2021: the year of accountability
Join me in setting a New Year's principle instead of New Year's resolutions
Every year I’m always tempted to make New Year’s resolutions, but like so many others, my resolve to exercise more/drink less/write X number of articles tends to fall by the wayside towards the end of January. I think one of the major reasons that we fail to stick to New Year’s resolutions is because we ask too much of ourselves, too soon.
Small incremental goal-setting throughout the year is one way around this; another approach is to write principles instead of resolutions. A principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning. My New Year’s principle for 2021, then, is accountability: someone who is accountable is completely responsible for what they do and must be able to give a satisfactory reason for any course of action.
I want to own every single decision I make this year and be able to justify each choice I make to myself. While this initially sounds incredibly open-ended, I expect it to work as follows:
In 2020, Beth might have randomly spent £100 on ASOS out of boredom. Was there a satisfactory reason for this? Not really, when Beth had a wardrobe full of clothes and very few reasons to leave the house. So in future Beth will put the £100 in her savings account instead.
Why am I twittering on about my New Year principle in this newsletter you ask? Well, because it’s something that I expect to help my journalism career as much as my poor financial decision-making:
In 2020, Beth might have spent six hours on TikTok instead of writing the feature that she was meant to be writing. Was there a satisfactory reason for this? No. In future, Beth can just about justify spending 30 minutes on TikTok to ‘unwind’ at the end of the working day, but will prioritise the feature that needs to get written first. Also, each time she is compelled to mindlessly scroll on TikTok, she’ll pick up a book and read instead.
The accountability principle is as useful for tackling inaction as it is for changing unhelpful behaviours into more productive pursuits.
Last year, Beth might have sat on a pitch idea thinking “I don’t have the time to write this” or “My idea isn’t good enough”. But, did 2020 Beth have a satisfactory reason for thinking these things? No – see the six hours spent on TikTok: there is always time to be found. Similarly, while 2020 brought plenty of radio silence and out-of-office responses from editors, there were no emails saying: “This is a terrible idea, never pitch me again”. Therefore, in 2021, Beth will pitch more often.
If you’re anything like me and you get to-do list paralysis, having a singular principle to follow feels a lot more manageable than having a list of New Year’s resolutions. And, best of all, the principle allows for self-care too. Consider the hypothetical:
Beth has had a crap day at work. Worst still, she’s been visited by Auntie Flow and she’s bled all over her favourite trousers. Today, there is a more than satisfactory reason to indulge in some retail therapy and/or inhale a family-size sharing bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.
The principle of accountability means responding to your emotional and physical needs rather than stubbornly sticking to a hard-fast rule of “no chocolate in 2021” for no reason other than that’s because what years of January diet culture have led you to believe you should be telling yourself. Fuck New Years resolutions, in short.
… in editing
I edited this interview with 2019 Booker award-winning author Bernadine Evaristo; Martha Lily Dean spoke to the Girl, Woman, Other author about how music has shaped her life and those of her characters.
… in writing
I got the editor’s out-of-office. What did I expect, really, after pitching in that weird liminal period between Christmas and New Year?
Articles written: 1
Articles published: 1
The Indiependent’s ‘20 Best Albums of 2020’ feature took hours to put together. Absolutely no prizes for guessing the artist I wrote about – but the question is did I choose folklore or evermore for album of the year?
… in listening/watching
Last Sunday I went to a brilliant journalism Q&A session hosted by the amazing @shahedezaydi, @bethanymrd and @_rhysthomas_. These three are some of my favourite budding young journos and they’ve already achieved so much in their careers. It was honestly humbling to see them giving out so much great advice for free to other people trying to figure out how the hell this whole being a freelancer thing works. Make sure you follow them all on socials.
I also had the pleasure of being invited on the Views Our Own podcast, where I talked about setting up your own publication. I launched The Indiependent back in 2014 (a whopping seven years ago?!) so it’s fair to say I’ve learned a few things along the way. Give it a listen here, and if you have any further questions about starting your own publication you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m also going to be doing a webinar on setting up your own site at some point, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
… in reading
Loved Tara Joshi’s piece for gal-dem: ‘In a uniquely lonely year, TV was my most reliable friend’
Charlotte Gunn – who recently commissioned me to write this feature about Easter Eggs in Taylor Swift’s evermore – wrote this great piece on the factors driving surging vinyl sales
As someone who is definitely guilty of being somewhat of a ‘workaholic’, I found these two pieces by Elle Hunt fascinating: ‘Blue sky thinking: is it time to stop work taking over our lives?’ and the more recently published ‘This year I finally learned that work alone is not enough to sustain me’
A subscription to MIT Technology Review was my Christmas present to myself. I loved ‘Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse’ by Malcolm Harris, and Abby Ohlheiser’s piece ‘How the truth was murdered’
Marion Renault’s piece for Slate on ‘How Harry Styles is getting me through 2020’ was really interesting – it’s a bit old now but that’s totally on me for not reading it sooner despite having had it saved in my bookmarks for yonks
Sadhbh O’Sullivan’s piece for Refinery29 ‘Gindependent women: how cutesy drinking culture is hurting us all’ is an important take, especially relevant in January, a month where many of us will already be evaluating our relationship with alcohol
Sarah Ditum’s personal piece ‘Given my time again, I wouldn’t choose journalism’ for UnHerd was very compelling. Didn’t quite put me off, mind, but still good to be aware of the challenges ahead for new journalists
This VICE piece ‘Why you should talk to yourself in the third person’ by Shayla Love was very timely, as many people think about setting goals for 2021
This New York Times piece about how pop music fandom became sports, politics, religion and all-out war was a brilliant read
As an introvert (INFJ, in case you wondered), I found Eliza Lita’s piece for The Ascent really encouraging: ‘How I use my introversion to be a better journalist’. Sometimes I feel like a massive imposter for being an introvert trying to succeed in a typically extroverted field but this piece reminded me that there’s space for us wallflowers too
I’m also going to ‘Being an LGBTQ+ journalist’, a Gals in Journalism event on 11 January from 7.00pm, with Lowie Trevena. They’re a journalist currently working for Bristol 24/7 who also has bylines in publications including Metro UK, Bella Media Channel and Circus Journal.
Manchester: Boohoo is looking for a social media executive
Nottingham: Contrast is looking for a digital PR strategist
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