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!