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17 Famous Writers' New Year's Resolutions

17 of the greatest authors made New Year's resolutions and struggled to keep them just like everybody else.

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Virginia Woolf

Via en.wikipedia.org

Virginia Woolf was a lifelong diary-keeper and in her diaries she recorded her resolutions almost yearly.

In January 1931, Woolf had several resolutions:

“To have none. Not to be tied.

To be free & kindly with myself, not goading it to parties: to sit rather privately reading in the studio.

To make a good job of The Waves.

To stop irritation by the assurance that nothing is worth.

Sometimes to read, sometimes not to read.

To go out yes—but stay at home in spite of being asked.

As for clothes, to buy good ones.”

A few years later, in January 1936, Woolf wrote the following resolutions in her diary:

“I will make some good resolutions:

to read as few weekly papers, which are apt to prick me into recollection of myself, as possible, until this Years is over; to fill my brain with remote books and habits […] and altogether to be as fundamental and as little superficial, to be as physical, as little apprehensive, as possible.”

P G Wodehouse

Via en.wikipedia.org

One of PG Wodehouse's 1905 New Year's Resolutions was to play the banjo.

Apparently Wodehouse took the task very seriously until his friend, Herbert Wetton Westbrook, took the banjo to a pawnshop and then lost the ticket to retrieve it.

Nora Ephron

Joe Corrigan / Getty Images / Via Flickr: techcrunch

Nora Ephron, the sharp author, journalist and screenwriter, shared her top 10 New Year's Resolutions in her Huffington Post column in 2008.

"I just read my New Year's resolutions from last year, and I'm sorry to say that I managed to carry out almost none of them. I vowed to lose two pounds; I didn't. I was going to cook a timballo; I didn't."

After deciding that she wasn't being ambitious enough, Nora set herself some challenging resolutions for 2008, which included:

End the war in Iraq.

Make sure a Democrat is elected president.

Kill Osama bin Laden.

Start a universal health care program and put Oprah Winfrey in charge of it.

Christopher Isherwood

Via en.wikipedia.org

"My New Year's resolution is to read all the stories by Chekhov which we have in the house"

Christopher Isherwood’s diaries include a vast number of resolutions, made on New Year’s Eve or on his birthday, or simply in a flurry of creative energy.

In his diary at the end of 1959, after a busy year, Isherwood simply writes, “No time for any New Year’s resolution except GET ON WITH IT—FASTER!”

Isherwood also uses the resolutions in his diary to motivate himself to work.

He writes, “Usual resolutions. Push ahead fast, somehow, anyhow. You know you never regret when you do. No one ever had less excuse to be idle than you have.”

Robert Browning

Via en.wikipedia.org

Between 30% - 40% of people who make New Year's Resolutions have broken them by the end of January and even bearded Victorian poets were not immune to this statistic.

On the first of January, 1852, poet and playwright Robert Browning made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day.

Browning’s biographers point out that he did not keep the resolution – in fact, he managed to break it by the 4th January.

The resolution was born, Browning later wrote, out of a reaction to his own laziness: “One year in Florence I had been rather lazy; I resolved that I would write something every day.”

Joyce Carol Oates

Via poweroftheword.americanwritersmuseum.org

Joyce Carol Oates shared her 2013 New Year's Resolution with her Twitter followers:

My New Year's resolution is to consult Twitter only at the end of the day. (Except today which is, after all, a special day.)

— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) January 1, 2013

Now we can understand how she finds the time to be such a prolific author, who has penned over 40 novels and won countless awards.

John Cheever

Via theguardian.com

John Cheever had a troubled relationship with his craft that is played out in his journals and letters.

Cheever's biographer, Blake Bailey, explains that in January 1960, Cheever wrote: "my one New Year resolution is that I will not write anymore short stories, so help me God."

Cheever's journals are full of resolutions.

On New Year's Day in 1963, he wrote: "I shall make something illustrious of this year."

On another New Year's Day he prayed that he would have finished the novel he was working on by the spring.

Italo Calvino

Via en.wikipedia.org

In January, 1950, Italo Calvino wrote a letter to his friend, Mario Motta, in which he resolved to stop worrying so much:

"I would like this to signal the end of 'wasted angst' in my life: I’ve never regretted anything so much as having particular individual worries."

He also wrote that he needed to stop behaving like a journalist:

"For some time now my first need has been to “de-journalistize” myself, to get myself out of the stranglehold that has dominated these last few years of my life, reading books to review immediately, commenting on something even before having to time to form an opinion on it."

