New Year, New Stories to Tell

Happy New Year, writers! It’s been a long and often difficult year, but the turnover of the calendar always fills me with the feeling that life is full of opportunities and fresh starts. Whether you are a formal resolution-maker or not, it’s a good idea to think about some creative goals you hold for the coming year, and to avoid falling into the traps that most failed resolution-makers do.

Understand Yourself and What You Want

I’m always amused when I hear people making resolutions to basically become different people. They might hate to exercise, and pledge to become skilled skiers or soccer players. They love eating hamburgers, but they pledge to go vegan. They’re not painters or singers or actors, but they pledge to appear in a local production of Hamlet or paint watercolor landscapes. These drastic transformations just aren’t going to happen, and they seem to stem from a failure to understand oneself. If you are devoted to the creative life, then you’ve got to prioritize living creatively — but it’s impossible to become something you’re not just by setting a lofty goal at the beginning of the year.

Make Your Resolution Something You Enjoy.

In fact, if you resolve to do something you really don’t enjoy, the odds are very high that that resolution will die within the first few weeks of 2013. Instead, you’ve got to find ways to make time for the things you do enjoy. And if you want to improve yourself, you’ve got to find ways to make that improvement enjoyable. For example, if you hate exercise but want to get more in shape, maybe panting away on an indoor treadmill isn’t really what you want to do, but every year you try it for a few weeks and then give up. Instead, maybe you can pledge to take a walk outside every day, or always take the stairs.

If you want to pledge to save money, maybe you can trick yourself out of money-wasting behaviors; stop walking to work by that costly coffee shop, or make more lunches at home. There are ways you can trick yourself into making the right choices.

All this applies to how you can set realistic creative goals as well. If you’re a dedicated fiction writer and want to write an epic thousand-line poem this year, it’s going to be difficult. Think about what you really want to accomplish in your writing, then break that down into pieces. Finish the chapter of your work, or take a trip to research your novel. Write two stories from the point of view of two different characters. Challenge yourself, but set yourself up to make the right choice. So if you pledged to write every morning, but still start your morning by reading blogs and noodling on the internet, why not try making the hour when you wake up an internet-free zone?

Ask Yourself What You Truly Value

If you become really talented at salsa dancing this year, that would be pretty cool. It might even be worth taking some lessons and making a concerted effort. We sometimes think about these Cool Things That We Want to Be and forget that the things we really value in our lives deserve just as much concerted effort and concentration. If you’d be willing to take an 8-week class to become a killer salsa dancer, why not devote eight weeks to finishing that writing project? It’s just as important, if not more so — the only difference is that it’s easier to avoid doing because you don’t have to sign up and put down a deposit. So try putting down a deposit of some sort on your creative life for your resolution this year. Leave yourself some reward that you only get if the day’s writing is done; or literally set aside some money that only gets to spent on something you want if you accomplish your writing goal (otherwise, it goes in a savings account — sensible, but boring!).

Best of luck in your writing resolutions this year! What resolution are you making?

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