How Not To Set Resolutions: A Guide for Your Creative Self


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I was recently asked how I set intentions.

No words came to me. Instead, my heart filled, my mind flooded with emotional visuals, forms and feelings blending seamlessly into one another. (This is how most important ideas begin within me.)

I wanted to answer well, to put together a succinct step-by-step for this person I loved and trusted. Yet, my eventual answer, cobbled together in bumbling words that didn’t fit at all, disappointed and frustrated me.

Later, I cried and cried.

I do this when I feel something I can’t properly express. It’s my body’s way of working it out. I have no shame about this.

Still later, I pondered on it extensively, and I paid attention. Then I figured I would try to write it down. This is my attempt:

I don’t do resolutions.

The way I feel and see, resolutions are hard-edged, judgmental – likely to cause cuts and bruises.

I don’t need more of those, so I have another approach.

Intentions have an expansiveness to them, a soulfulness. I like them better, and I get to because there’s no right way to be a human.

I don’t just set intentions. I birth them, I create them, they come from me and then go into the world via words and deeds.

Like most things with me, intention-birthing is a process. It’s not a linear one, but something ephemeral and fluid, fine-tuned and a bit haphazard.

First, I mull. That happens about in October. (Let those of you who are reading this now not be put off – you can start today.) I root into the deepest parts of me to get centered in what 10 months has brought me so far. I take emotional stock: What feelings are rising in me? What are stuck in me? What does my current sense of ennui reflect in me? Along the way, I meditate and pine and talk to my muses, to God, to the angels, to my husband, to friends. In these conversations, I’m not talking as much as I am listening. I keep doing that for awhile.

Then I pay careful attention to what shows up. I take note of that: words, sounds, songs, signs, prayers, questions. I feel like a detective then, an inspector of the soul. I am comforted by my research and by my notes and by my sketches.

For a month from late November to early December, I try to specifically write of my future self and state. This is the most particular thing I do. I imagine what is set before me. My brain gets pushed, sometimes out of the way. My heart and inner knowing contribute. Sometimes I am really fastidious about this daily writing, sometimes I am not. But this is the layer that helps calibrate the first couple of phases to my greater self.

Then, somewhere in the stiller-ness between Christmas and New Year, round about the end of the year, I begin weaving the pieces together. Not in a neat braid, either. In a messed up yarn ball that you have to trust will eventually become a scarf or a baby blanket.

I pull in art.

My heart has the final say. If I scrutinize, it’s because something feels emotionally off. When that happens, I wait.

This is a process of waiting and listening, if I had to boil it down.

Eventually, I write down my five to eight to ten intentions.

Then I draw all over them because I am putting this list up on my wall and it needs to have color and art to continue to be interesting to me for the next year.

Throughout my year, I look to my left and see where my intentions are appearing in my every days.

Sometimes I say, “Oh shit! I need to get moving!”

Other times I say, “Don’t look at me that way.”

Still other times I say, “Wow, look how it’s coming together!”

Often I say, “Well…we’ll see.”

All of these are very appropriate answers.


I’m a processor and a creator, so this approach really is no exception to how I handle life.

All my processing and creating can be draining at times, but I’ve learned and accepted that is just how I am.

Once I gave myself both room and permission to embrace my processes, I started enjoying them much more.

This annual ritual is vital for me as a creator.

Trying to live a life with as much creativity as possible requires frequent assessing.

Otherwise, the doldrums of life will creep into my every days and try to re-impose themselves on everything.

My sensible side will dominate.

And I will end up being not very happy, become increasingly blame-y and eventually spin myself out.

And that’s not a place I can be intentional about anything.