By Deborah Atherton

As the year begins, most of us over 29 (and perhaps, even a few younger) seize the moment to reproach ourselves not just with what we haven’t accomplished in the previous year, but in all the years that came before.


The novels we haven’t written (or read!), the film projects that never got off the ground, the paints drying out in the basement, the guitars sitting dusty and untouched—they all rise up in an angry mob and march on our poor undefended minds.

These are the moments that bring on New Year’s Resolutions. Or perhaps you already made yours, and, a week in, have already fallen short of this year’s expectations.

The question I am trying to ask myself right now is—why, exactly, are some projects languishing in dusty corners right now? Is it procrastination, a lack of genuine interest on my part, a shortage of energy and/or time, or a failure of nerve? Or just an overabundance of projects?

These are really difficult questions, and honestly, I’m still pondering the answers. I’m probably not going to have the answer to all of them before Valentine’s Day, or maybe July 4th. But I am going to try and take a look at each one and figure out what it is actually possible to do in a year, in the full knowledge that, for instance, what I really usually feel like doing on Saturday after a week at my job is absolutely nothing. Which doesn’t mean that if I assign 45 minutes or an hour to doing something creative that engages me, I won’t do it—in fact, I know, if it is a commitment I made in my schedule and my heart, I will.

What I’d like, I think, to feel at the end of 2013 is no regrets. That I did what I could reasonably do, and that even if the new novel is, for example, still only 2/3 done, instead of 1/3 as it is now, that it was a good effort, and the most I could do given my own circumstances. And that I was dealing with the scary parts—submitting, getting rejected or accepted—in an effective way, and not putting off what I did not enjoy doing.

So this year, instead of a list of everything I’m going to finish by the end of next year, I am going to aim for feeling no regrets about my creative work when I uncork the champagne next December 31st—no regrets, and more fun with my work. I invite you to join me!


10 Responses to Regrets

  1. popover9 says:

    Deb —

    Such a good column! Thank you! See you tonight!

  2. msum865048 says:

    Good stuff, Deb, and very well said. I guess most of us struggle with “am I doing enough” guilt, but it seems that this very guilt often stifles creativity. Thanx for a good article; I look forward to reading more.

    • deborahatherton says:

      Thanks, Margie, so glad you liked it – and you’re right, guilt does stifle creativity. It’s an endless cycle–amazing any of us ever writes anything!

  3. Joseph Hayes says:

    Forge ahead, dearest Deborah. If you begin each project with pride, excitement, and no expectations other than enjoying the journey, you’ll usually get where you’re going, wherever that may end up being.

  4. Gypsy Bev says:

    Know that I too tend to contemplate too many projects that I would like to complete. Like your idea of being creative and let it flow where it may, instead of putting so many regulations on our time and finished products. Most of all, just keep on being creative and enjoy each day.

    • deborahatherton says:

      I enjoy my days so much more when I am creative, and yet knowing this doesn’t always help me spend my time wisely. But you’re right, enjoying each day is key to getting on with things the next day!

  5. Perhaps it’s a subtle editing process going on. Looking back on a year full of what-ifs and not-enoughs, I see that I actually did accomplish a hell of a lot. Maybe not all I wanted to, but, still, enough to feel proud of.
    I wonder if creative people are harder on ourselves than others, and why?

    • deborahatherton says:

      Maybe that’s a topic we BOTH should blog on. I like the idea of it being a subtle editing process–interesting to think we are always editing the stories of our lives.

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