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Do you make new year’s resolutions? The 13 most popular resolutions in the U.S. don’t mention writing but my bet is you’ve probably included writing on your list.
Good idea. But turn it into an ebulliently effective plan by asking yourself these five questions first:
Is my resolution measurable? Sure, it’s easy to say things like “I want to become a better writer.” But how vague is that? Instead, give yourself a goal that is concrete. Resolve to write 250 words a day. Or, promise to spend at least 15 minutes at your computer producing words and sentences. Or, better yet, vow to stop editing WHILE you write. When it comes to editing you can also give yourself some measurable goals that will add a fine patina to your work. For example, resolve to stop using all forms of the verb “to be.” (This is a lot harder than it sounds.) Or promise to eschew words ending in –ize (e.g.: “monetize). Resolutions that are concrete and therefore measurable are much harder to blow off and far more likely to give you satisfying, even jaw-dropping results.
Am I starting small enough? A popular expression says “Go big or go home.” I say you may as well head for home right now if you’re stuck on starting big. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, plan for success. If you’ve been procrastinating for years don’t resolve to spend an hour a day writing. That would be agony! Instead, begin with three minutes. Yes, three! Pick a goal so small that you can’t do anything but succeed. And build from there. To learn more about this technique, read my review of the book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.
How am I going to hold myself accountable? Have you ever noticed how many successful exercisers have running buddies or gym partners? Athletes understand that their motivation will vary from day to day so they create a system to protect themselves from the natural dips to which every human body is prey. Writers are no different. Find yourself a writing chum to whom you can report. Make sure he or she is tough enough to give you a hard time if you fail. If you can’t find anyone then at least promise yourself to do something you dislike if you fail to achieve your goal. (I like the idea of making a $100 donation to a political cause you abhor. That’s truly motivating.)
Can I get someone else to make my resolution for me? Here’s an idea I discovered in a story in my morning newspaper. Don’t make your own resolutions -– ask someone who knows you well to do it for you. Ideally, that person would also be a writer. But, failing that, try your spouse, a sibling or a parent -– just make sure they’re someone you get along with and who knows you well.
Do I need any extra training? If you’re new to writing or if you’ve struggled with it for years without making any progress you may find it helps to take a course or read a book on writing. Check out your local night school courses or your favourite library or bookstore. If you’re interested in my support, I have a great book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better (best of all, shipping is currently free anywhere in the world) and a popular email-based course Extreme Writing Makeover.
Don’t let your resolutions amble aimlessly into the new year only to be hopelessly lost by mid-January. Instead, set them up and make 2012 the year of the writer.Photo courtesy Dan Moyle, Flickr Creative Commons
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Posted January 3rd, 2012 in Power Writing