setting new year's goals

Posted by Hanchu Zhang on

Happy year of the tiger!

Dear friends,

I used to put a lot of what I was thinking or drawing about into little zine projects that I would then slug around at local fairs. Since Pandemic shut them down the last few years, I've mostly stopped making art without that outlet. The fairs and events provided structures, deadlines, and face to face interactions that sharing through social media lacked. Social media for me is like a dopamine slot machine, it's very difficult for me to do anything coherent on there without getting distracted. I've abandoned my instagram for months before realizing it got shut down/hacked by facebook.

I've been thinking of how to inject more focus into my art practice, and this email newsletter format seems very promising. It's so incredibly old school yet refreshing, almost like a digital zine. Hopefully you also find it a more mindful way to receive content, without the doomscrolls. So hello, and welcome to my first ever bimonthly email, where you’ll get thoughts and drawings, without it all mingling with other people’s thoughts and drawings too.

New year, new "shinier" me

Today, I want to talk to you about something I always get very into in the beginning of every year, which is setting goals for the new year. I’ve been setting yearly goals for myself for the past 10 years or so, but I would say only in more recent years have I been doing it with any success. I used to subscribe to a lot of goals without really personalizing those goals for me, mostly because I was interested in what other people defined as successful. Other people in this case weren't minor celebrities in Forbes 30 under 30, but somewhere closer and possibly way more insidious: my own friend circle.

I always got big-eyed whenever a friend of mine had a shiny goals list. Some included things like being able to play the trumpet, doing a residency in NYC, or publishing a hardcover artbook. I found these things interesting and artistic, so I would put similar things down on my to-do list. The list grew and grew in different directions, but it was highly unlikely that I prioritized the work needed to build towards these goals in actual meaningful ways. They may be the cherry on someone’s ice cream, but I didn’t even have the flavours of my own ice cream down yet.

The pandemic made realize that this ice cream flavour of mine needed simplicity, an almost minimalist approach. This isn’t me trying to endorse a scarcity model, but rather honouring the fact that as of right now, I’m someone that has trouble focusing. The most important thing for me to stay organized and grounded is not to have so many possible avenues of creativity to worry about. I didn’t need inspiration to pivot, I needed focus. It was time to first honour the promises I made for myself.

from Bun's comfort food corner, published with shortbox late last year!

If you're someone that's guilty of hoarding goals like me, you may find this article on how to Declutter your goals insightful. It does a pretty good deep dive on some of the ways we're avoiding ourselves by trying to turn distractions into ambitions. Even the comment section is full of gems!