First of all, happy New Year everyone 🙂 Now that I’ve said that, it’s time to get a little bit more cynical. Don’t worry, there are several good reasons for this that I hope will become obvious later and – with any luck – will actually help you to make better creativity-based resolutions. Even though they (hopefully) won’t be “New Year’s resolutions”.
But, yeah, the new year can be a time when people feel driven to make creativity-related resolutions like “I’m going to learn how to draw”, “I’m going to write a novel”, “I’m going to start a webcomic” etc…
There’s nothing wrong with these resolutions. I mean, this blog (and everything on it) wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t made several creative resolutions (eg: making art every day, starting a blog, returning to making webcomics occasionally etc…) over the course of the past few years. However, I didn’t make any of these resolutions on the 31st December or the 1st January!
Here are a few practical reasons why New Year’s Day is a terrible time to make or start any creative resolutions:
1) You’ll have the wrong type of motivation: Many of the best creative decisions that I’ve made have been ones where I’ve either just felt like I had to start a project, or when I’ve been so overcome with curiosity that I’ve thrown myself into a project at the earliest possible opportunity (with at least some planning, of course).
When you feel a really strong drive to do something creative, the idea of waiting until the beginning of a new year just seems unnatural. It feels like you’re wasting time you could be spending working on your cool new creative project.
The reason that I mention this is because it illustrates the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that can make you spend hours every day making things, without it ever really feeling like it’s a type of “work” or a “chore” . It’s the kind of motivation where you don’t need anyone to remind you to write, draw etc.. because you’re eager to do this anyway, because you feel a sense of purpose and passion for the things you create. This type of motivation doesn’t wait until New Year’s Day.
Extrinsic motivation on the other hand is where you have to be pushed, poked, praised and prodded into creating things. It’s where you tell everyone that “It’s my new year’s resolution to start a novel, to draw every day etc..” and you rely on them to keep nagging, pestering and occasionally praising you about it. It’s where you find ways to punish yourself for not creating things in accordance with your resolution. It’s where you have to bribe yourself into following through with your creative promises.
As you can probably tell, one of these two types of motivation sounds a lot better than the other. One of them sounds a lot more powerful than the other.
So, make sure that you have intrinsic motivation before you make a creative resolution. But, if you have intrinsic motivation, then you probably aren’t going to want to wait until New Year’s Day to get started on your project.
2) You’ll be unprepared: Because the beginning of a New Year is the start of something new and because it’s a time of celebration, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all of your project will be as exhilarating, hyper-productive and jubilant as beginning it on New Year’s day was.
Creative projects are often long-term things. They’re a marathon, rather than a short sprint. If you have intrinsic motivation, then this can make them easier – but they’re still a marathon. And, although I’m not an expert on the sport of running, I know that not only do marathon runners spend quite a while training before a marathon but they also don’t start the marathon by running as fast as they can. They pace themselves, because they know that they have to keep their strength up for the long run ahead.
What I’m trying to say here is that, during the exciting early days of a project, it can be very easy to think that the project will be easier than it actually will be. It can be very easy to “bite off more than you can chew”. It can be easy to ignore possible problems and pitfalls (eg: if you’re making something every day, you ARE going to have uninspired days sometimes -so, knowing how to deal with them before you begin can be very useful!)
If you wait until you feel ready (and have had a chance to prepare, think and practice), then you’ll have a much better chance at succeeding at your resolution than you would if you started it today just because “it’s New Year’s Day”.
3) You’ll get dazzled by high expectations: When you’re starting a new creative project, high expectations aren’t a bad thing – as long as they are tempered by realistic understanding. This is something that is best illustrated with two examples and, just for the sake of it, I’m going to use writing-based examples.
If you tell yourself “It is my New Year’s resolution to write a bestseller! I will write a masterpiece!“, then I can almost guarantee that you will spend the next 1-4 hours staring at a blank screen and feeling absolutely terrible.
Even if you do eventually manage to squeeze out a few words, they’ll probably only linger on the screen for mere seconds before you furiously delete them in frustration because they can never measure up to the unreachable standards that you’ve set yourself. As any writer will tell you, this is the most effective way to give yourself writer’s block!
However, if you tell yourself something like “This isn’t a new year’s resolution but I’m going to write my first novel, just to see if I can. I hope it will be good, or at least fun“, then you’ll probably end up with a novel.
It may not be a good novel, but it will have taught you a lot about writing. Even if you don’t finish the novel, then you’ll still “win” because it will show you that perhaps you are better suited to writing shorter works of fiction or that you might want to try writing in a different genre, or something like that.
Because you entered into it with lower expectations, there was a lot less pressure and you’ll probably feel like you have more freedom to mess up and to focus on just creating. You’re more likely to see failures as learning experiences – which, ironically, is exactly what you need if you’re ever going to make a masterpiece or a bestseller.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