The only way to improve your handwriting is by practising, but only you know what sort of practice works best for you. Maybe tracing letter-outlines helps you, or maybe you prefer to just write and see what happens; maybe you practise in private where nobody can laugh at your mistakes, or maybe you find that writing to other people helps to motivate you to keep improving.
New Year is an arbitrary blip in the calendar, a milestone (or millstone) that's as meaningless as adult birthdays. But I still make New Year's Resolutions: I like to draw the faint outlines of where and what I want to be, so that later I can see how well my subsequent tracings match the suggested shapes; and I like the external accountability of bringing my progress (or lack of it) into the public eye. Sometimes, somewhere along the way, I have (consciously or otherwise) decided to follow different paths from those I laid out; this doesn't necessarily constitute failure, any more than deciding to write in italic script (perhaps because one prefers the look of it, or the feel of it under the pen) signals a failure to write in upright lettering. The important thing is to distinguish between lapses which damage the desired outcome (e.g. writing a 't' without its crosspiece might render it indistinguishable from an 'l', which would make the writing harder to read and hence make communication more difficult) and lapses which don't (e.g. whether your 'w' is a zigzag or two overlapping 'v's, there aren't really any other letters with which it could become confused). I leave the extension of the already over-stretched analogy as an exercise for the reader (and writer).
So how do the letters line up? Here are last year's resolutions, reproduced here with commentary.
Write something other than boring "what-happened-when" on LJ at least once a week. I'm not sure yet whether my usual disjointed navel-gazing ramblings should 'count' for that.
I think in general I've had a higher signal-to-noise ratio this year than last, in terms of what I choose to define as 'signal' and 'noise' (I'm not implying any kind of absolute value judgement; but I personally want to use my LiveJournal as more than just a diary). Perhaps once a week was over-optimistic.
Write something, anything, in a medium other than LJ/news, this year. Even if nobody else sees it.
I've completely failed to do this unless you count writing my section of our family newsletter, and scrawling some ideas on bits of paper. Maybe I'll do better this year.
Read at least one new (i.e. not previously read) book each week. Keep a record of these by updating this -- if nothing appears here after a few weeks feel free to poke me with sticks.
Finally a mostly-unqualified success; that is, I certainly averaged more than 1 book a week over the year, although there were a couple of weeks when I didn't manage to read anything. I did, however, read an awful lot of trashy rubbish; however, now that I've read all the Saint books I own, I can't count them as 'new' any more, and I don't currently have any other completist obsessions.
Practice at least one of my instruments (piano, violin, viola) at least once a week. Orchestra rehearsals don't count as practice!
Oh dear. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I actually practised violin last year; perhaps both hands for practising piano. This resolution should probably be repeated this year.
Practice karate at least once a week, even if only for a few minutes.
Even more of a failure. At the moment I'm not sure if I actually want to carry on with karate. I don't practise enough to enjoy the lessons or, frankly, to get any further than the stage I'm at now; but if I don't enjoy practising enough to want to do it, perhaps I'd be better off not doing it. (I'd certainly be financially better off -- it's not cheap!)
Stay away from ProQuest! And hopefully find a better job, but to some extent that's out of my hands.
Success! I shook the dust of ProQuest off my shoes at the end of 2003, and haven't set foot in the place since; the only effect it's had on me is the hangover of sorting out taxes on my freelance earnings (which were untaxed as the time). The job I'm in now is definitely better.
Keep track of what I spend, and don't spend as much (I'm not going to set hard and fast limits because I find that if I break them then I tend to just give up -- I'm hoping that by forcing myself to keep track I'll make myself realise how much I'm spending on useless stuff).
Failure, though I think for most of this year I was doing slightly better with money. All good resolutions went completely to pot at the end of 2004 because I was just having too much fun going to every possible gig/play/film/party with addedentry to keep track of what I was spending... leaving me in Dire Financial Straits (I preferred their early stuff) at the beginning of 2005. The lifestyle of the last three months is simply Not Sustainable on this salary. See this year's resolutions for the latest financial good intentions.
Save money! This isn't really quite the same thing as the previous resolution. I suspect I'm going to need to have some savings, however small, to fall back on at some point this year.
Well, I didn't need the savings, which was just as well, because I didn't have them. Sigh.
Pay credit card bills on time.
I think I actually managed to pay at least the minimum amount on time all year. I also managed to pay off the First Direct credit card, transfer everything to the Egg credit card (which is slowly being paid off but which I may transfer elsewhere to get a different 0%-interest deal), and set up a direct debit to pay the HSBC credit card (which I still use for PayPal) in full each month (which should discourage me to spend too much on it). I also intend to ditch the HSBC credit card and get one with a less crippling interest rate.
Pay the mortgage and pay sion_a back what I owe him.
