Resolution for 2015: To Dwell in Possibility–and in Books

0kathy-blogPosted by Kathy Waller

January 1 has come and gone, and here I sit with no long list of resolutions.

I swore off those things several years ago. They were always the same: lose X pounds, start every task early instead of late, keep a tidy house–I couldn’t say tidier, because it wasn’t tidy in the first place–sit less, move more, lose X pounds. And by the end of the January, I’d have broken them all, some because of my wicked, rebellious nature, and some because I forgot I’d made them.

Then I read these sentences by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman:

 We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.

 That made me stop and think. I’d always seen New Year’s resolutions as devilish taskmasters whose job was to make me work, toil, labor, so I could greet the next New Year’s Eve minus my flaws: I shouldn’t have gained that weight, so I should punish myself taking it off. I shouldn’t have let the housework go, so I should punish myself getting things back in order.

Shouldn’t shouldn’t shouldn’t. Should should should. Strive strive strive. Don’t let up for a minute.

No wonder my resolutions didn’t last.

Goodman’s  suggestion turned my ideas upside down. What if I looked for potential? What am I good at? How might I use my talents? What opportunities might I find if I just looked around? Could I enjoy self-improvement? Forget about the improvement and resolve to simply enjoy? Resolve, as Emily Dickinson wrote, to dwell in possibility?

And to lighten up? I’ve never excelled at lightening. But after reading Goodman’s column, I stopped making I’m-going-to-do-this-if-it-kills-me-and-it-probably-will-and-I-deserve-the-whatever-terrible-things-I-get resolutions.

Just before Christmas of 2014, I found potential for a pleasant and profitable 2015: a reading challenge introduced on Facebook by Goodwill Librarian and later posted in  “Literally Challenged,” on the calmgrove blog. Calmgrove calls it fifty-two cues to help the floundering reader lost at sea with no lifelines. The reader can choose to read fifty-two books; or, if he’d rather read fewer, he can cover several categories with one title.

I haven’t examined the list closely, but I’ve been considering all those volumes lined up in and stacked on my bookcases (and tables and chairs and floors and the piano and William the Cat’s [guest room] bed). This will be an opportunity to check them off my TBR list. It’ll also allow me to branch out into bookstore and library shelves.

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Books piled on futon

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Books piled on Ernest’s rug

Here are some of the titles I’ve already–or almost–selected:

 A book of more than 500 pages: Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch. I’ve read 22% already (percentage–a sure sign it’s an ebook), but for this category, I don’t mind bending the rules and pretending I read the entire novel in 2015.

A book published this year: Mark Pryor’s* The Button Man: A Hugo Marston Prequel. I’ve read the earlier books in the Hugo Marston series, and I see no reason to stop there. (Mark will speak at the Heart of Texas chapter of Sisters in Crime this Sunday, so if you’re near Austin, please join us there–all our meetings are free and open to the public. For details, click here.)

Mark Pryor, Author

Mark Pryor, Author

A book written by an author with your same initials: This will take some research. KW, MW, MKW don’t appear to be common author initials. If sequence doesn’t matter, it should be easier to find an author who qualifies. And I’ve decided sequence doesn’t matter.

 A book set in your hometown: Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is the only novel that fits the description. It was a Newbury Honor Book in 2010. I’d planned to write the first novel set in my hometown, but Ms Kelly got there before me. So I plan to write the first adult novel set there. I won’t mention the name of the town, because I don’t need any more competition. I’ve read Calpurnia, but I’ll read it again.

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 A book of short stories: P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Or any of Wodehouse’s books of short stories. This one can double as a funny book.

 A book by a female author: Well, d’oh. You mean girls write books? What is this world coming to? (Forgive the sarcasm, please, but honestly.)

 A book you own but have never read: That covers the waterfront. I have stacks of books I’ve never read. Brenda Wineapple’s White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. I bought it at a Borders in Houston during the last days of a closing sale. That was three, four, five? years ago. I just had to have it. It’s filed very near Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s book. I had to have that one, too. I purchased an armload of books for thirty dollars, and they’ve proved quite decorative strewn around the living room. Lurking in corners. Stacked on William’s bed.

English: Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

English: Thomas Wentworth Higginson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A cabinet card copy of a daguerreotyp...

English: A cabinet card copy of a daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson (unauthenticated) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A book you can finish in a day: Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp. 216 pages. I can read that in a day.

 A book that came out the year you were born: Graham Green’s The End of the Affair, perhaps. Or Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny. Or Nancy Mitford’s The Blessing.

 A banned book: Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants. Definitely. I’ll read several of the series. I didn’t read many of them while I was working because by the time we began buying them for the library, I had turned children’s books over to my best friend and assistant. She and her husband gave me a Captain Underpants doll to hang in my library office window in honor of Banned Books Month. It is a treasured keepsake.

 A book your mother loved: Eugenie Marlitt’s The Old Mam’selle’s Secret. My  mother used to rave about the book, which she’d read as a girl, but couldn’t remember who wrote it. Ah, the joys of the Internet. I not only know who wrote it, I know where I can find a copy.

 Oh, dear. I just looked at the clock.

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 I didn’t plan to write such a long post. My one true resolution–a rule that shouldn’t be punitive but seems so to me–was to be in bed before midnight, and I’m already four hours late. So I’ll close. Tomorrow I’ll open my Kindle to The Goldfinch and enjoy.

But before I go–Did you resolve to do anything special this year? Do any of your resolutions involve reading? What books are on your TBR list for 2015?

