Now that it’s the fourth of January, I will assume that everyone’s hangover has finally worn off* and that you’re ready to grab this year by the frigid snowballs. You’re fired up and ready to kick this year’s ass all around the block while it’s still got than new year smell.
Well, I’m with you. In spite of the bone-numbing cold, January is a hopeful time. We want to change, and we’re willing to try. Good for us. But we need a plan, or we won’t get far. If your resolutions included anything about writing, here’s a plan for you.**
1. Solidify that motherfucker. It’s no good saying, “I want to write more” or “I want to explore more styles”. It’s too fucking vague, and therefore easy to ignore. So get out a pen and paper and make a list. How much more? Do you have a goal you’re shooting for? Maybe finish a novel this year? Or do you want to write something everyday, even if it’s just the word ‘fuck’ a hundred times in different fonts? This is why I attached a number to my rejections. It makes it real.
2. Research and plan, lest you be devoured by the nibbly rabbits of indecision. You wouldn’t set out to become an elephant wrangler in 2013 without knowing where the elephants are, would you? You wouldn’t decide to run a marathon without figuring out how long it is. Writing is no different. Do your research. How long will it take to write that novel working at a speed you’re comfortable with? How many places are looking for the material you have to submit? What are the hallmarks of the space-opera style, and who are some of its greatest writers? Once you know a little more—not everything, just a little—you can make a plan of attack. You’ll need one, because a plan is what you can fall back on when the motivation fails. And it will. I fucking guarantee it. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end. It just means you need to keep going, and a plan will keep you on the right path.
3. But sooner or later, you’ve just got to fucking do it. It’s easy to let the research and planning part overtake everything else. You don’t want to start until you feel ready, but the more you research the less ready you feel. Before you know it, it’s March and you’ve made no progress. So you give up. Welcome to most New Year’s resolutions, which die in an elephant’s graveyard of discouragement.
Not this time. Set a date and stick to it. Maybe the first two weeks of the new year can be devoted to research and planning, but after that, you get moving, whether you’re ready or not. Pull the trigger and see where the bullet lands instead of trying to calculate it beforehand. Learn as you go. If you fuck up, the lessons will just stick more. Don’t lose the momentum that comes from the new year. Use it to push yourself out the door before you’re entirely comfortable and go.
4. Log some wins. This is a mental trick I learned last year. We are what we repeatedly do, and we’re most likely to repeat things that make us feel like we’re winning.
Personal example: I usually get between 2000 and 3000 words a day when working. But do you know what’s on my checklist every morning? ‘Write 500 words.’ That’s it. I write that, which takes me around half a hour on average, and I can check that off. It’s considered done. Most times, I go on to write several assloads more than that, but the little goal—the very achievable goal—allows me to do it every day and build up some steam, even on the shittiest of days. I feel pumped. I feel like I won. And you know what I want to do when I feel like that? Write more.
So make a small goal, one that you know you can achieve, and make it consistent. Before you know it, the new thing will be a habit, and habits are hard to break.
5. Enjoy the process. It’s not all about the finish line. It’s not even mostly about the finish line. New Year’s resolutions are supposed to be about change, and change is a process. So enjoy the little moments along the way. Enjoy that first finish chapter, or that first page of a short story. Enjoy learning new things about the secrets of elephant trainers. Enjoy the feeling of fingers on keys and your brain on fire. The finish line can wait; enjoy the scenery while you pass.
So get out there and start, people. Knock it out of the park and don’t look back. I’m pulling for you.
*Or you killed yourself to escape from it. Seriously, four day hangovers: not fun.
**Actually, this could be adapted to most anything. But let’s stick with writing on the blog and pretend we’re staying on topic.