“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” – A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
“Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. We come to it freshly, in the dewy youth of the day, and when our spiritual and sensual elements are in better accord than at a later period; so that the material delights of the morning meal are capable of being fully enjoyed, without any very grievous reproaches, whether gastric or conscientious, for yielding even a trifle overmuch to the animal department of our nature. The thoughts, too, that run around the ring of familiar guests, have a piquancy and mirthfulness, and oftentimes a vivid truth, which more rarely find their way into the elaborate intercourse of dinner.” – The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Welcome to 2011. I’m resisting the urge to ask about your New Year’s writing resolutions, because to be honest, resolutions just don’t work for me. Instead I create goals, dreams, wish lists, or whatever you want to call them. In short, it’s my collection of things to strive for, such as books to read, new skills to learn, writing goals. I give myself the freedom to dream big, and therefore also permission to fall short. It’s a vision, a direction in which to head, and it sets me on a course I otherwise probably wouldn’t find.
Whether you create resolutions or prefer another form of goal-setting depends on your personality and work style. What’s important is sticking to it. The new planner and the clean slate never fail to inspire creativity and aspirations, but the demands of day-to-day life often wear through the strongest resolve. Here are ways to keep your 2011 writing goals.
- Decrease your time online by subscribing to 5 websites or blogs. The internet is full of valuable writing tips and instruction, but how often have you caught yourself getting distracted and eating up precious writing time? Increase your productivity by selecting a few favorite writing websites and blogs, such as Nooks & Cranberries, and subscribing to them. Getting their updates by e-mail or RSS feed–and resisting the urge to peruse additional pages–will give you ample daily inspiration and plenty of extra time to write.
- Create a game in which you make up the rules. A friend once told me about a tip she heard from a comedian. That writer–I can’t remember his name–would put pen to paper every day and reward himself with a mark on the calendar. Those marks became a visual chain, and he wrote every day so he wouldn’t break it. It’s a simple yet clever game that’s worked wonders for me. Whether you try this tactic or another one, you get to make up the rules: your word count or time spent writing, whether you write seven days a week or just on weekdays. It’s up to you. Just make it work for you.
- Tell the world about your project. Once you start telling people you’re writing a novel or working on a query to a major magazine you suddenly have a network of unofficial accountability partners. You won’t want to give up because they’ll be curious about your project’s status. Don’t just depend on them, however; also find another writer and pledge to keep each other accountable.
- You have a calendar, so use it. Set a weekly or monthly recurring appointment with yourself. Use that time to evaluate your writing goals and what you’ve achieved so far. Are you on track or have you fallen behind? Do you need to reset your goals for a period of time? Maybe you have family staying with you for a few weeks but have a free schedule afterward; consider scaling back your goals during that time, then scheduling additional writing time for those free days. There’s no point in keeping unrealistic expectations that will only frustrate you rather than keep you motivated.
The start of a new year is a great time to work toward new goals or renew old ones. Make 2011 your year as a writer by starting strong and keeping your resolutions or goals. Finally, what tricks do you use to keep your writing goals? Please share them with us here.