*

*Mark Pryor the novelist and Travis County Assistant District Attorney, NOT Mark Pryor the Senator from Arkansas.

*

Kathy Waller blogs at To Write Is to Write Is to Write and at Austin Mystery Writers.

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16 Responses to Resolution for 2015: To Dwell in Possibility–and in Books

  1. Kathy says:

    Reblogged this on To write is to write is to write and commented:
    I’m blogging at Writing Wranglers and Warriors today about my New Year’s resolutions–or lack of them. Click on over and find out what’s on my new To Be Read list. Because I’m kind and generous as well as wicked and rebellious, I’ll tell you that titles range from The End of the Affair to Captain Underpants. It’s going to be a great year for reading, folks.

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  2. calmgrove says:

    This is the sort of creative response that I think this kind of list requires, rather than a slavish ticking off of one book at a time. Enjoyed this post, thanks!

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  3. I’ve been looking for new authors to read and am glad to see your suggestions. Well Ernest doesn’t seem to mind sharing his rug. Looking for possibility makes so much more sense. How could I not thought of it before.

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  4. Wranglers says:

    Kathy, this was a fun and informative post. I’m going to try this. I have such a TBR list, it’s amazing. I also have a review to give to Kate. I’m going to try to do that this week. Today I am in my office/library, cleaning and thinking of things I need to do and I’m doing the get rid of 100 items challenge. Thanks for the links, love the photos. Cher’ley

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  5. My resolve this year is to stay focused and daydream less, but you know what they say about resolutions. They’re made to be broken. Good luck with yours.

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  6. Doris says:

    Kathy, loved your list. I read all the time (compulsive is the word most use) and I don’t regret one minute I spend with a book and not cleaning the house. I don’t do resolutions, but concentrate on directions. What direction am I going this year. This one, more research and publication of fiction and non-fiction.

    Here is to a list of joys that 2015 brings everyone. Sleep well Kathy. Doris

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  7. Mike Staton says:

    Kathy, it’s kind of like do more of what you love to do, and in your case reading some great books will always be a winner. I don’t do resolutions, but on New Year’s week 2014 a feature story of mine appeared in North Carolina’s Duplin Times newspaper — yep, I was a reporter there until I retired two weeks later — detailing the history of resolutions going all the way back into the mists of time including Ancient Rome. I never enjoyed doing the man-on-the-street interview… you know… “What are your resolutions for the new year?” Dreaded it, and most of the people told you they didn’t want to be interviewed.

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  8. Nancy Jardine says:

    Kathy- I put a bunch of around 12 items on my blog, a couple of days ago, that I am going to ‘intend’ to do this year (guess that’s just the same as resolutions) one of which is READ more books. When I joined Goodreads in 2011, I was reading tons of books a year. Last year I read hardly any compared to 2011. I’m hoping to find a way of reading more because I get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t …and being on the computer reading my own writing, or internet reading adn research, doesn’t count. Loved your post. Maybe your cat has read your books that are on the mat? 😉

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  9. sstamm625 says:

    I love this post, Kathy! What a great list for choosing books–even with the odd “book by a female author” item. I probably read more books by women than by men. Anyway, I love the idea of looking for possibility. I did actually make some resolutions this year–mostly to keep myself in balance. My post on New Year’s Eve on this blog gave the general outline. I did a post on my own blog with a pie chart of the things I want to balance: http://stephanieastamm.com/2015/01/new-year-new-goals/. And I’m not looking at those as punishment, but more a way to feel healthier, whole-er, and, well, more balanced in my life.

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  10. Neva Bodin says:

    Enjoyed your blog. I love looking at the to-do list from that perspective. And to find there are others with books all over the house that need to be read someday! I finally got rid of a few lately deciding I will never actually read them, but I can only get rid of 2 0r 3 at a time it seems. And I love the ideas on how to pick a book to read. Good luck!

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  11. Love the post Kathy! What a different way to look at resolutions for the New Year. I’ve already accomplished one (ongoing) and that is to be in bed by 10:00 every night. That gives me time to journal,do a crossword puzzle and meditate. Then if there’s any tie left and I’m not too tired I read for a bit. I’m going to re-read your post and rethink my 2015 resolutions. There are several authors I’ve never read so that’s easy. I already do the 52 books in a year, actually, more. I have broadened my horizons due to my book club reading a vampire series. I have really enjoyed them and would have never picked one up in the past. I think 2015 will be an exciting year!

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  12. Reblogged this on L.LEANDER BOOKS and commented:
    Ever think of looking at New Year’s resolutions a different way? I want to share this post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors by author Kathy Waller. It puts a different spin on an age-old tradition.

    Like

  13. erinfarwell says:

    Love, love, love this post and it dovetails nicely to the one I just drafted and will post tomorrow. Thanks for such a great post.

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  14. Enjoyed the post. I use to read a book a day before I lost sight in 1/2 of my left eye. Now I read less and choose wisely. In the past I only read murder mysteries, it seemed. Now I read anything but murder mysteries and I honestly hate romance in any novel. Choosing biographies and autobiographies is more me now, I think (cannot be certain, as well as I would like to be absolutely certain.)

    I wish I would pull all my stuff together and see if anybody would publish just anything I wrote or perhaps I should just do it myself.

    What do you think?

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  15. Touch2Touch says:

    Ernest has the right idea.
    You could do worse for a role model, you know!
    🙂

    Like

  16. S. J. Brown says:

    It’s amazing how changing your viewpoint can change everything. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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