Wednesday, December 28, 2016

You Say You Want a Resolution

By David Sharp

We all love a new start. Is the day you begin by nursing a New Year's Eve hangover really the best time to kick it off? People seem to think so. Or maybe you're one of those ironic souls who resolves to not make any resolutions. You'll start 2017 in a catch-22 of your own design.

Of course, I'm talking to a bunch of writers. What are the odds, you'd like to have better writing habits in 2017? New Year's resolutions are notorious for failing. A fourth of them won't make it past the first week. However, improving our work habits is not unattainable. And starting in January is not a prerequisite.

How can you ensure your resolutionary success?


This time for sure!
I'm going to make it!!
This is my year!!!

...I have to pee!
Success isn't always about discipline and drive. You can swear to yourself you'll go to the gym every day, but if your gym is across town, you're setting yourself up for failure. We must embed new habits into the fiber of our existing lives. Find the easiest space in your schedule to block off for writing, preferably a time when it offers you a chance to get away from the stress of the day. Make sure you have a comfortable space prepared to work in and that it is well supplied so you won't need to interrupt yourself to go get something. If you're not an early riser, don't schedule it at 6 AM.


Don't leap into this full belly flop. You don't have to write 50,000 words in a month รก la NaNoWriMo. If you don’t think you'll realistically do more than 100 words per day, start with that. You can add to it later as the habit becomes more natural. The important thing is to give yourself benchmarks with which you can succeed. Success will reinforce the habit.


Sweet, delicious incentive!
This works very well for me. If I can take a small pleasure (like coffee) and tie it to my goal (I only get it when I do my writing), suddenly I can't get to the desk quickly enough. You want the secret to my word production? It's my love of hot caffeinated beverages. Simple as that. If I commit to my writing goals all week, I get to hop on over to the Blue Mug and get myself something especially tasty. You know what your own carrot-on-a-stick is. Go on and bribe yourself with it.


Give yourself an off-day. It could be fixed (every Monday) or flexible (once-a-week) or even one of each. Many resolutions fizzle out because we don't account for the fact that we're going to run out of steam eventually. Even if you're only on the 100-words-per-day plan, designate a day for staring at the sky. You'll be more productive if you do.


We're social creatures. It's always easier to keep goals that others are keeping with you. Joining a writing group comes with this as well as many other benefits. You can read all about them here.

Try, try again

I'm gonna get back on track any minute now.
...Any ...minute.
Don't waste time feeling guilty about your failures that you could spend getting back to work. If you fall off your new habits, put on your spurs and hop back on. Most of us are going to mess up, and "woe-is-me's" are a waste of time. Unless you're typing them. In which case, you've already started writing again. Good job!

But Will This REALLY Help Me Keep My Goals?

It's easy to stick to a resolution as long as that's the central focus of your life. If you're anything like me, though, you have the attention span of a magpie. I want to engineer goals to be successful even when my focus is on other things: kids, work, car repairs, Red Ryder BB guns, tax returns, escaping flying monkeys, etc. Because I'm not developing better habits in a vacuum. I'm implementing them in a life already-in-progress.

Reeeally shoulda went
before I left the house.
For more tips on keeping that writing resolution, check out the following resources:

13 Productivity Apps to Help Keep Your Writing Goals on Track


Ronda Simmons said...

Good advice, David! I think the top one, Convenience, hits the nail right on the head. I have a coffee shop that I try to get to most mornings to write. It's on my normal route, the barista knows how to make the perfect Americano, and the chairs are just right. Once I walk in the door, I'm in writing mode. When I miss a few days in a row, my writing suffers.

shenke said...

I'll toast to the coffee carrot! Here! Here! We all need our vices and when something as simple as a reward ritual can help make stuff happen on the page, more power to them.
Give me coffee and hear me roar (or belch out 5,000 more words!)

Laura Mahal said...

I think I've been that lazy cat for far too long. Yawn, meow, stretch, go back to sleep.

Fantastic ideas, David!! I never thought to link my coffee habit to my writing. I've been free-for-alling it on the java intake. Enough is enough. It is time I buckle down and plant myself in this chair to accomplish some real writing progress before I knock back my 32 ounces of dark brew. (Coffee. I mean coffee. Unless I am writing in the evening, of course...)

Your posts are ever inspiring, David Sharp!

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