Every January 1st, after we emerge from our beds – possibly hungover, well past noon – we writers tend to brew up an extra-strong pot of coffee and sit down to write our New Year’s Resolutions.
But guess what? Most of us won’t stick with our good intentions, even when it comes to writing more words, more often, and better.
So let’s start 2014 off right with some unqiue alternatives to the typical New Year’s Resolutions. Here are five bright ideas that all authors should consider.
Think Systems, not Goals
Entrepreneur suggests focusing on systems, rather than goals. Author James Clear notes that he didn’t set a goal of writing two books in 2013, but instead concentrated on sticking to his system of writing two articles per week, on Mondays and Thursdays, which have in turn amounted to more than 115,000 words. If you develop your own writing system – whether it’s a set number of words or pages per day, or follow Clear’s method of two articles per week – you’ll eventually meet your goal. Neat, huh?
On a similar tip, Lifehacker encourages people to stop announcing their goals – a counterintuitive approach for those of us who are so used to systems like Don’t Break the Chain or posting daily word counts on our current projects. (See my sidebar for my WIPs. Or, wait, don’t!) According to psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer’s research, telling your social media networks about your goals “gives you a ‘premature sense of completeness,'” which causes you to set aside actually achieving your goal in favor of coasting on those good feelings you got when people virtually high-fived you for your proposed action. Whoops! Keep quiet until after you’ve achieved your goal, and you’ll feel a lot better getting those well-deserved pats on the back.
Read more books
One resolution you definitely should keep in your yearly pile is to read more, as the Daily Mail reports that reading can improve your brain function for days after finishing a novel. Even if it’s a novel you don’t particularly enjoy, the results are the same: your brain gets a boost from the activity. So yes, I will still be checking out plenty of good books from the library, devouring new ones on my Kindle, and swapping titles with the good people of PaperbackSwap!
Support other writers
One of the easiest ways to improve your writing is by connecting with fellow authors with whom you can discuss the craft – and the business – of writing. Whether it’s done online or in person, it’s always fun to meet people who share your interests. This year, make it a priority to meet new writers in your area and online, and to build friendships with them. Help your author pals sell their books by writing reviews, recommending their books to others, or purchasing gift copies to give away. Set up blog hops or run online giveaways with authors in your genre. Do joint readings, or show up to support local author events whenever possible. Befriend a younger writer and mentor them with helpful advice. There are lots of ways to get involved and help support other writers; pick a few that you enjoy, and revel in giving back.
At the end of 2013, I joined a writing group specifically aimed at creating more flash fiction. The Iron Writers are a group of fearless individuals who compete weekly for the glory of having written the site’s best story. Using four random elements, chosen by the site’s moderator Brian Rogers, each of the four participating writers for the week submits a 500-word piece within four days. The results are posted to the site on the following Thursday, and the public is invited to vote for their favorite. A panel of judges also votes, and the winner of the combined votes takes the prize. Sound like fun? I challenge you to join us this year by taking at least one Iron Writer Challenge!
Change your life
Whether you set new goals or stick with systems that work for you, here’s wishing you a fantastic 2014. We hope you meet all of your writing goals and challenges with aplomb!