I currently owe sion_a something approaching the GDP of Uruguay.
Reply to email quicker, if only to send a short message to say "Longer reply will follow" or words to that effect.
I have no way of measuring this, except possibly by a poll to ask my friends if they're satisfied with the email service. Maybe later.
Get Christmas cards sent on time (okay, that's a long way in the future, but there's no harm in making the resolution now, assuming I'll still be in a state to communicate with anyone come Christmas).
Utterly failed! I still haven't managed to send rejs's card and present even now. (For which, apologies.) And most people just had to make do with the 'card' I posted to LiveJournal.
Send fewer text messages (hopefully I won't have so much need to send them, before this year is out, but that's another matter) and/or switch to a better plan for my mobile.
Happily failed on the first part of the resolution, sadly failed on the second too. A trip to the Orange shop is in order this weekend.
And now this year's Resolutions, with more commentary. This year's are a complete ragbag of resolutions, and there are far too many of them, but I figure that if I aim at the stars, I might just hit a tree. I don't really expect anybody to read all this (though obviously you're all free to do so); I'm writing these out more for my own benefit than anybody else's.
Money and Materialism
Don't buy any more unnecessary clothes until May.
Arbitrary time-limit to try to curtail my reckless clothes-buying. The word 'unnecessary' may seem a bit weaselly but all it means is that I've sort of agreed with my conscience that buying things as direct replacements for things which break (and which I actually do wear) doesn't count. So if I can find (at a reasonable price) a pair of black combat trousers or black cords to replace the pairs that have worn through so much that you can see my knickers through them, then that would be great.
Don't buy any CDs over &4.99 until May.
Another arbitrary time-limit. The arbitrary price-limit is because if I allow myself the odd cheap CD in a charity shop I'm less likely to 'accidentally' spend huge amounts of money in Fopp etc. It's not a blanket ban like the clothes one because part of the reason I need to stop buying clothes is the storage space issue, and CDs take up less room than clothes.
Don't buy any more books until I've got rid of at least 20 from the library.
The library is in a ridiculous state. I have heaps of books in piles to give to charity shops, to sell on Amazon, to give to friends, etc., and I really need to actually get round to shifting them.
Sell / give away more stuff on eBay, Amazon, ucam.adverts.forsale/giveaway etc.
I have too much stuff. I have books I'm not going to read, clothes I don't wear, clothes that don't even fit me, music for instruments I don't own and can't play, CDs I don't listen to, and so on, and so forth. It's not so much that I'm a compulsive hoarder (though I have tendencies in that direction) as that I don't like to see things get thrown away; so I rescue things that I don't really need, with the intention of redistributing them, but then don't get round to the all-important second stage of the process. I need to work on the second stage. I have already started putting this resolution into practice, getting rid of various things on u.a.g and currently having two items up for sale on eBay.
Buy lunch in town no more than once a week (on average).
It is ridiculous to spend £2.50 or more on a sandwich or a salad when for the same money I could make lunch for a week out of cheap things like potatoes, tuna, sweetcorn, etc. To this end I would welcome suggestions for cheap and easy-to-make lunches, but preferably not sandwiches because a) I can think of millions of sandwich fillings myself, and b) I get bored of sandwiches very quickly unless they're really exciting fillings, and the exciting fillings are expensive and faffy. Extra points for things that can be made in large quantities at the weekend and will keep for a week.
Pay rent by direct debit.
I owe sion_a about a million years' worth of rent. He's been very generous in letting me be flexible about paying it, but I've taken advantage of this far more than I should have done. If that money just goes straight out of my account at the beginning of the month, it will get paid, because it won't be there for me to spend.
Sort out phone tariff.
I'm on Talk120 and Text120, because starting on the more expensive contracts meant I got my phone cheaper, & the idea was to stay on these for the minimum time necessary and then downgrade them. Of course, I didn't get round to downgrading them, which is what they no doubt hoped would happen. I talk maybe 10 minutes a month, so Talk120 is clearly suboptimal; and even I probably don't actually need Text120.
KEEP TRACK OF WHAT I SPEND.
Shouting because I keep resolving to do this, and never quite seem to manage it. Or rather, I manage it for a few days, or maybe even a few weeks, and then get bored. I need to see a graph of where my money goes so that I can work out where I should be making savings.
Culture or something
Read more books!
Why? Because there are millions and billions of exciting books out there and I want to read all of them. Aiming for 200 books this year, but so long as I beat last year's record of 113 I'll be happy.
Read more non-fiction!
Why? Because I'd like to learn actual factual-ish things as well as appreciating literature and/or immersing myself in escapist fictional worlds. Aiming for 30 non-fiction books this year, but so long as I beat last year's record of, um, 11, I'll be happy.
