Some artists don’t believe in resolutions. Others find talking too much about ideas neutralizes the power needed to execute them. Some artists worry about sabotage. Many value the accountability that comes with a public declaration — they set goals, create a strategy, tweak tactics and pull from ineffable inner resources when needed. Like John Beeden, who this year rowed from San Francisco to Cairns, Australia in his 6-metre boat, “Socks II,” some artists create what once seemed impossible.
Whether you make an announcement or keep your resolutions quietly to yourself, keep in mind the words attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” And if you’re going to make a plan, why not work backwards?
Begin with your dream. Be as specific as possible — according to the popular gurus, the universe, like a puppy with a slipper, loves to chew on material things. Imagine, for example, the art you always wanted to make. Visualize in detail this reckless, heightened expression of your creativity.
Next, make a wish for your dream. How will you make this art? What will happen if you do?
Finally, in the same way you might answer the five Ws of storytelling, you can build a plan around your wish:
Who are the key players?
What are the steps?
Why am I doing it?
Where will it happen?
When will I complete?
PS: “Plan your work and work your plan.” (Vince Lombardi)
“What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides, somewhere, a well.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Esoterica: If you were receiving these letters in 2001, you may remember a late December invitation to privately send in your resolutions for safekeeping. Several hundred of you did — your emails kept for a year, then returned on January 1, 2002. I always thought of it as a kind of collective intention to make better art. What was learned was that artists are the individual keepers of their own systems, fancies, obsessions, patience and grit. Our unity is in the dreaming, our character in the striving.
“Make it an event. Go reverently to some quiet or secret place: a wood, a park bench, your car. Plan on taking at least an hour. Make a long list. Visualize anything, everything; let your imagination soar. What’s needed? What do you really want? What’s practical? Throw in some luck. Edit your notes on a second sheet and chuck the redundant but not the impossible. Inhale the resolutions and then tuck them into your pocket. Take a minute to build a small obos (three or more rocks piled on top of one another). You can come back in 365 days to see if it’s still standing.” (Robert Genn, January 1, 2002)