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Beginning to lose your enthusiasm for your New Year’s resolutions? Here are some ways to make your writing ones stick ….
I listen to the radio while I do my back exercises every morning and these days the airwaves are filled with nothing but talk about new year’s resolutions. While most of the publicity goes to weight loss, exercise and stopping smoking, I know that many or you aim to buff and polish your writing habits when the calendar rolls from one year to the next.
Here are my tips for making those new year’s resolutions more effective.
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(s). Nothing makes something more specific than writing it down.
3. Review your goal(s), daily. I LOVE lists. In fact, I start each morning with a 18-point list of items I do first thing every day. I feel accomplished as I make the 18 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(s) 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. Re-read the fr/ee booklet you will have received when you signed up for this newsletter. (Or, if you’ve lost it, email me and I’ll send you another copy.)
New Year’s resolutions don’t have to end in defeat by mid-January. Make them strategic and you’ll have a lot to celebrate by this time next year!
Photo courtesy Claudia Poirier, Flickr Creative Commons.