We’re coming to that time of year when people think about starting something new. It’s a new year, and the holidays are over, and people are getting back to work, and now – now feels like the time to start that novel or get back to running or redo the kitchen. Many of us make resolutions; some of us even write those resolutions down. The unwise make public declarations, which can sometimes feel like accomplishment enough that the resolution goes unfulfilled.

I have never been one for New Years resolutions, but that is only because despite the holidays and getting back to work, January has never felt enough like the beginning of something. It has always felt like the dead middle of winter, and winter is such a hibernating season, such a seasons of being indoors, and bare trees, and dormant lawns, and frozen ponds, and days and days of shadow. I know life continues as ever in winter, but it seems to do so off stage. It feels like a time of year for trusting in what you cannot see, and for patience. Spring will come, and everything will grow again.

I don’t mean to make too much of the seasons. I’m a man of habits, and I don’t generally let a thing like the calendar get in the way of those habits. Writing, of course, is one such a habit. It’s a habit I cultivated and have no intention of breaking. I’ve had to break any number of habits in my life; in fact, I have a couple in mind now that could use a good breaking. I didn’t know they were habits until recently, but now that I’ve spotted them I know they have to go.

One of these habits is rather sticky, and I kind of wish I were a resolution-making guy. I think resolutions can be a good trick. I’ve tricked myself into doing things in the past. For instance, I once tricked myself into believing no one was reading this column, which helped me forget to care what people would think about what I was writing it. That was probably the best trick I ever pulled on myself.

Tricks won’t work for this habit, though. I’m simply going to have to find the resolve within myself. That resolve is there, even if I can’t always find it. The resolve is obscured beneath the very same habits it would help me break. When I find it, it always asks the same question: “Are you done convincing yourself this thing makes you happier?” As soon as the answer is yes, the shadow lifts and something new begins to grow.

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I’ve never been one for resolutions, but I’m always up for trying something new, so here goes:

I resolve to only write what makes me happy. No matter what agent or editor is waiting to see it, no matter the deadline, no matter the money, no matter anything I will not write a word of anything that does not bring me pleasure. I have tried the other way and it is as impractical as it is unpleasant.

I resolve to keep learning. In preparing to send a finished draft to my agent, I had this thought: I’ve got a lot to learn. Stunning, that, but I must remember it. Yo-Yo Ma said he wanted to play a perfect concert. And he did. And he said it meant much less than he would have expected. Perfection is a Platonic ideal that resides in our imagination and remains purposefully, continuously, thankfully, out of reach. Things are only interesting when I’m learning. I grumble when the learning comes slower than I want, but as long as it continues to come, I can be content.

I resolve to listen. Everything I’ve ever needed has come when I’ve slowed down and listened. What I need is like a song that never stops playing, but I lose track of it in the hurly-burly circus of my life. No matter, it plays on and doesn’t care how much or how little I’ve listened to it on a given day, it plays, and plays, and plays.

I resolve to think kindly of all the people who have ever said no to me. There are a lot of them, so this could take some time. Still, it’s worth the effort. All those people who said no were guiding me toward someone who might say yes. Hard to remember, but true nonetheless.

Perhaps you have a resolution or two of your own to make. If so, I recommend the kindest resolutions possible. Resolve only to do something, never resolve to not do something. Don’t be critical in your resolutions. Criticism has no place in your life. Turn toward what you want, and find the first step possible toward it.

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