How to keep your writing resolutions

A new year is almost upon us, and you know what that means: resolutions made with the best of intentions but little consideration of follow-through. The prospect of a new year is a lot like looking at a clean page or a blank document: daunting, exciting, and full of possibilities.

Unfortunately, all that room to run isn’t always a good thing. When it comes to making our New Year’s resolutions, many of us take off like greyhounds after the mechanical hare; all gusto and no pacing. Before long we find ourselves worn out and disheartened. By the time February rolls around, those shiny, optimistic resolutions have been all but swept up and tossed out with the New Year’s confetti.

We writers seem to love setting goals for ourselves. Unfortunately, despite all the deadlines and word counts, we’re not strangers to falling off the wagon. If you’re going into January with stars in your eyes and a long list of writing resolutions in hand, here are a few tips to help make this year your most successful yet.

Treat yo’ self

Many writers like to reward themselves when they hit their goals and milestones. Having something to look forward to can be a good motivator, and the rush we get when we succeed is excellent positive reinforcement.

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However, if our milestones are too far apart — or simply too difficult to achieve in the first place — we can lose momentum, fast. When we forget how good success feels, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to hit that next goal.

Instead of only giving yourself permission to celebrate the big things, set up mini milestones that you know you’ll reach throughout the year so that you’ll actually get to experience them. Choose rewards you’ll actually look forward to. Maybe even have a little fun with them (I know one writer who actually wraps mini bottles of champagne for herself so she can have the joy of unwrapping a gift on top of enjoying the bubbles!)

Just remember not to rest on your laurels for too long!

Balance is key

Take a look at your writing resolutions. How many of them are within your control? And by that I mean, how many of them don’t rely on anyone else for you to achieve them?

Examples of goals that are within your control: I will write 500 words every day, I will participate in NaNoWriMo this year, or I will submit one article for publication each month.

Examples of goals that aren’t within your control: I will get picked up by an agent, I will get six articles published, or I will hit 25 reviews on Amazon.

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See the difference? Sure, getting signed by an agent is a great ambition to have, but it’s not completely within your control. You could bust your ass and spend the year pitching your masterpiece, but if an agent doesn’t bite, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

If most — or even all — of your resolutions rely on another person, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I’ve heard an 80:20 ratio is a good split; 80% of your goals should be within your control, and the remaining 20% can be out of your control.

Be realistic

“Shoot for the moon,” they say. “Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s a pretty sentiment, but pretty won’t do you much good when you find yourself 20k words behind on a 50k per month goal, sobbing into a bottle of wine at 11:30 p.m. on the 28th of February.

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There’s a reason NaNoWriMo is only 50k in one month, once a year: it’s doable. 50k is way too short for most novels, but expecting the average person to write more than 1667 words per day is setting them up to fail.

Aiming high is noble, but you’re more likely to achieve more of your resolutions if you make them realistic. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing: look at your own personal track record, contributing external factors (i.e. school, work, kids), and what your long term goals are. Sure, 1,667 words per day sounds amazing, but 500 words per day still nets you over 180k by the time the year is over (with your sanity intact).

Do you have any tips or tricks for making and keeping your writing resolutions? Tell me all about them in the comments!

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