It’s New Year’s Eve, which means you’ve got less than 24 hours to sum up the year and plan for the future. No pressure! Whether you ticked everything off your 2018 to-do list or even if you didn’t get to it all, today is a great day to look ahead.
The Washington Post recently published an article about New Year’s fallacies. One is that no one ever keeps their resolutions. Turns out, almost half of people who actually set intentions stick with them. People who didn’t say it out loud or make a plan? They’re the ones who didn’t succeed. Here are 4 steps to achieve your new year’s writing goals and make 12/31/19 a time to toast your accomplishments.
Set Specific Goals
Tons of people say they want to “eat healthier” or “exercise more” or “be better with money” for the new year. While those are all laudable goals, they are too vague. Without an action plan for “eating healthier,” chances are you won’t even get through January 2nd before polishing off the leftover holiday cookies. The same is true for writing. If you simply say you intend to “write more,” you are not too likely to actually write more. A better plan is to set specific goals. Don’t make them too prescriptive or impossible, but be clear. “I will complete my manuscript by December 2019.” This is specific, but it’s doable.
Set Realistic Goals
Speaking of doable, it’s important to set realistic goals. I’d love to have five titles on the New York Times best seller list by 2020, but that’s not going to happen. By all means, I believe in reaching for the stars, but setting such a goal is virtually impossible…for me. For James Patterson, it’s another day at the office. Take a look at your schedule, obligations, trips, and requirements for the new year. Think about how quickly, or slowly, you’ve done other writing. Now make a specific, yet realistic goal. The sweet spot is something that’s achievable yet requires you to push yourself a little.
Consider a Productivity Chart
If you’re looking at writing a lengthy document this year, especially a novel, it can feel like you write and write and nothing happens. Sometimes the going is slow, particularly at the beginning of a manuscript when you’re still feeling it out. It might seem like you’re making no progress. If you feel like you’ve been on or around page 30 for two months, it’s normal to get frustrated. Frustrated writers are writers who quit or procrastinate. You don’t want to do this. If you are in the plotting and planning and rewriting of Chapter 1 quagmire, take a step back.
Consider keeping a writing journal. Log how long you write, when, and what you accomplish every day. It’s best if you can do it on a month calendar page or something similar where you can visualize your progress. It will help your mindset by showing you how much you actually have achieved. It can also aid you in figuring out when you’re being productive and what’s holding you back.
Listen, I know a productivity chart does not sound sexy. It sounds like a pain in the butt. To an extent, at least at first before it’s a habit, it will be. But, charting progress and setbacks helps you mindfully move forward and plan your time better. If you’ve ever done something similar on a diet, such as with a food diary, you know that staying accountable can help you make better choices. This chart can be the motivation you need when your muse doesn’t visit.
Above all, if you want to be a writer, you’re going to need to write. You can’t always wait for the mood to strike or inspiration to appear. You have to do it on days you feel like it and days you don’t. Getting used to writing a little bit, most days of the week, will keep the story fresh and your mind sharp. Just like running ten miles after two weeks off won’t get you back in shape, neither will writing ten random pages a few times a month. Writers, like muscles, need regular exercise.
I hope these tips help you achieve your 2019 writing goals. You have them written down, right? There’s still time before midnight! Cheers, and Happy New Year.