My advice for New Year’s writing resolutions: don’t make any
Yes, you read that right.
Allow me to explain. Resolutions rarely work. How often have you made a resolution to go to the gym three times a week, only to stop once the first big snowstorm of January hits and you don’t want to leave your cozy bed to clean seven inches of snow off your car?
How many times have you resolved to give up sugar only to have someone bring a cake to the office for Ashley’s birthday? How many times have you resolved to stop swearing like a sailor on shore leave only to watch the news and curse a blue streak that would make a dock worker blush?
You see where I’m going with this, right?
Of course you do. The point is that we humans don’t have much will power, and we are also creatures of habit. So making resolutions does nothing to influence good habits. It only serves to remind us of our bad habits, which actually leaves us feeling worse about ourselves.
Psychologists recommend making goals instead of resolutions, and breaking down goals into achievable chunks. For creatives, what would that look like? Let’s imagine that you want to start/finish/revise your novel this year. That’s a resolution that would be too vague, according to psychologists. But if we break it down, it might look like this:
· Week one: Define your writing goals for the year. Be as thorough as you can be. Break that down into steps, such as brainstorm plot outline, create character sketches, identify major settings, anticipate key scenes, plan inciting incident and stakes, etc. Remember to include the planning/drafting/revising in your goals. Include anything else that you think you need to make your writing a priority, such as finding childcare, delegating laundry to your partner, signing up for a meal service a couple times a week (or resigning yourself to cereal so you can write instead of spending hours in the kitchen), etc.
· Week two: Define your writing space, even if it is only a chair in your bedroom. Find a basket that is large enough to hold several notebooks; whatever craft book you are working with right now; Post-it notes; and a pouch to hold your pencils, pens of different colors, highlighters, and some self-adhesive page flags. Already have an office? What do you need to do to make that office work better for you? Get it done this week.
· Week three: Every day, read at least one chapter from the craft book in your basket about how to plot/organize/revise your novel, but finish reading that book this week.
· Week four: Do at least one written exercise per day from your chosen craft book.
· Week five: Create your writing calendar for the next month, including the projects you will work on each week, the time you will set aside for each project, and which resources you will need to complete each task.
You can see that this is a vague plan, which is intentional because we are all starting from different places and have different goals. But the idea behind them is similar: Break everything into chunks that you can actually achieve each week, and plan ahead. With this strategy, you will find yourself being more successful than if you made a simple resolution.
Jay Whistler provides developmental edits for picture books, middle grade, young adult, and adult novels. She also offers editorial assessments, query and synopsis critiques, and more. Find out more about Jay here.