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Less is More: The Resolution We Both Can Keep

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January 3, 2016 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

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My roommate and I had a quiet New Year’s Eve.

Seriously. We watched a couple of episodes of the Twilight Zone marathon, and let these girls party for us instead. “One of the delights known to age, and beyond the grasp of youth,” says Joseph Priestly, “is that of Not Going.” I was in bed before midnight.

New Year’s Day was low-key as well. A friend was having a macaroni-and-cheese (and beer) party, but I got into writing, and stayed home. Unlike Christmas, this holiday offers the possibility of a sort of mini-retreat, in which I think about the year that has past, and set some goals for the year to come. It is an important liminal space.

Last year I made two very concrete resolutions, one public and one private. The public goal was a “reach” goal.

To spend 20 hours a week in creative work. I tracked my time pretty carefully for the year, and while I didn’t quite make 20 hours a week, striving to do so improved my discipline and built better creative habits.

The private goal was a “relax” goal. 

Are we relaxed yet? Are we relaxed yet?

That is, one which would supposedly allow me to relax when I reached it. It was to incrementally increase my blog page views over the year. Once I hit that goal, I told myself, I could let the social media stuff go a bit. Write up some posts in advance so I didn’t always find myself coming off of a deadlined week into a deadlined weekend. Work more on creative projects that require a wider lens and a deeper focus.

As I wrote in a previous post, I hit my relax goal at the end of September. And I did spend several weeks on a storytelling project that required a deeper focus. I also spent some very important time in New York with my parents. But I still did not manage to write posts in advance, and reading and reciprocating blog post shares still took too much time away from other pursuits.

Where that relax goal is concerned, I find myself ambivalent about success.

I know the numbers game is just that – a game I use to motivate myself. If I don’t have that little game to play, I am afraid my day job as a grant writer will suck up all the energy I have for writing. I fear entropy and inertia. If I stop, can I start myself up again? And so I give myself this artificial sense of “progress.” But progress toward what? What am I trying to win – the Internet?

This is not the first blog I’ve had. The original one, erratically maintained, I began on LiveJournal in 2006, after celebrating a milestone birthday. This year I’m about to have another milestone birthday. And it is becoming increasingly important to me to use my time well. 

So this year, paradoxically, I am resolving to do less.

Blogging once a week has been an important discipline. But I want more space on the calendar to plan out my writing, and more time for reflection. Because of this, I am going to go against conventional social media wisdom. This year, the last week of every month will be post-free.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. It does mean I won’t be actively promoting posts on Twitter. Even though I have enough evergreen content by now, I don’t feel like it is fair to do so if I don’t want to read and reciprocate others. And much as the blogging community has enriched my creative life, I cannot do this week after week if I’m going to gain more time to do the inner work that makes my writing worthwhile. I need downtime.

If you’re a regular reader you will notice that I have changed my blog’s tagline.

Previously it was “On Writing, Creative Practice and Performance.” When I began to post weekly in 2014, my intention was to use the blog as a scratchpad for working on story material to perform, and to write about the creative process. In fact, the writing itself became as important, if not more important, as performance.

While I still expect those subjects to come up, they aren’t really the focus of my blog anymore. I will, of course, still be performing and posting stories. But I won’t be depending on external prompts from the Twin Cities storytelling scene to drive my content.

The truth is, I’m using this blog to grow my soul.

I know. In public and everything. Shameless.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have time for ephemera. Hey, let’s face it. We’re all ephemeral. But I want to know how to keep it in its place. To have more time for those examinations and reflections that move me forward, for those stories that make experience meaningful.

That’s why I’ve decided to have an overall theme for the year, based on what I feel this soul of mine wants and needs to work on. Watch this space – on your own good time, but not the last week of the month – for more.

What do you need to do less of this year to get more from your time?

Courtesy Zen Living by DesignCourtesy Zen Living by Design

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “Less is More: The Resolution We Both Can Keep

  1. jan says:

    I started this new year with the flu which pretty well made mincemeat of plans to start the year out well! Just hoping to get some energy back soon!

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  2. I’m on the same wavelength–now if I can just figure out how to do and truly believe ‘less is more’…happy new year & thanks for the thoughtful post!

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  3. Judith Post says:

    It’s hard to decide what’s the best use of time. At least, for me. But this year, I want to concentrate more on my writing goals, friends, and family. And for once, I might actually work some exercise into my day.

