Hello, inklings! I hope each of you are having a wonderful writing day and that you don’t have any Christmas songs still stuck in your head!
Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is finally winding down, the focus is shifting from merrymaking to goal setting. It’s time to think hard about the dreams we have for the next 12 months and establish a game plan to see them fulfilled. Without further ado, here are five resolutions I believe all of us writers, whether rookie or “old pro,” can benefit from.
I Resolve to… Write __ Words Per Week
You may be familiar with the acronym “SMART” that’s used for developing measurable goals. It stands for Specific, Measurable/with Measurement, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Oriented. Getting specific with a weekly – not a monthly or yearly – word target helps us create small-term goals that steadily inch us toward long-term goals, such as completing three manuscripts by next December.
Looking at the “A” part of SMART, it’s crucial that we set a realistic, achievable word-count goal. If you currently average 500 words a day, then a 20,000-words-per-week goal is a wee bit lofty. Set a number you know you can stick to, even if something unexpected pops up in the middle of your week and sabotages a few of your writing sessions.
If you go over your weekly word-count goal, pat yourself on the back. It’s better to surprise yourself by overachieving than disappoint yourself by underachieving.
I Resolve to… Set a Writing Schedule…and Stick to It!
Here’s another ubiquitous piece of productivity advice for you: If it doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t get done.
Since I’ve been (digitally) penciling in “WRITE!” on my daily calendar, I’ve been much better about not letting excuses or distractions get in the way of my work. With no one barking at us to write or holding out a bag of gold for us to claim if we write, it’s often difficult to treat writing like a J-O-B. But if we want to be serious writers, then we have to take our passion seriously. And that means having a strict schedule.
Before your week starts, take a look at your calendar and highlight any “must do’s” that you see, things like doctor appointments, kid stuff (I don’t have kids so please forgive the vagueness), anniversary dinners, early-morning workouts (workouts are “must’s,” in my opinion!). Then, schedule your writing time around them. Things like lunches with friends, random trips to Target, unnecessary housework, etc. are all secondary to the timeslot you’ve allotted for writing.
Sticking to this schedule is critical to this resolution. I know from experience that if you allow leniency just once, it makes it all the more easy for you to go soft on your writing schedule in the future. Treat your writing time like you would a meeting with your favorite celebrity or literary hero – don’t blow it off!
I Resolve to… Accept and Embrace the Unique Way I Write
The Internet is a wonderful thing. I even gave thanks for it this past Thanksgiving. But it can also be a dangerous thing because it allows us to look around at millions of other people, and looking at other people often leads to comparing ourselves to others. And as Theodore Roosevelt so perfectly iterated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Visit a hundred writing blogs or read a hundred different writing books and you’ll get a hundred different opinions on the best and worst ways to write. The way that you’ve found works best for you may be considered foolhardy and amateurish by one person, while hailed as innovative and clever by another. You may come across writing advice that might as well be hieroglyphics while, to another reader, it’s utterly brilliant and makes perfect sense.
Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, a thorough outliner or a light sketcher, accept the beautiful way your mind works and seek out ways not to change it, but to optimize it.
Find people who resonate with the way you write and learn from them.
Look for resources that affirm, not reject your writing style and let them help you tweak and hone your process.
While it’s perfectly okay to admire the way others write, we start treading on thin ice when we begin to compare ourselves to them and try to imitate, or worse, grow depressed and give up altogether.
I Resolve to… Read __ Books Per Month on X, Y, and Z Subjects
If we want to be great writers, we must be voracious readers. Here are a few reasons why:
- Reading helps us practice analyzing the craft of writing.
- Reading shows us how to effectively use different storytelling techniques, such as writing in multiple points of view or employing different narrative devices.
- Reading is inherently educational and therefore can also serve as research for our current work-in-progress.
- Reading broadens our vocabulary.
- Reading adds fuel to our fire. Reading great writers and being moved by their rich worlds and spectacular stories naturally inspires us to brew a fresh cup of coffee and begin typing away at our own manuscripts.
- Reading enhances our imagination. It opens up hidden windows and mystical corridors in our minds and invites us to travel through him. Our creativity is free to run wild, imagining alternative outcomes to the scenes we’re reading, reworking a particular character’s flaws and virtues, following a plotline a bit farther than the author intended it to go. All of this and much, much more deepens your writing well, enabling you to draw upon endless amounts of ideas and inspiration.
- Reading familiarizes you with genre Every genre contains certain elements that readers expect. Any romance novel worth its ink will have a “lovers meet” scene, a “first kiss” scene, and a “lovers’ crisis/breakup” scene. Thrillers are filled with action-movie-type sequences: car chases, heists, explosions, and lots of near-death situations. You get the picture. I’m currently writing a fantasy trilogy inspired by Greek mythology, so I’m reading books that both teach me about the culture and beliefs back then, as well as novels with which mine could be categorized.
Like Resolution #1, this goal needs to be specific and achievable. Personally, I’m a relatively slow reader. I tend to read like there’s going to be an exam on the book when I’m finished, and if I fail it, I die. As such, five books a month is unrealistic for me. Don’t set a number just because a “booktuber” you follow recommended it or declared a challenge to his or her viewers. Read at a rate that’s doable for you.
As for the “X, Y, and Z” part of this resolution, I recommend reading several different types of books throughout the year.
Maybe you absolutely love young adult novels (who doesn’t!?), but you’ll get yourself into a rut, both personally and professionally, if you only read in that literary vein. Personal growth books are excellent for attaining (and maintaining) a healthy, balanced mindset. Nonfiction books, such as those on marketing and publishing, will educate you on the business side of writing so your book babies can one day reach readers. And, as mentioned above, reading fiction will enhance your writing in astonishing ways.
I Resolve to… Challenge Myself
This is the most important resolution of all, because if we aren’t being challenged, we aren’t growing. And if we aren’t growing, then we become stagnant and eventually digress. This year, I encourage you to bust out of your comfort zone and dive into the courage zone.
Be willing to fail.
In fact, celebrate failures because each one is a stepping stone to success.
Be experimental. If you normally write in the first person present tense, try your hand at third person past tense. If you typically gravitate toward reading historical fiction, pick up a contemporary novel. If you normally enjoy blogs like this one, try listening to writing-related podcasts.
If we refuse to experiment and try new things, we miss out on the opportunity to possibly discover an invaluable writing tool, practice, or habit.
I know this resolution isn’t very specific, but that’s because I want you to make it so! Name one or more challenge you know you need to tackle in 2017. Is it letting other people read your work? Is it taking a break from writing nonfiction so you can start on the novel burning inside of you? Is it entering the query trenches and submitting your work to agents? Is it starting a blog or YouTube channel to share your writing journey and help other aspiring writers along theirs?
Be honest with yourself and jot down a resolution that will help free you from fear and improve yourself not only as an artist, but as a human being as well.
What’s one challenge you’ve committed to taking on this coming year? Tweet me @dandersontyler and let me know! I’d love to hear from you!