When people hear the word “resolutions” at this time of year, they tend to think of next year. As in, “Next year, I’ll make resolutions.” “Next year, my ‘future self’ will surely have the discipline to accomplish the big things I wanted to do this year.” But what about the resolutions you made this past January?
There’s nothing quite so pleasing as dwelling in the potential that future promises deliver. Unfortunately, this year’s writing resolutions—which seemed so inviting and exciting way back in January—are usually relegated to the dustbin of history.
In fact, most people’s resolutions die by February 4. There’s data to back that up. Foursquare and Swarm, two location-based apps, analyzed check-ins at fast food restaurants and gyms over an entire year. They found a 36 percent increase in gym visits during the weeks following New Year’s Day, along with a 13 percent decline in visits to fast food restaurants. But by February 4, the trends had reversed. Gym visits declined, while fast food check-ins started to rise.
I assume this applies to all types of resolutions, including writing resolutions. Patterns of behavior can be as difficult to change as a stubborn plot line.
Here’s the trick, though. Don’t succumb to disappointment or guilty self-flagellation when your resolutions slide. The key to success in any endeavor is to plan for the inevitable lapses that happen. You’re going to fall off the horse, so you’ve got to figure out a strategy to get back on.
“After a lapse, it’s important to forgive yourself, readjust your goals, and give yourself a fresh start so that a bad week of writing doesn’t lead to a bad month of writing, which then turns into a bad year. It’s all about designing your life around the things you rationally want to achieve instead of sinking into the powerful claws of more impulsive needs.”
Overcoming a lapse is akin to creating a novel’s plot with the “What if?” game. For example, ask yourself, “What if I start writing again next Monday?” “What if I try to write for 30 minutes each day?” “What if I join a writing community to help me be accountable?” “What if I sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo this July to set new goals?” “What if I finish the novel of my dreams?”
It’s time to set your mid-year writing resolutions because life goes by too quickly to wait for next year. We must claim our dreams and create a system to realize them. I don’t want to die with a list of all of the things I wish I would have accomplished. I don’t want to be a person unable to change, unable to improve myself, unable to reach my creative potential.
So, please, keep writing!