I’m not usually the kind of person who makes resolutions for New Years. While the whole world seemingly spends the month of January resolving to lose weight, quit bad habits and read more books, I’m doing something different. Don’t get me wrong, I think making writer resolutions are a good idea, but how you go about making change is as important to your overall success as what you set out to do.
Here are my five tips for effective writer resolutions.
Tip For Effective Writer Resolutions #1:
Know What You Want To Accomplish First
Often our impulse to make resolutions is born out of emotions. We feel the need, feel good when we get motivated and even better when we put a plan in place and charge forward into our new way of doing things.
I don’t think this should be the scenario for writers though. Why? Well, if you consider yourself a writer, you likely already have a practice in place. You write, it’s just not going where you want it to go.
Emotional resolutions, I think, are best when you’re starting on something cold. If your resolution is to lose weight, realistically, you jump off at the decision point, shifting diet and exercise patterns.
Make your writer resolutions with a practical outcome in mind. To “write more” sounds good. Finish the draft of my novel by May (for example) is accomplishment based writer resolution, with a finite outcome you can point to.
Tip For Effective Writer Resolutions #2:
Start With Core Writing Habits First
An effective writing practice breaks down into a few critical areas of activity. I break mine down into five areas. There is idea generation, writing, editing, publishing, and finally, marketing.
If you’re looking to make writer resolutions, my recommendation is to start by making a change to your writing first. Don’t push that off. Everything flows downstream from the actual writing, so why short change your core function?
Although I cannot speak for everyone, I think writers avoid making goals involving their writing because it feels scary. Focus here transforms writing into work instead of allowing it to linger as some illusory dream. Word counts, page counts, manuscripts, all of these are hard outcomes to ignore.
My challenge to you? Don’t just make that outcome based writer resolution — beat it.
Tip For Effective Writer Resolutions #3:
Incremental Changes Add Up To Dramatic Results
To me, this is the nitty gritty of any long term resolution, writing especially. Once you set out to finish that manuscript by May (boy, that keeps coming up…) there needs to be a series of smaller steps to deliver you to the finish line.
Does it come out to 40,000 words in four months? No one actually writes that. They write 800 words each day, every day, five days a week (maybe six or seven) with time built in for human activity like sleep and socialization.
Just like trying to lose 40 pounds, you cannot break off all of that weight at once. You might aim to lose two pounds each week. In this scenario, you do that for twenty weeks and you meet your goal. Psychologists agree, increments work.
Make that writer resolution as big as you want, but be prepared to break it down into smaller increments.
Tip For Effective Writer Resolutions #4:
Only Resolve To Make One Change In Each Area Of Your Writing Practice At A Time
Remember how I said there were five distinct areas housed within my writer practice? Idea generation, writing, editing, publishing and marketing. My tip here is, if you too break your practice down in such a way, try and only make one writer resolution at a time in each of those practice areas.
What does that mean? I think it’s perfectly effective to strive for a practice change in each one of those areas, but if your writer resolution is to write book one AND book two, you’re likely overloading your practice.
Odds are you’re making a resolution in an area because you felt there was a need. Don’t overload your capacity for change. Change is energy in motion. Respect that.
Tip For Effective Writer Resolutions #5:
When All Else Fails, Return To #2
Breaking your resolution is an inevitable part of striving for change. Everyone does it. Studies show that a significant percentage of New Years Resolutions go unmet, for whatever reason.
Maybe 40,000 words didn’t happen by May. Is it April and all you’ve got is 25,000?
It is important to note is that January isn’t the only month to make writer resolutions. This is part of my disconnect with the New Years concept. You can make a new resolution for April.
Change comes to all things. Change with it.
When that point comes, start again with the writing. It is the single most important aspect of your writing practice, so after a slip, going back to the center. It won’t help to edit or market something that isn’t done.