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  4. digbydigz says:

    I’m still trying to figure that out. But I loved the post!

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  5. jmlevinton says:

    I love the idea of skipping a week every month when blogging. I look forward to anything you post on the results of doing it. I wonder how to fit everything in and you offer such sane ideas! Thank you.

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    • Well, I would still like to increase my page views by 25% this year, so it will be interesting to see if that happens naturally, in spite of my slow down. To some degree growth happens of its own accord once you build up a body of work, I’m told. Essentially I believe in being as lazy as I can get away with where social media promotion goes. Otherwise the game will consume you, as well as any genuine relationship building it enables.

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  6. stuckinscared says:

    I love the way this reads like thinking-out-loud. I found myself nodding here and there, there just aren’t enough hours (in my case enough with-it hours) in a week. I feel the same as you about not feeling it’s fair to share my own work if I don’t have the time to read/share others, and social media is such a huge time suck.

    There are so many creative things I want to do this year (aside from blogging). Art; drawing/doodling/painting has become very important to me… it’s so cathartic. Then there are the Journals i want to/need to concentrate on. Specifically an art journal; for mental health…art therapy… and a ‘Dear Dad’ (dear diary) journal that has become vital… there are things that need saying and I’m going to go mad if i don’t say them. In the absence of actual-Dad the journal will have to do.

    I haven’t decided to take a week off from the blog exactly, but I have decided that it’s not the end of the world if I miss a week: from the blog, or from social media. I’m going to try and just go with the flow a bit more; do what feels best in the moment.

    Happy New Year, Paula. All the best to you, your family…and your blog in 2016. x

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  7. Diana says:

    I need to do less of looking at my encroaching “stuff” and more of getting rid of stuff that I haven’t used in decades. This has been on my list of “to do’s” for almost that same number of years, and it’s enough! I waste so much time on planning to get rid of it, and feeling overwhelmed by it all.
    And — in contrast to your reducing your blog time — I am getting closer to actually starting to blog. It’s the scheduling, and the need for discipline with that schedule, that is my nemesis.
    I look forward to the posts you do produce. Enjoy the weeks “off”!

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  8. Annecdotist says:

    I’m all for doing less, Paula! Happy New Year to you and looking forward to the reveal of your theme for 2016.

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  9. Mary Rowen says:

    I hear you, Paula. My goal this year is to spend more time on the quality stuff and less on the trivial. Easier said than done. Oh, but I wanted to let you know that I included you in a post I posted last night about my fave blogs of 2015. Here’s the link, and please let me know if you’d like me to change anything. Your blog is one of the ones I really look forward to reading. Have a wonderful 2016. http://bit.ly/bestblogs2015

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  10. Sacha Black says:

    Interesting – basically the opposite of what I was saying! I like your take. I have often been told to meditate because my mind is SO busy constantly. I used to. I liked it. I think we all have to find the way that works for us. I am one of these people that can’t get a thing done unless I am under pressure. I work best when I have one or two too many things to do for the amount of time I have. Otherwise I procrastinate. I love the thrill and the buzz of pressure. Maybe that’s why I wrote that post. Don’t get me wrong I know it won’t work for lots of people, but like you – growing your soul – I think I am finding mine.

    I wish you every success this year. <3 Thanks for stopping by. I loved your post too.

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  11. Charli Mills says:

    This is always a good time of year to take stock of what passed and what is yet to come. I adjust the map, dust off the guiding star and set out with balanced bursts of working, exploring and pondering. Cheers to 2016, the Year of More or Less!

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  12. I can completely understand. Hope you find a better balance.

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  13. lucciagray says:

    I agree that less is often more. Life’s a question of quality rather than quantity. I think its a good idea to have a blogging free week a month. I always make three wishes at a time, which I make into objectives by working hard to achieve them. When I’ve reached the three I move on to another three. It’s worked so far :)

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  14. […] Janus, gleaning wisdom from the past, but looking toward the future: an essential perspective as I reviewed the resolutions I made last year, and plan for the posts to […]

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  15. […] “spiritual discipline” rather loosely. But my intuition says to start with what I have. Two weeks ago, I indicated my intention to give a theme to my blog for the year. A theme to help me treat my […]

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