How to Be a Writer: a writer’s New Year’s resolutions

It’s the most inspiring time of year for people trying to change habits. Those new gym memberships aren’t yet abandoned and it’s easy to spend less and save more money when it’s only a few days into the new year.

It’s easy to keep those unclear resolutions until, perhaps, it’s the end of the month. Or once you find out that only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving their resolutions.

Ouch. But there’s another little statistic people fail to recite when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions. “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.”

So for those of you inclined to look at the glass half full, never fear! You can still make those resolutions if you make them firm ones. Here are some general suggestions for every writer (which you should make more specific).

1. Start your dream project

Easier said than done, but that should be the mantra of this entire list. Your dream project is the reason you started writing professionally anyway. Make that happen in 2015!

Start small. Maybe set working on that project one hour, once a week. If you miss a week, make it up the next week. Mark it in your calendar. Ignore all of your devices. Get to work. By the end of the year, you will have worked on this project for 52 hours. That’s 52 hours more than you worked on it in 2014.

2. Write when you don’t feel like it

The common adage is that if you’re a writer, you should be writing every day. Some writers even declare that you should wake up wanting to write. (As a night owl, I am nearly offended by this. It takes me about two hours to “wake up.”) But uh, yeah, make it a resolution to write every day.

Okay, that’s a terrible resolution.

One, it isn’t specific enough for you to keep your resolution—the goal needs to be more specific than common advice. It doesn’t say, “I’m going to write for an hour at 7:00pm every day” or “I will write 500 words of my novel every day.” It’s resolutions like “write every day” that are rarely kept.

Two, writing is hard. Writing is hard even on your best days. So what about the days where you just want to roll over and stay in bed for an extra 15 minutes? Or one of those days where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Life complicates that notion even more. Writing is hard. It’s nearly impossible some days to make it impossible to write.

Instead of the goal to “write every day” (though I see the merit of that advice), write when you don’t feel like writing. Write in your worst moods and in your best ones. Make it a habit to write when you don’t feel like it and you’ll appreciate all the more when you do feel like it.

3. Learn basic code

This may seem like one of those trendy educational things that everyone from President Obama to Ashton Kutcher is doing, but learning to code as a writer is enormously beneficial especially as publishing and technology become closer and closer. It’s a hard skill that can set you apart from other writers vying for the same freelance or full-time jobs.

You can learn to code through a variety of free courses available from Code.orgCodecademyCodeAvengers, or CodeGame. Make it a goal to learn a course a month over the year and you’ll be proficient by 2016.

4. Read

I’ve mentioned reading stuff here and here. Everyone should read more books, magazines, journalism, pamphlets. Facebook statuses and Instagram comments do not count.

5. Experiment and take risks

Okay, so this one falls into the dreaded vague category I warned you won’t keep consistently, but so what? This recommendation is vague so you can fill in the blanks.

Possible risks to take include:

  • Applying for more jobs, even if you feel you are not qualified. So what? What if you do land the dream job or at least a well-paid one?
  • Submitting work to your dream publication. The worst they can do is say no, and at least then you’ll have a rejection story.
  • Writing a spec piece. Writing something you aren’t sure you will get paid for is always risky. If you can’t pitch it and sell it, you’re in luck: the internet is an amazing self-publishing tool.

Not all of these resolutions or risks may pan out. But isn’t that the goal? To change for the better, even just a little bit?

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Image credit: clement127 via Flickr

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