Another new year is here, and millions of people have made resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, save money or eat more healthily. Statistics say that by mid-February, a large percentage of those resolutions will already be broken.
As an author, what sort of resolutions should I make for the new year?
Goals, Not Resolutions
First off, I don’t make resolutions. Not personal ones and definitely not ones for my writing career.
I learned the hard way that breaking resolutions is easier than keeping them.
Does this mean I let a “new” opportunity to make changes leave me in the dust? Nope. I decided to set goals instead.
You’re wondering, “What’s the big difference?”
The difference is in mindset and planning.
Goals are written down (or should be if you’re serious about meeting them). More intentional thought goes into forming goals because we WANT to meet them.
No one wants to say, “I set these goals, but I didn’t reach them.” It sounds like failure and it feels like failure.
Failure is no fun.
Some writers make a resolution to:
- write every day
- finish their novel,
- submit their novel
or other reasonable sounding things.
But do they have a plan?
If their GOAL is to write every day, they might get out their appointment calendar and block out time each day for writing. Since they want to meet that goal, they form a plan to do it.
Resolutions are generally vague and abstract which is why they’re hard to keep but simple to break.
Goals need to be finite and measurable.
Maybe an author is going to finish a novel. They need to pull out their calendar and block out time to work on the novel. Maybe they’ll do a little math to figure out how many words they’re going to write so they can set a FINISH LINE.
Who wants to run a race when they don’t know where it ends?
Not me. I don’t like running that much.
So, how do I meet my goals?
Tracking My Baby Steps
I’d love to say that I have met every goal on time with finesse and verve. But that would be false.
However, in the past five years since I’ve being “doing this writing thing for real,” I’ve learned what helps me meet goals. And what doesn’t work for me.
First, I lay out a plan. It includes a step-by-step list of what it will take to meet my goal. And I track the markers I meet along the way.
This is like watching the mile posts go by on that run I mentioned earlier. It lets me know I’m making progress, and it reminds me that there is an end in sight.
I also like to reward myself for meeting these markers. It’s an incentive plan, which is something writers probably need more than the average non-author.
Why? Because you get a regular paycheck from your job (one that probably meets your expenses) but many authors get sporadic and often anemic paydays. Not that I’m complaining. I write for the joy not the money.
But it’s human nature to produce better results when an incentive is involved.
I know I can write 1,000 words per hour once I get in the groove. I’ve been known to write up to 1,700 in an inspired hour dedicated solely to writing. I give myself a word-count goal every day I write. Then I plan the “reward” for when I finish. It might be, “You get to read that awesome fantasy novel you checked out from the library.” Or it could be, “You can sit outside in the sun.” It varies depending on WHAT I WANT THE MOST that day.
I’ve also started keeping checklists on a free site called Workflowy. You can mark things off your lists there (which feels pretty amazing) and you can lay out every step in the writing process. Such as first draft, rewrite, first edits, submission deadlines, editing deadlines and publication dates.
This same strategy works for me if my goal is to lose (or maintain) weight or save money for a vacation.
Why not try these simple steps for your “resolutions”:
- Make the plan.
- Work the plan.
- Reward yourself for the baby steps along the way.
What about you? What resolutions have you made for 2019? What plans do you have in place to help you KEEP those “best intentions”?
**This post first appeared on the Roane Publishing blog in February 2018. In honor of that wonderful small independent publisher, I’m reposting it here. Share the love. Spread the word.