Happy New Year: Goals and resolutions for 2013

It’s that time! Time wear sparkly shirts and drink sparkly drinks and hope that 2013 is going to be a sparkly year (but not in a Twilight way.)

Last year’s decision to make goals rather than resolutions (and blogging about them monthly) worked so well for me that I’m planning to do it all over again and bore you all to tears with my goals for 2013. It was actually the accountability of putting the goals online that was so helpful to me. I said I was going to do these things and I had to deliver, whether anyone was actually reading the blog posts or not.

Here are my goals for 2013:

novel, oconnell

I really need to finish this draft.

My novel: It was supposed to be out to agents by this time, according to my 2012 resolutions. Well, that didn’t happen. This year I’m resolving to spend the first hour of every weekday working on it until it’s done, no matter what other projects come along.

Marketing: I’m terrible at marketing. I should not admit it, but it’s true. I hate putting myself forward; it goes against everything that was drummed into me as a little girl in Catholic school. So this year, I am also spending an hour of each weekday working on marketing projects, including the upkeep of this blog, my social networks, reading up on marketing and emails to bookstores and libraries and reviewers. This doesn’t mean I’m going to become an unbearable spammer. It just means I need to put myself out there more and to new audiences.

Making a marketing plan for my new book: If I have a written plan, it will be harder to go wrong.

Publishing: My goal last year was to send out three pieces. I did, and I got rejected. My goal this year will be to publish three things that are not my upcoming book.

Reading: Last year, I planned to read 12 novels in a year. This goal sparked a reading binge the likes of which I haven’t experienced since high school. I met my goal in May and kept on reading. As of yesterday, I read 33 books – novels, collections and nonfiction – in 2012. For 2013, I would like to read that number of books again, and not limit the goal to novels. I also want to include at least one Jane Austen novel and at least one Charles Dickens book.

Conferences: I already attend a retreat and a conference on the semi-regular. This year, I want to find one new writing conference to go to. I need to up my networking.

UPDATE FROM NEW YEARS DAY –  I thought of this one in the middle of the festivities last night:
Grants: I’d also like to apply for at least three fellowships or grants this year.

This year I’m planning to incorporate a few personal goals in with the writing goals, including the classic New Years rez…

Weight: I feel most comfortable when I weigh within a certain five-pound range, and I am always two pounds away from that five pound range, because when I’m that close to my goal weight, I feel like I can eat whatever and not work out and generally slack off. For 2012, I would like to get within that range and stay there. Right now I’m two pounds outside the upper end of it.

resolutions 2013

While I’m among the living, I don’t get to be a Late Great O’Connell.

Punctuality: I’ve never been an incredibly punctual person. In fact, I’ve built my lateness into my personality. I was born late, my family has refered to itself as the Late Great O’Connells, therefore, I’ve let myself accept that I will always be late to everything. In fact, if I didn’t have a driver, I probably would have been late to my own wedding. Well that’s got to end. Recently, two incidents made me think that it’s time to change my lateness issues: 1) We were horrifyingly late to Christmas dinner and 2) I was late for a writing event and missed an important marketing opportunity. This lateness has got to stop. I’ve done all sorts of things to keep myself from being late, including setting the clock in my car forward five minutes, which does nothing except make me panic and drive like a maniac, then do the mental math and subtract five minutes. So I’m going to make it a point to be on time, starting today. I’m setting the car clock back to the regular time. Every time I’m late, a dollar is going into a mason jar, and at the end of the year, some worthy charity is getting a donation.

My big-picture goal
Last year I also picked two big-picture issues that had been bothering me to mull over and research, and I was supposed to write about them in essay form. I mulled them over but didn’t write about them; I found that I wasn’t ready to share my findings about my own anxiety or my feelings about religion. But thinking about these issues did help me, and so I’m planning to examine an issue this year as well. I think it’s time I started solidifying my political positions. I mean, I know what I believe, but I’m not always well-informed and there are certain issues I avoid altogether. But this year, I think it’s important for me to look at all the political issues I can, and make up my mind. Part of this is so that I can argue with ease at parties, but I don’t like feeling fuzzy about certain issues, so part of this is to help me understand my own feelings.

Well, that’s it. Now I’m off to put on something with sequins. Happy New Year, readers! Good luck with your own resolutions!

How a men’s magazine gave me confidence that Elle could not.

