And so that time of year upon us again. You know the one – where news organizations begin publishing their greatest stories of the year lists, the weather networks offer us a list of the ten worst storms of the year gone by, and the rest of us tally up what we’ve done, and more precisely, what we are planning to do. I have never been a person to make New Year’s resolutions.
First, as a professor for the bulk of my working life, New Year’s has always been the first Wednesday after Labor Day – the first day of classes on my particular campus. Now that was the time for making a new start. But January 1? Not so much.
This year I’ve been thinking about what the word resolution really means. Who knew that it had so many different nuances of meaning?
According to the Oxford English dictionary it can mean (among other more specific things) any of the following:
- “A firm decision to do or not to do something;”
- “The action of solving a problem or contentious matter;”
- “The process of reducing or separating something into constituent parts or components.”
- To resolve to do something means to “Decide firmly on a course of action.”
Clearly, when people say they are making New Year’s resolutions, they mean they are making a firm decision to either do something, or refrain from doing something. A firm decision. I’m thinking that making a decision is not necessarily enough to actually get you to act on that resolution. Perhaps we need something more.
That got me thinking about making promises. What does a promise have that a resolution doesn’t? Back to the Oxford English dictionary I went.
- A promise is “A declaration or assurance that one will do something or that a particular thing will happen;” which seems to me to be a synonym for what a New Year’s resolution is, but…
- To make a promise means to “assure someone that one will definitely do something or that something will happen.”
So, I guess semantically they seem to be much the same, at least as far as their denotative definitions go. But what about that connotative definition? In my mind they are different.
A resolution to me seems a bit business-like, clinical, removed. On the other hand, a promise seems more personal, closer to the bone. For me, the promise holds more sway. Keeping promises is a value that I cherish, far above the notion of keeping resolutions. So, what am I promising myself this year?
My 2015 promise to myself is to finish what I start, and that includes what has already been started but not finished. Oh, I don’t mean finishing those manuscripts that in my heart of hearts I know were just for practice. I mean finishing the ones that I know are meant to be finished. That means that between now and the end of 2015 I have to finish two novels.
I think that those of us who write – whether for personal growth and a sense of accomplishment – or for a living (or both for the ideal writer’s life) all have unfinished business. Maybe you’ll join me in making 2015 the year of getting the finish line. Let me know how you’re doing!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!