He wrote: "For that reason I make several plans for myself … to maintain my contacts with reality and the world, but being careful, of course, not to get lost in unnecessary activities"

Anaïs Nin

Via en.wikipedia.org

"I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me."

Anais Nin is famous for her revealing diaries.

One of her earliest diary entries reads:

“I have made a resolution to keep my diary all year long. Nothing comforts me like being able to tell all my sorrows, my joys and my thoughts to a silent friend.”

Nin frequently returned to the challenge of writing in her diaries, continually renewing her determination: “More than ever, I am resolved to continue writing.”

As for Nin’s attitude towards New Year’s Eve, biographer Maryanne Raphael points out that Nin usually stayed at home in bed for New Year’s.

When she is sixteen years old, on December 31st 1919, Nin actually wrote her diary entry in the moments running up to the New Year:

"Many people generally spend the few hours before midnight making resolutions and promises. I promise nothing; I have such a weak character that I can’t promise to be better.”

Then, as the clock strikes midnight, Nin records the moment: “There are the bells, the whistles. Happy New Year!”

C S Forester

csforester.wordpress.com / Via en.wikipedia.org

C S Forester was the extremely successful author of the Horatio Hornblower series and also wrote The African Queen, which was made into the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.

Forester, who wrote his first novel in just two weeks, said:

“I formed the resolution (to which I have clung ever since) never to write a word I did not want to write; to think only of my own tastes and ideals, without a thought of those of editors or publishers.”

F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald

Via commons.wikimedia.org

The Fitzgerald’s were a couple haunted by alcohol and notorious for their gin-fueled rows.

It comes as no surprise that, according to their biographer Paul Brody, in late 1922 the couple made a New Year’s resolution to stop drinking for three months.

Mark Twain

Via commons.wikimedia.org

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

Mark Twain had a lot of jokes about New Year’s resolutions - one of his resolutions was:

“I’m going to live within my income this year even if I have to borrow money to do it.”

Twain tried to quit smoking several times in his life (he was an ardent smoker of cigars) at the ages of fifteen, twenty-two and thirty-four, when he managed to stop smoking for over a year.

He later wrote:

“My health did not improve, because it was not possible to improve health which was already perfect.”

Instead, the problem was that he could not write without smoking.

“I found myself most seriously obstructed. I was three weeks writing six chapters.

"Then I gave up the fight, resumed my three hundred cigars, burned the six chapters, and wrote the book in three months, without any bother or difficulty.

"I find cigar smoking to be the best of all inspirations for the pen.”

So perhaps you can make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking or to write more, but you can’t make them both!

Stephen King

Via en.wikipedia.org

After critics slammed several of Stephen King's longer novels, namely It (1,138 pages) and The Dead Zone (428 pages), King made a New Year's resolution.

In 1986 he wrote that he made his “first New Year’s resolution in some ten years that night: Never write anything bigger than your own head.”

Susan Sontag

Nika / Via Flickr: 33994310@N00

A little late for New Year, in February 1977 Susan Sontag recorded the following resolutions in her diary:

"Starting tomorrow — if not today:

"I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)

"I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (‘No, I don’t go out for lunch.’ Can break this rule once every two weeks.)

"I will write in the Notebook every day.

"I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.

"I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)

"I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)"

Martha Gellhorn

Via en.wikipedia.org

“I thought of a wonderful New Year's resolution for the men who run the world: get to know the people in it.”

Martha Gellhorn had a long career as a war correspondent, from the time when she arrived in Paris at the age of 21 with her typewriter, through the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Vietnam War and continuous travel writing.

It is no wonder that her New Year’s resolutions plead for peace and the time to write.

She asks in one letter:

“What are your New Year’s wishes? I’ve only got one.

"Peace on earth; a year at a time suits me, six months at a time is gratefully received.”

At the beginning of 1939 she writes her resolution:

“I plan to go to the country and work on a book, at the beginning of the New Year.”

But war would intervene again by the autumn.

T S Eliot

Via commons.wikimedia.org

In December, 1919, after a difficult year with his wife, Vivienne, and multiple rejections from publishers, T S Eliot wrote to his mother outlining his New Year's resolution:

"To write a long poem I have had on my mind for a long time."

This poem would became his most famous, The Waste Land.

Ernest Hemingway

Via pixabay.com

Ernest Hemingway wrote to his mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, in December 1920:


“[I] won’t wish you a Happy New Year because New Year is just one lurch nearer the grave and nothing to be happy over.”

Happy New Year!

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