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Writers Talk About Writing

Ten Ways to Achieve Your Writing Resolutions for 2011

Is the bloom off your New Year's resolution rose? If so, you're in good company. Four out of five people who make New Year's resolutions eventually break them. And 33 percent don't even last till the end of January!

While resolutions typically focus on diet, exercise and stopping smoking, I bet that many Visual Thesaurus readers also had a writing promise or two on the list.

If you've already given up — or if you're struggling to keep abreast of your intentions, here are my tips for retooling your resolutions so that they really work:

1. Be specific. Don't just resolve to become a "better writer." Instead, promise to write 150 words a day. That's the length of a typical email! You can do that — right? At the end of a year, even if you take every weekend off, you'll have a total of 39,000 words. That's half a book! Double your output to 350 words per day and you'll have an entire book by 2012.

2. Write down your goal. Nothing makes something more specific than writing it down.

3. Review your goal, daily.I LOVE lists. In fact, I start each morning with a 13-point list of items I do first thing every day. I feel accomplished as I make the 13 little check marks, even though all the tasks are almost shamefully easy. Something about making the check mark is deeply invigorating.

4. Make your goal small and manageable. Did you notice how I began this list with a suggestion of writing only 150 words? If that seems too onerous to you, then reduce it! Aim for 75 words. If you make the task small enough, you'll actually do it.

5. Do it daily. I know, it might sound frightening to commit to doing something every day but paradoxically, this is often easier than doing something sporadically. I now enjoy writing so that's not my problem but I dislike my back exercises. Still, I do them first thing every morning. Doing something small, regularly, is a lot more valuable than doing something big, rarely.

6. Be accountable to someone. Get yourself a writing buddy or make a commitment in a public fashion (a blog, perhaps?) that will "force" you to do your writing. If you can't think of anything else you can always resolve to do something you really don't want (suggestion: make a donation to a political party you dislike) if you fail to achieve your goal.

7. Follow a model. You're a writer, not an inventor. Instead of feeling you have to start from scratch, find an example of a piece of writing you really like. If you want to write a book, look for a book. Ditto for a story, a blog post or magazine article. Then study what the other author has done and copy his or her techniques. (Note: I'm saying techniques — not exact phrasing!)

8. Give yourself a reward. Resolutions should always pay off. If you achieve your goals, be sure to give yourself a prize, regularly. (At least once a month and perhaps as frequently as once a day.) The prize doesn't have to be chocolate brownies! It can be a latte, a pound of excellent tea or a great magazine.

9. Don't edit while you write. I had a tough time with this resolution for years. Then I started turning off my monitor while I wrote. That worked! If that strategy seems too drastic to you, then simply cover your monitor with a towel.

10. Begin with a mindmap. I've written and spoken many times about why mindmapping is superior to outlining. This incredibly simple technique can remove so much of the pain from writing. Subscribe to my newsletter, (go to www.publicationcoach.com and click on the "free newsletter" link at the top right-hand of every page) and you'll receive a no-cost booklet on mindmapping when you receive your welcome letter.

New Year's resolutions don't have to end in defeat early in the year. Make them strategic and you'll have a lot to celebrate by this time next year!


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A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a free weekly newsletter on her website Publication Coach. Click here to read more articles by Daphne Gray-Grant.

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Comments from our users:

Wednesday January 12th 2011, 1:42 AM
Comment by: Tianzi (Brooklyn, NY)
Great tips! Thank you!
Wednesday January 12th 2011, 2:24 PM
Comment by: Spence W.
Thank you! Your suggestions are always inspiring!
Thursday January 13th 2011, 12:52 PM
Comment by: christiane P. (paris Afghanistan)
Thank you for the suggestions. Adfter the reading I'll make an effort to write 150 words a day to feel myself up-
-lifted. Unfortunately in the particular case I can't do that. But sure I'll follow a model and try.
MaybeI aim for 75 words to begin to start.
Saturday January 15th 2011, 12:31 PM
Comment by: Daphne Gray-Grant (Vancouver Canada)Visual Thesaurus Contributor
I interviewed Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, this week. He's a really smart guy and his book is very readable and useful. If you think you struggle with writer's block, I suggest you read this book -- especially chapters 7-10 for some practical solutions.

Interestingly, one of his core arguments is that procrastinators are NOT perfectionists. Instead, they are too impulsive. Fascinating reading!
Monday January 17th 2011, 10:29 PM
Comment by: janine A.
Ummm... why should the prize be anything BUT chocolate brownies? Daily!!
Tuesday January 18th 2011, 6:42 AM
Comment by: MLou (Arlington, MA)
I subscribe to Daphne's newsletter but it's still fun to see her again in
VT.

"Doing something small,regularly, is a lot more valuable than doing something big, rarely." I find this point worth repeating because it applies to so many aspects of life.

Happy new year, Daphne and thanks for helping me keep my unruly self on track as much as you do.
Best always,
MLou
Saturday March 26th 2011, 6:58 PM
Comment by: Tranquility.. (London United Kingdom)
Baiscally, I read your tips and I did the subsciption, it seemed to me beneficial, however I am not a native English speaker and I am not sure whethere this would be good or not for my writting skills...(hopefully yes..)
Anyway thanks so much..

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