I am a huge fan of the anti-plastic surgery, no-makeup, aging-naturally, don’t-retouch-my-photos movement that’s been taking hold among a small but significant number of celebrities. 

In 2003, Kate Winslet was up in arms about this retouched photo on the cover of GQ.

Kate Winslet, whom I thought was so beautiful when I first saw her in movies in the ’90s, is now 20 percent more awesome to me because she refuses to starve herself and won’t get plastic surgery. I love that she takes a stand against retouching. I love that a growing number of ladies’ magazines are open to publishing unretouched photos and make-up-less shoots and photos of “plus-size girls” and using women over the age of 35 as cover girls.

This is a fabulous trend. If only it were the norm instead of the exception.

I wish Winslet or any of the natural beauty activists were on the covers of any of the ladies’ magazines that have arrived at my house since the fall.* But the vast majority of the cover girls,  actresses, models and fashions in those magazines have catered to an imaginary world full of wrinkle-free women whose dress sizes top out at 8. An extremely unscientific survey of the cover girls in my magazine rack currently includes several young starlets, the super-slender Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore, who has been criticized for being too skinny as she ages.

Sophia Loren has said that young actresses need to "mangia!" I'm paraphrasing here.

I realize some women have trouble putting on weight, but most people I know struggle with the opposite problem, as do I.

“Too skinny” is not a problem I will ever have unless, god forbid, I end up in a survival situation. Even then, the chances of me getting “too skinny” are pretty slim because before starving to death I would

1) eat songbirds, squirrels, bugs, bark and weeds, probably poisoning myself in the process, or

2) be killed and eaten by my friends and relatives for the fat reserves I carry with me at all times.

I digress.

Witness Marilyn Monroe eating dessert.

Moving along, I’m tired of reading women’s magazines and feeling overweight. So the other day I went to the website of a men’s magazine instead.

Normally I try to stay clear of men’s magazines, particularly the articles that focus on women’s bodies, but I was sick of reading Elle and wondering what it would be like to fit into a size 0 pair of skinny jeans. (I’d have to shave several inches of bone off my hips to make that happen.) One Google search later, I’d found this gem: Men’s Health’s 100 hottest women of all time.

Now before I get into the list, I’m not saying that women should start adhering to standards set for them by men’s magazines. I am saying that while women’s magazines display a certain kind of figure as ideal, not everyone sees it that way.

Jayne Mansfield is smart enough to know that she can eat AND be attractive.

Look at this list. Some of the ladies are listed with their measurements. One of them (Jayne Mansfield) is listed with both her measurements and her IQ (163). These women are all shapes and sizes. Sure, there are a lot of skinny gals from the ’70s and today, but many of them look as though they’d never dream of starving themselves. Look at Ann-Margaret. There’s a lady who looks like she eats food. Number one is Jennifer Aniston, who might be skinny, but I’m glad she’s number one, because she seems genuinely nice.**

The point I’m trying to make here is not new. It’s trumpeted all the time. It’s just that the message – that there is no real standard of beauty – doesn’t always hit home. There are days when I just don’t feel attractive, or when I pine for my twenties or even my teens. And even though I know that’s a fool’s gambit and that in 10 years I’ll be pining for my 30s, I do it anyhow.

It’s normal for individual people to be insecure every once in a while. We all have bad days. What’s destructive is when a whole culture of people (American women, for example) are insecure all the time. In a time when the decent women’s magazines show me slimming clothing and size 2 dresses and the trashy ones publish articles focusing on diets, gossip, and sex tips, it was refreshing to see a list, created by guys who find smart, talented, funny and kind women attractive and who define 100 different body shapes as “hot.” The only thing that could make the list better would be more women of different ethnicities.***

After looking at this list, I got up and looked in the mirror. I felt beautiful. I logged onto Facebook, and congratulated myself on being friends with so many other beautiful women. I looked at a family picture and what do you know? My family is just rank with lookers. I told my husband all of this, and he agreed. And then we went out and had pizza for dinner.

* Thanks to a few shopping trips to Lohmann’s this fall, I am now the recipient of a lot of women’s magazines. Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle and Marie Claire all visit my house monthly. So does Food and Wine.

**  Sesame Street pro tip: Being nice trumps being curvy or skinny or what-have-you any day of week.

*** I counted about 10 women of color on this list. But that’s still a really small percentage when you’re talking about a list of 100.