On the evening news not long ago a fitness guru offered three tips to improve your chances of sticking to your fitness goals in the New Year. The three tips apply equally to writing goals and resolutions.
First: Set Realistic Goals – if you set a goal that is too ambitious, you will sabotage yourself. If you’re a bit of a slug, like me, a resolution to qualify for the next Boston Marathon is failure waiting to happen. Likewise, your resolution to secure a six figure advance from a major publisher by June 1st for your novel (which you have not yet begun to write) might also be a tad ambitious.
Instead, set more modest goals — ones that are achievable. Of course, to set achievable goals, you need to know yourself.
A more modest fitness goal for me is to take half-hour hikes three times a week during January, and then to set a new goal. I can do that because it’s only for a month and I have the opportunity to set a different goal at the end of the month.
An achievable writing goal, for me, might be to spend one hour a day working on a fiction project during January, and then set a new goal. That I can do, because it has the same manageability as the fitness goal. But also the focus on “working on fiction” allows me to brainstorm, outline, draft, edit or send out queries and submissions, all while meeting my one-hour goal. I’ve restricted my goal to “fiction” because I know myself — I want to move my fiction along and if my goal is “working on a writing project” I will cheat and count my blog posts as meeting part of that goal.
In addition to setting realistic goals, make sure the goals are within your control. The goal of a six figure advance for your novel is not one that is entirely in your control. It depends on others (an agent, an acquisitions editor, a willing publisher).
Second: Have fun – in fitness, if you enjoy the activities you undertake, you are more likely to continue with them. The longer you stick with the process, the longer you will keep your resolutions.
Ditto with writing. If you’re having fun while pursuing your goal, you are more likely to continue the pursuit. Realistic goals play a role here too. While an overly ambitious and unrealistic goal may start out to be fun, over the long haul it’s bound to become less fun and more frustrating.
Of course, there are bound to be parts of the writing process that are not as much fun as others (for me, revision is not as much fun as brainstorming and letting my characters run amok on the page.) So strive for a balance here — try to have more fun than not. I bargain with myself: if I spend an hour revising, I can spend two hours brainstorming or drafting new work. Salted caramel squares from Starbucks also work well in the bargaining process…
Third: Find a support group – the fitness guru recommended personal trainers or exercise classes as a means to ensure success with fitness goals. Those people will cheer you on and you will be more likely to continue your exercise sessions if others rely on or expect your attendance.
If you’re lucky enough to belong to a supportive writing group, tell the members your writing goals. Ask them to help you stay motivated, and offer to do the same for them.
If your resolution is to take a writing course in the spring, congratulations — you have set a realistic goal that has a built-in support group! And odds are, it will be fun too.
Give yourself a break — make resolutions that are realistic and fun, so that you have a fighting chance of keeping them.
- “How to Improve Your Odds of Sticking to Your Writing Resolutions” - January 25, 2016
- What’s the Big Deal about Leading a Writers’ Workshop? - January 18, 2016
- A Review of The Art of Character - December 28, 2015
- “Why You Should Battle the Proofreading Ogre and How to Manage the War” - December 7, 2015
- “Ten Habits of Effective Writing Critiquers” - November 28, 2015
- A Review of 6 Books on the Craft of Fiction - September 28, 2015
- A Review of Two Books on Revision Techniques - September 14, 2015
- “Seven Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference” - August 17, 2015
- An Interview with Alan Rinzler - August 10, 2015
- What’s the Big Deal about Your Inner Critic? - July 27, 2015
- “Pick Up a Baton and Orchestrate Your Characters! - July 20, 2015
- Eight Reasons to Consider Pursuing an MFA - July 6, 2015
- What’s the Big Deal about Public Readings of Your Writing? - June 22, 2015
- “How to Mine your Childhood for Story Gems and More” - November 17, 2014
- “Three Decisions to Make about Viewpoint in Fiction” - October 14, 2014