Your New Year Writing Resolutions
Every January, for more years than I care to admit, I would rather infamously declare to my closest friends that my New Year’s resolution was “to write THE book”. For me it was a declaration of how seriously I took trying to get published but to my friends it seemed like an empty promise, made year after year.
New Year’s resolutions are a great way to focus your mind for the year ahead, set some goals and direction. Some folk do just fine without them, but if you’re the type to make resolutions, here’s some tips to stop you making the same mistakes I did.
Write Every Day
This sounds like such a simple resolution but it’s key if you want to get published. Persistence is your keyword. It’s what gets books written, it’s what gets you published. It should become your mantra.
I think it won’t come as a shock to anyone to find out that books are made of tens of thousands of words and that it’s impossible to sit down one evening and write one from start to finish. They are a long term project, and you need to plan for the long haul rather than a sprint. Don’t try and set yourself lofty goals of five thousand words a day. If you manage that, great! But there will be days when getting a sentence out will feel like harder work than writing the entire previous chapter.
There will be days, of course, when you don’t write your novel; when you need to research or plot or edit. But on those days you can do a blog post or a facebook update or something that qualifies.
The point is that if you persist and make writing a habit, before long those days that you don’t write will seem more of a challenge than those you do.
Focus Only On What You Can Control
Having a New Year’s resolution of “getting published” is all well and good, but it’s not something that is ultimately in your control. I mean, you can write the book, you can edit it, you can even send it to hundreds of agents and editors. But getting it published? That’s not something you get to control unless you are planning on self-publishing. Someone else has to make the decision to publish. So if you set goals that rely on other people (whether it be an editor saying yes, or even getting a good review) you are just setting yourself up for disappointment.
Instead focus on the things you do control. Submit ten short stories is a better resolution than getting one published because it doesn’t rely on anyone else. Often it means altering your goals very slightly. Getting published becomes submitting to agents and publishers, getting good reviews instead becomes about promotion and making people aware the book is out there.
Once you realise to only focus on things you can control, you’ll realise how often goals in your everyday life are inaccurate and likely to fail because they rely on other people.
Prioritise Rather Than Deny
Writing is a time consuming exercise and if you want to take it seriously, it probably means it will be eating into time when you’d normally be doing other activities. I watch a lot less television than I did, I have to really make an effort to find video game time, and I’m seriously behind on movies.
There’s a danger though, in trying to reinforce our conviction that we simply give up everything. And whilst the idea of living the life of a hermit inside a vacuum where the only thing to do is write might sound appealing, writing is not about living in a vacuum. Instead it’s about life and experience translated onto the page.
So before you cancel your entire social calendar for 2014 and tell your friends they’ll next see you once the book is done, readjust your resolutions so that they prioritise rather than deny. Sometimes you need to recharge the creative batteries with a DVD box set or level a new worgen druid to level 90 in World of Warcraft. You don’t have to give up those activities. Instead, prioritise. Tell yourself that if there’s ever a conflict between writing and other activities that writing comes first. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have online gaming nights with friends but that you might only be able to do that a couple of evenings a week rather than every night as you currently do.
To be a writer, you do need to make sacrifices but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on everything.
Small Achievable Goals
It’s sometimes easy to think that huge unachievable goals will push us up and beyond what we thought ourselves capable of. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes all they make you is demotivated rather than inspired. So even if you’re a person who reacts well to impossible goals, it might be a good idea to have a couple more achievable resolutions in there, whether it be to complete a single novel or even a single draft.
Those are no small tasks in themselves and will take considerable work. If you happen to write another two novels over the course of the year then you should consider that a bonus. Also remember that life doesn’t stand still. I’m sure if you think back to last January there were things that happened you could never have foreseen. A good resolution will be able to ride changes over the next twelve months. That often means something little and often rather than a huge impossible challenge. Resolutions where the goal is to develop a habit rather than complete a Herculean task will often reap greater rewards in the long run.
At the end of the day, the hard work is in the actual writing, so don’t let the setting of resolutions distract you from the work at hand. Plenty of people have succeeded without having set New Year’s resolutions, so just go out there and “write THE book”.