Usually at this time of year, I am making resolutions. This time, I decided to write down my intentions because two of the things I rely on to keep myself sane used that word. It made me pause to look up the difference. After all, words are my business.
A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something; the act of solving a problem, a dispute, or a contentious matter.” An intention is “an aim or a plan; the healing process of a wound.” On the surface they may seem the same, but do you see the difference? To me, the difference is forced victory versus goals and healing. The first follows whatever means is necessary to reach the end goal. The second plots goals every step of the way, gently, with foresight, and emphasizes the means even though the end goal is still a positive resolution. The first is not concerned with a healthy outcome, just a finished one. The second approach is more holistic, integrating both the peace of mind about the journey and the destination.
So, this year, I am setting my intentions on peace of mind. I intend to explore the many ways I can achieve peace of mind because 2016 was such a rough year. I was saying just the other day I know I’m not the only one who feels as if I was run over by a large truck multiple times, then dragged to the top of a cliff and thrown over, only to be dragged to the top and thrown over again … and again. So, this year, whatever challenges it presents, I need a stronger mind and body. I feel peace of mind will lead to both. It’s not a final or finite destination, but a path I want to journey.
This past weekend, I had a conversation with someone who was having trouble plotting, and it made me realize that this is relative for writers, as well. Many people tend to see the plot as the end of the story, but it’s actually ONLY the means. The end is the objective or goal. The plot is the path that gets your characters from the beginning to the end. And that can be done many ways. So, if you set your intentions on ending your story, you must start with an objective or goal for your characters to accomplish. Once you have your goal, THEN you can plot points on how to reach it. Just like in real life when you start a project, you have to know what you want in the end, and then buy the materials, break it down into steps, and work on it little by little.
This doesn’t mean the plans can’t change. Nor does it mean the ending will turn out the way you originally thought it should. I’m a big fan of Bob Ross, and I love how he repeatedly points out there are no mistakes in the joy of painting, only happy accidents. So in stories and in real life, when things don’t go according to plan, it pays to be flexible and consider detours as part of the journey. Again, this is where intention is different from resolution. Resolution is often very unforgiving. If we set out to lose weight, but then eat a whole pizza, we may feel like we have to start over because our clean slate was ruined. If we plot a course toward an end for our characters, but then we hit writer’s block, we may wish to trash the whole thing and doubt our abilities to write anything at all. However, if we intend to lose weight, we can plan for pizza and chart our successes and failures because having more successes than we did last year is a successful improvement toward our goal, too. If we intend to write that novel, but can’t figure out how to conquer plotting, we can change the plot to have the characters “fail” that particular quest and come up with something better because road maps can detour onto many off-roads and still reach a meaningful destination.
The reality is no one is perfect. Failure happens. It’s inevitable. Therefore, what’s important is that we learn and heal and get back up again … and again. One of my favourite Japanese proverbs is 「七転び八起き」/ “nana korobi ya oki”/ “fall down 7 times; get up 8.” This is the difference between resolution and intention. This is the difference between fretting over plots and setting goals.
I wish all of my readers, my fellow writers, my friends, my family, and anyone reading this today a happy and healthy 2017. May your goals be reachable by many paths. May you find many ways to enjoy peace of mind. May you forgive yourself, get back up, and try again, no matter how many times you fall.