Tuesday 8 January 2013

Making Resolutions That Stick

We're a week into the New Year, and if you’re a writer, you've no doubt composed a raft of New Year’s resolutions related to your craft - resolutions that you might find that you're struggling to stick to now that you're back into a routine at work and away from your 'holiday bubble'. While others resolved to visit the gym three times a week, or to buy fewer pairs of shoes, you’ve resolved to write 1000 words a day, finish writing eight novels, or to hit the best-seller list by the end of the year. We do it every year, and we usually fail every year, making us feel worse, not better, about our writing. So how can we make resolutions that we’ll be able to stick to?

1) Be realistic

One of the problems with resolutions is that we try to over-reach ourselves. Think of this not as a resolution but as a goal – so it’s what you’re aiming to do, not what you will do. By giving yourself this flexibility, you’re more likely to stick to whatever framework you set yourself, and therefore complete your goal by year’s end. So your phrasing might be “I intend to finish writing one novel of 70,000 words or more” as opposed to “I will write a trilogy of 100,000 word novels”.

2) Don’t try to change your habits overnight

Following on from number one, it’s no use telling yourself that you will write a 100,000 word novel by the end of April if you normally find you only have time to write around 3,000 words a week. If you push yourself to work beyond your time constraints or work patterns, you may find you drop behind within a few days, and soon you’ll lose the motivation to write at all. Keep your resolutions (or goals) within your usual habits and you’ll find it easier to keep going.

3) Your resolutions don’t have to be time dependent

We always think our resolutions have to run from January to December but that’s highly unrealistic – we have no way of knowing where we’ll be twelve months from now. So why not set quarter resolutions? Maybe you’ll set yourself a particular word count to hit between now and the end of March. If you hit it with ease, you can raise it for the end of June, and so on. If you can’t hit it, then you can always reduce your count for the next one until it’s manageable.

4) Think beyond the resolution

Try setting yourself an additional goal beyond the resolution itself – in psychological terms, link situations with actions. So you might reword your resolution from “I will finish my book and send it to an agent” to “If I complete my novel and receive positive beta feedback, then I will start sending it to agents”. It breaks the resolution down into manageable stages and gives you something to do when you've actually fulfilled the resolution. The end action also gives you an extra incentive.

5) Form a habit

Remember that you’re essentially trying to form a new habit by forming a resolution, and the only way for something to really become a habit is if you do it! Sit down, start typing, or researching – whatever it is you need to do to make your resolution a reality. The more regularly you do it, the better a chance you stand at actually making your resolution stick. Your resolution might be to write more, and you might have a spare ten minutes at lunch time, so maybe you might want to write 500 words every lunchtime. So get on and do it.

What are your resolutions - and have you broken them already?


Tony Noland said...

My resolutions are over here in this blog post.

Briefly: 1) finish current project; 2) make good progress on new project; 3) organize my time better.

Resolutions are aspirational for me. Much more about setting a signpost out to where I want to go than they are about recrimination for what I haven't done in the past.

Unknown said...

I'm quite proud of myself as I stuck to my New Year's resolution for 2012, and that was to get out of debt.

This year my resolutions focus on reconnecting with friends, paying more attention to my hobbies (gaming, knitting, painting, even creative writing) and blogging more. So far so good!

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