Tuesday 5 January 2016

Resolutions for Writers

2016. Time to make some resolutions… and keep them.

The first year I actually kept a new year’s resolution was 2000.  In previous years, I’d intended to write a diary every day or to learn a new skill and, each time, I’d failed within weeks. But not that in 2000. I was eleven and had decided to give up eating meat. And I succeeded.   

I succeeded because I cared. I was committed to being vegetarian. I didn’t even slip up the following year when, on a French Exchange trip, I had to live on grated carrots for two weeks. (The French did not quite understand vegetarianism at the time…  although, I believe things have improved since.)

I’m not saying you can’t keep a resolution without caring about it, but I’m not sure how much you’d actually gain like that. Particularly in relation to writing. The most dangerous thing a budding writer can do is  to see writing as a chore.

Your writing should be something you do because you love it. Yes, discipline is important, but so is passion. Never let anyone steal your enthusiasm for writing – especially not yourself.

So, here are the writing resolutions I suggest:

I will write at least once a week.

I recommend once a week, rather than every day, because your resolutions should be achievable. And if you manage to write more than once a week, which you probably will, you’ll feel in control. 

Setting goals you know you’ll struggle to reach is never a good idea. Of course, you should want to challenge yourself, but you don’t want your writing to be looming over you as an obligation. Give yourself some space to love what you do.

But, if you really must set an intention to write every day, please allow yourself to settle for writing a haiku when you aren’t feeling it or are pushed for time.

I will write X number of words/chapters

Quantifiable resolutions are always easier to stick at. You’ll be able to monitor your progress and plan your time much more effectively than if your resolution is simply ‘to finish a novel’. Intending to finish your novel by the end of the year is, of course, an excellent goal but, if you can, try to break that intention down into something quantifiable.

I will try a new form of writing

This is a useful resolution because it allows you to explore another form, without committing fully to it. If you’re a poet, why not try your hand at short stories? Novelists, try non-fiction. Short story writers, plan a longer piece. Journalists, write some poetry.

Even if you hate the new form you choose and never go near it again, you’ll have learnt something from the experience. Perhaps your foray into writing non-fiction will give you a new appreciation for realism in fantasy worlds. Perhaps an exploration of short stories will teach you new ways to structure your chapters. Or perhaps you’ll discover a love of poetry that brings a playfulness to your prose.

Whatever your resolutions, I’d not make more than three. Three is achievable and memorable. Any more, and you risk spreading yourself too thin.

Some tips to help you reach your goals:

They are your resolutions

Nobody else even needs to know about them. By all means, tell the world if it helps you feel accountable, but you don’t have to.  When it comes down to it, you can only achieve your goals if you really want to. You have to care. As cheesy as it sounds, you have to do it for you.

Don’t abandon them if you fall behind

Sometimes life gets in the way. Work, Family, illness… there are always going to be factors outside of your control, but don’t allow yourself to give up on your resolution just because you’ve missed a couple of weeks. Get back to it. You still want to achieve the goal or, if that feels impossible, get closer to it. So if you fall behind, forgive yourself and get writing again. 

Adjust them if you need to

Resolutions made in January may seem perfectly achievable at the time, but if your circumstances change in April, you might find yourself needing to change them. Or you might realise your expectations were unrealistic all along.

We’ve all been overambitious at some point in our lives. Taken on too much work and then found ourselves drowning in it… So, if you get to mid-January and you’re just about treading water, rethink your resolutions. It is much better to achieve a smaller goal than to exhaust yourself by struggling to reach a larger one.

New Year's Resolutions
Setting goals and resolutions can be a fantastic way of challenging yourself and taking your writing to the next level. So, good luck with whatever your plans for 2016 are.

I hope you have a fantastic year.

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