Practise piano, violin, or karate (if I continue with it at all) at least once a week.
I'm trying to set achievable targets here. There's no way I will practise all three every week, but really, doing any practice at all would be better than the current situation. Perhaps I should stick stickers on the calendar when I do some practice so I can see how (badly!) I'm doing.
Re-learn Japanese hiragana and katakana.
I used to know these! I have forgotten them all! I have no particular use for them but it's fun to be able to read katakana on Japanese stuff.
A very vague resolution, but one I want to keep. I don't know what I want to write, but I know that I want to write. I have things to say, but I don't know what the best medium is in which to say them (and LiveJournal, while a useful sounding-board, is somehow ultimately unsatisfying), and I don't know if I have the language for them at all; but I do, however, know that I can't get there unless I take the first step.
Drink more water.
I get a lot of headaches and often feel tired, fuzzy-headed, etc.; I have had suggestions from several sources that the problem may be simply that I am dehydrated. Since I am lucky enough to live in a country where clean water is readily available, if this is the problem -- or even just a part of it -- it should be trivially fixable. I'm not too bad at remembering to have 'something to drink', but too often that 'something' is coffee or Coke, neither of which is doing me much good.
Cycle more safely.
I still haven't fitted my rear light, because I never have myself/bike/screwdrivers/sufficient light to work by all in the same place. I never replaced my helmet when it was stolen five years ago. I tend to wear a lot of black. Not a great combination, particularly when there is no outdoor lighting where I work. I have in fact already started keeping this resolution, and have bought a super-reflective jacket and some reflective cycle clips. I need to actually take the time to choose a decent helmet, otherwise I will never wear it.
Cook more varied food.
I seem to have reverted to undergraduacy in terms of the food I cook (and whether I get round to cooking at all). I can't remember the last time I made anything more complicated than pasta and pesto. Eating chips at railway stations is probably not very good for me, and while pasta-and-pesto isn't exactly bad for me it's not the most exciting thing in the world, nor is it a particularly balanced diet. This resolution should maybe be in the 'culture' section, because I want to start learning to cook more widely -- and actually using some of the recipe books I have -- but it's definitely a health issue as well.
Administrivia & Miscellany
These are things I shouldn't have to make New Year's resolutions to do, but perhaps if I write them down here, I'll a) get them done, and b) make a move towards getting into the habit of Just Doing Things when they need doing.
Find some sensible 'storage solutions' for my room.
Forgive the marketing jargon, but I can't think of another generic term for what I mean; I need to find various sorts of stacking drawers, boxes, files, etc. to keep all the papers, laundry, and STUFF in my room under control. I also need to work out what I need first and then go and look for it, rather than impulse-buying some kind of shiny new system that will turn out not to work/fit.
Register with a dentist.
I have lived in Cambridge since September 2000. I still haven't registered with a dentist. My teeth are basically okay but I have had one or two fairly painful twinges in the wisdom-tooth area over the last year and I think it's time I actually got my teeth checked out, even though it's an expense I feel I could do without when they don't really seem to be causing me any trouble.
Make an optician's appointment.
I need an eye checkup. I also need to remember to get work to pay for it this time. Furthermore, it would be great if they could fix my current pair of glasses, because the little nubbin that holds it onto the nose has half broken and thus keeps falling off when I pull jumpers off over my head without taking my glasses off first, resulting in the nubbin sproinging off somewhere and me scrabbling around comically in the assorted bedroom debris for half an hour looking for it.
Sort out my photo collection (physical and digital).
I probably only really need to keep about an eighth of my real photos, and an even smaller fraction of my digital photos. Also, until/unless they're in some sort of order (and labelled while I still remember what they're photos of) they're useless.
Finish ripping my CD collection to mp3 (or rather mp4 actually).
I want to have backups of all my CDs, and I want my shiny laptop to be a portable music machine. Hurrah.
Learn how to use my phone properly, work out how to synchronise my phone with my computer, how to download photos from my phone, etc.
I have enough shiny tech to sink a ship yet I can barely program the bloody video recorder. This is verging on learned helplessness: it doesn't take more than half an hour to read a manual. For heaven's sake.
Get pto452 fixed (her speedometer still doesn't work) so that I can drive her again.
I really don't deserve to have a lovely car, given how badly I neglect her.
I haven't really made any resolutions about friendships and relationships, or thoughts and feelings, because it's so hard to quantify things; however, for the sake of external accountability, I do intend to make more of an effort to keep in touch with old friends as well as meeting new ones, and I want to be more reliable about getting in touch with people when I've said I'll do so. I also want to get more of a grip on my self-image, but that's heading out of the realm of New Year's Resolutions and into cognitive therapy. If I think it won't be too navel-gazing, I may write about some of that here.