I used to think anyone who made New Year’s resolutions or goals they actually kept deserved a medal. But now I’m not so sure. Now I think anyone can do it—the problem for most of us is we sail into the new year with unrealistic expectations of ourselves and when we fail to start achieving we become disillusioned and give up all together. And it’s all because we place the focus on outcomes (eg I’m going to finish a novel) rather than aiming to change our behaviours gradually and meaningfully so we create good habits. That’s why we need to set realistic actionable goals in the first place. So here are some of mine for 2016.
#1 Choose a word for the year
Some of my writing friends and I decided we would choose a word for the year. The process is inspired by My One Word and I think the idea of niching down your New Year’s resolutions/goals till it hurts is spot on (even if you don’t have a religious bone in your body). Basically you think about who you’d like to be in the year and the writing goals you want to achieve rather than focusing on who you regret being and what you regret doing/not doing. And instead of focusing on a long list of resolutions you keep coming back to this word to help you create actionable goals, for example ‘I’m going to wake up half and hour earlier and use the time to freewrite everyday.’
This year my word is FOCUS.
Basically I’ve been all over the shop for the past year (or if we’re being honest my whole life). I’ve wanted to do so many things that I’ve ended up feeling like I’ve achieved nothing. That’s why in 2016 I’m instead going to focus on writing what I want to write and I’m going to aim to be a lot more mindful of all my commitments—thus cementing this goal at the forefront of my life rather than letting it take a back seat.
Two other great words for me would be ORGANISE and CONFIDENCE but you can only pick one so these might have to wait till next time.
Here are some others that might interest you.
Or better yet come up with one for yourself!
#2 Write for 25 minutes a day, every day
And I mean every day.
Neil Gaiman said it best in his Make Good Art speech:
‘When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.’
Even if for some reason you can’t physically write, then spend 20 minutes recording yourself or dictating to someone else who can write your thoughts down for you.
You can do your writing anywhere too! You might freewrite in a notebook on the train, keep your ideas in evernote or scribble on the back of a napkin in a café. It doesn’t matter as long as you do it.
Setting an alarm for your 25 minutes is probably a good idea. You can use the pomodoro technique and set a tomato timer. And while you’re writing during this time, do yourself a favour and turn off all distractions—put your phone on flight mode, don’t open your emails and ban social media. If you always seem to get drawn into the rabbit warren of the internet, then use an app such as Freedom or Self Control to help kick the habit.
Two more things:
- Give yourself permission to write utter rubbish, embarrassing trash and cringe worthy nonsense
- Use the time to write and not edit. This is for first drafts only.
#3 Organise your life
I’m pretty unorganised. I’m so unorganised in fact that I forget to put things in my calendar and then even if I do I forget to check my calendar!!! Last year I started using the Sunrise app which really helped because it sends me an email every morning telling me what’s on for the day. But this year I’ve decided I’m going to be even more structured. This year I’m going to FOCUS (see what I did there) on making myself the best I can be so I am more productive in writing than ever. And I’ve decided the best way to do this is to embrace scheduling.
Here’s an example of what one of my working from home days will look like:
6:00 am – Wake up and do Calm meditation
6:10am – Daily journal
6:20am – Walk Brielle
7:20am – Get ready for the day
7:45am – Check emails while eating breakfast
8:15am – Start work
10:30am – Break
10:45am – Work
1:00pm – Lunch (begin prepping dinner)
2:00pm – Work
6:00pm – Get changed
6:30pm – Gym
7:40 – Shower etc
7:50 – Make dinner
8:15 – Dinner
9:00 – Free time till bed – this will be writing time to focus on a personal project eg my novel!
My year may feel a little regimented and I’ll certainly fall off the wagon but the important thing is I’ll have a plan and not just leave things to chance as I have been doing (unproductively so) for the last 29 years of my life.
#4 Complete NaNoWriMo
As you probably know from my other blogs I am a huge believer in freewriting and this is why I also love NaNoWriMo. I don’t think NaNo has to be limited to writing a novel but basically just writing 50,000 words in any medium of your choosing in a month. The experience can teach you a number of things—the main one about how much you can actually write if you carve out the time to sit down and do it.
#5 Get out of your comfort zone
Decide on one thing you are petrified of and face it head on. Some ideas of how to do this include:
- Write a scene you know will make your story stronger but have been too afraid to face eg a fight scene, a sex scene, a scene that shows your character (and perhaps your own) vulnerability
- Tackle a blog post about an issue you feel passionate about without worrying what other people will think (of course being mindful not to attack others in the process)
- Share a piece of work with someone for feedback. Consider every piece of their advice whether you accept it or not and don’t get defensive.
- Join a writing group
- Enter a competition
- Submit writing for publication
- Attend a writing course you’ve always been interested in
- Write something different eg if you write blogs try writing a poem
By getting out of your comfort zone you’ll realise that most of what you fear is not as bad as it seems.
What are your writing resolutions for 2016? Have you ever chosen a word for the year before? What writing goals did you achieve in 2015? Let me know in the comments and have a Happy New Year!