Weekly Workout: Did Someone Say Resolutions?

(Weekend Workout is now Weekly Workout and posted on Mondays. Skip to the bottom of the page to go straight to this week’s workout)

Currently Reading:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stievater (I am digging this book more than I thought I would)

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Yesterday, author Kelly Barnhill wrote a lovely post about making a list of intentions for the new year (rather than one of oppressive “resolutions”). Strangely, her intentions list was almost identical to mine – other than the no “erasing” documents, because I’m queen of saving versions of manuscripts. Oh, and the fact that I do intend to learn a new instrument (or rather, pick up an old one) this year. That’s a subset of my overall intention for the new year, which is: to have fun.

(What I also love are Barnhill’s non-intentions, which help you get clear about what you are not intending to do for the next 12 months.)

I jumped off the New Year’s Resolution band wagon years ago for many of the same reasons as others have, but after reading Barnhill’s post, I started to think that perhaps resolution is just getting a bad rap. It’s not the word “resolution” that is the problem, it’s more that we tend to make our promises to ourself unwinnable or out of our control (i.e. I can’t say with absolute authority, “I will get an agent this year” because I only have control over the sending-out-the-best-query-I-can part, the other part is up to an agent). Then I might give up hope, get depressed, and blame the poor four-syllable noun (curse you Resolution!).

If I said, I’m going to write one completely polished short story this year, I could win at that. I could feel great about myself and maybe even write a second one and feel even better. Holy cow, I’ve just done twice as much as I said I would! But no, something about my brain won’t let me do that. Something in my hardwiring says, Don’t be ridiculous, that’s a wimpy goal and you can do better. So, I often set my standards way too high and then beat myself up for not reaching some completely arbitrary goal.


by Stefan Zsaitsits

I do like the idea of intentions, or even just: this is what I’m looking forward to this year! On New Year’s Eve, everyone in my Tribe (even the kidlets) said ONE thing we each wanted to get out of the upcoming year. One Thing, and everything else can fall into that. As I stated above, I told everyone I wanted to have FUN this year.

Just for kicks I looked up the word “resolution” and yes, one of the definitions is of course a determined resolve, a firm decision to do or not to do something. But only 2 of the 5 dictionaries I looked it up in had it listed as the first definition. It’s also, of course, the act of finding an answer or solution to a problem or conflict. And as a writer, I find the RESOLUTION such a wonderful place to swim around in. I always feel like I’m bearing down on the finish line when I get to my resolution in whatever draft I’m working with. I can taste my resolution coming, its bittersweetness (my favourite kind of resolution).

Also resolution is from the Latin resolutio, from resolvere ‘loosen, release’

Ah, maybe we can use THAT definition at the beginning of the year from now on, and instead of RESOLVING firmly that we are going to DO this thing or NOT DO this thing, what if we released that which no longer served us (i.e. that which was creating conflict in our lives) and loosened ourselves up to new opportunities. Or perhaps it’s a way of looking at all the unfinished business of our lives and taking any next steps toward completing them.

No matter how you decide to take on the New Year, here’s to 2014.

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1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

I was using my Antagonist for this exercise, but you can use your Protag or any other character who has an arc.

Start with the line:
My character’s “unfinished business” looks like…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.


2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line:

In order to resolve his/her inner conflict, my character must let go of …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Write a SCENE (action/dialogue – no description) in which another character CONFRONTS your character about his or her unfinished business. Have this character make accusatory statements. Volley denial, anger, resentment, etc, and in the end, try to come to a CONFESSION of some sort if you can.

This might not become an actual scene in your story, but hopefully it will deepen your understanding of your character and build motivation.

Start with the line: Character X turns to Character Y and says, “Why do you always do that?”

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.



  1. typestar
    Jan 9, 2014

    Great piece! I will never think of New Year resolutions the same way! Also, love the idea of focusing on a character’s unfinished business because it’s something we can all relate to – a great way to help build empathy for characters.

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Jan 9, 2014

      Thanks, typestar. Who doesn’t have unfinished business in this world? I think much of it is what keeps us up at night.

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