isn’t Extremely Online, this is a reference to the ‘Spiders Georg’ meme and to horribly prolific fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, who in March 2022 announced that he’d secretly written 5 books during the preceding two years – this was *in addition* to the books he was contracted to write. Reports that he is some kind of immortal interdimensional time-weaver are as yet unconfirmed.