With the New Year quickly approaching, you may be reminded of those abandoned writing resolutions from last year, and wonder whether it’s ever possible to stick to your writing goals. In the waning hours of 2011, Forbes magazine offered 6 tips for keeping your New Year’s resolution; this year, Anjali Sachdeva revisits those suggestions from a writer’s perspective to help you create more resilient resolutions:
1. Get Specific – Writing an entire novel, memoir, or other book is a huge undertaking, and it’s easy to get discouraged and distracted. Focusing on a more finite goal—creating a complete draft of an essay or chapter within a set time period, for example—makes it more likely that you’ll succeed, and therefore be encouraged to move on to the next essay or chapter instead of feeling ashamed that you didn’t meet an unrealistic goal (NaNoWriMo, I’m looking your way).
2. Make Time – Establishing a specific time to devote to your writing is probably the number one thing you can to do advance your efforts. Most writers recommend writing at the same time every day, but if this isn’t possible with your schedule it’s better to have three different pockets of time that you can really stick to than one consistent writing time that you’ll never observe. While a minimum 1-hr time block is ideal (to give yourself time to get past those initial jitters and really start writing), 15 minutes a day is still better than nothing, especially if you promise not to let anything interrupt those 15 minutes for even a single second.
When you join forces with someone else, or even tell others about your goal, you are more likely to follow through.
3. Get a Partner – It works for quitting smoking, exercising more, and most other common resolutions, and it works for writing, too. When you join forces with someone else, or even tell others about your goal, you are more likely to follow through. Joining a writing class or writing group gives you a defined schedule for completing work, and also helps you connect with others who share your interests and support what you do. Making a commitment to a classmate, workshop partner, or friend to complete and share work by a certain time ensures that you will get something written, even if it’s not perfect. You can also make use of online programs like Stickk, which donates money to a charity of your choice (or to one you despise, which is more effective for most people) every time you fail to meet a goal.
4. Move Past Doubt – Every writer I know suffers from moments (and sometimes months or years) of intense self-doubt and self-criticism. It doesn’t help when spouses, friends, or family members view your desire to write as a quaint hobby or a waste of time. But while it’s natural to feel anxious or unsure about your writing abilities, these thoughts can quickly derail your progress. Instead, as author Frank Conroy used to say, “give yourself permission to do some bad writing,” and then get on with it. Finding others who share your interest in writing and believe it’s an important and even noble pursuit can also be a big help in bolstering your battered confidence.
5. Write it Down – Keep a specific list of your goals that you can check off as you go along (write 2 pages, revise chapter on ninth grade, complete research on WWII airplanes for braided essay). This creates a sense of accomplishment that makes you more likely to keep writing. Smartphone apps such as Evernote even make it possible to add photos and voice recordings to your list, if you want to remind yourself of a great writing idea that occurs to you on-the-fly.
6. Be Still – We writers all know that our biggest enemy is the Internet. So create some mental stillness by effectively removing it from your writing time. Find a public writing location without internet access, or physically unplug your internet router or modem from the wall (when you plug it back in, it’ll take a few minutes to reconnect, which should be a long enough wait to discourage casual browsing). Turn off your smartphone (not just the screen—the whole phone) or put it somewhere where you’ll have to stand on a chair to reach it (and then move the chair to the other side of the room). Or try an application such as LeechBlock to make your internet connection inaccessible at certain hours. Desperate addictions call for desperate measures, and creating an internet-free zone is well worth the effort.
For more help kickstarting your writing, join one of Creative Nonfiction's online classes. Click here for class selections and more details. Classes begin January 12.