Making New Year’s writing resolutions (and actually doing them)

What is it about the start of a new year that makes us want to change something about our lives? New Year’s resolutions are a great way of becoming motivated to make a positive change, but they are also renowned for being difficult to keep – according to U.S News, 80% of resolutions fail by February. This can be for many reasons, such as making too many or not making them realistic. So with the odds stacked against them, is there any point? And if so, how do we make them stick?

I think the main problem is that these resolutions can be a bit of a fad. It’s easy at the end of December to say ‘Next year, I want to do X, Y and Z,’ but you have to ask yourself, do you actually want to put in the work to make these things happen? New Year’s resolutions aren’t magic wishes that can make anything happen. Change is difficult without effort.

Writing is a common resolution that pops up. For example, publishing a novel is often found on people’s bucket lists but many don’t have the drive, patience or time to actually make it happen. A writing resolution could be anything from aiming for a daily or weekly word count, setting aside a certain amount of time for writing or submitting your work to a certain number of magazines.

I’m actually one of the people who will be making a resolution to write more in the new year. If you’ve listened to our podcast at all, you’ve probably heard me mention that I’ve not been doing much writing lately. I blamed other projects (like Firewords) for taking up my time, which is true to an extent because I was focusing on other things, but now I’m determined to carve out that time and get back into the habit of writing. By the way, I’m mentioning my personal resolution here because, as I’ll cover in a second, making your goals public is a good way of getting accountability.

If, like me, you want 2018 to be a year of writing success, here are some tips for making your resolutions achievable.

  • Keep it realistic – If your goals are too lofty, failure is more likely. For example, trying to finish that novel in a week is probably not going to happen.
  • Be specific – Vague, overarching goals such as ‘write more’ can be too intimidating or difficult to implement. It can be useful to break the goal down into manageable chunks that are more achievable. For example, ‘write for 30 minutes each morning’ is a lot easier to stick to and has the same outcome as ‘write more’.
  • Accountability – Telling someone about your resolutions can actually make you more likely to stick to them. This could be because of our reluctance to fail in public but, whatever the reason, being kept accountable on our goals is often beneficial.  
  • Go easy on yourself – Beating yourself up or giving up completely if a goal slips is often easier than persevering and getting back on track. We’re all human, and it helps to remember that fact when we are trying to achieve something that not a lot of people manage.
  • Make it trackable – Seeing progress helps to keep up momentum as you can see the steps you’re making towards the finish line. You’re also more likely to keep it up because you don’t want to break the habit chain. In an article about building a writing habit, we provided a free downloadable habit tracker, which you may find useful for your New Year’s resolution.
  • Learn from your mistakes – If you’ve made resolutions before and failed to keep them up, it can be useful to look back and see where you went wrong. Was it too ambitious? Was it unrealistic? Was it a goal that you weren’t 100% invested in? If you can gain something from a past failure, it may well be what you need to succeed in 2018.