New year’s resolutions tend to get a bad rap. Most people focus on what they didn’t achieve, and it’s pretty rare to hear anyone talk about actually accomplishing what they set out to do on January first. However, setting goals for the coming months is still a popular tradition, including for practiced and aspiring writers.
I’m a big proponent of writing goals. Having a specific achievement to strive towards is proven to inspire action and help you get things done, and new year’s resolutions are the perfect opportunity outline yours.
In this post, I’ll discuss a bit more about why writing goals are important and how they can help you succeed at your craft. Then I’ll share nine new year’s resolutions for writers you might want to consider. Let’s get right to it!
How Setting a New Year’s Resolution Can Help Improve Your Writing Practice
While some may consider them cheesy or pointless, the idea behind new year’s resolutions is a sound one. Creating goals for yourself is a tried and true tip for getting things done – if you do it right.
The two biggest reasons new year’s resolutions fail are because people attempt to take on too many of them at once, and because the goals they’ve set are too vague. Avoiding these pitfalls can help you succeed where 90% of people fail.
Behavioral science shows there are several practices that improve the likelihood you’ll follow through on your big plans for the new year, including:
- Making SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goals
- Writing your resolution down
- Sharing your resolution with a friend
- Tracking your progress
- Celebrating small milestones
New year’s resolutions for writers are all about changing your writing habits in order to reach a desired outcome for your work. When you set yourself up for success, they can do just that and help you finally finish that draft, publish that article, or nail down your regular writing routine.
The craft of writing is one that requires huge amounts of discipline and internal motivation. Concrete goals like well-thought-out new year’s resolutions can provide the fuel you need to make it through another year as a writer.
9 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers
Deciding you want to improve your writing habits by setting a new year’s resolution is one thing. Coming up with a concrete writing-related goal is another, especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re looking for some ideas, here are nine you might consider.
1. Set a Daily Word Count Goal
A popular way for many writers to maintain their regular practice is to set a daily word count goal. If you feel like you’re in a writing slump or that you’re not practicing your craft enough, this can be an excellent way to kickstart a good habit this year.
If you decide to tackle this new year’s resolution for writers, make sure to choose a specific daily word count you want to reach. It’s also wise to keep it relatively small – start with just 100 words. You can always increase that amount over time if it starts to feel too easy.
Having a writing group that meets regularly can also help you fulfill your resolution to write consistently. With others to hold you accountable and encourage your progress, you’re more likely to keep it up.
Remember to track your progress as well. Scrivener has a built-in goal tracking feature, and shows your word count per writing session. Being able to see how much you’ve accomplished can help motivate you to continue.
2. Write for a Specific Length of Time Every Day
While daily word count goals are a popular fixture in many writer’s routines, they aren’t for everyone. Some – myself included – have found it much more effective to write for a specific length of time each day.
Like setting a daily word count goal, it’s important that your proposed writing time is within your reach. If you only have 30 minutes each morning to write, don’t try to dedicate yourself to three hours. You’ll only get frustrated.
A writing group is an excellent motivator for achieving this resolution as well. Particularly if your meetings include time to write together, you can easily knock out your 30 minute commitment that day.
3. Submit Your Work to a Favorite Publication, Editor, or Agent
If you’re anything like me, you dread submitting your work. Turning over your writing to be criticized and judged by others is pretty terrifying.
Setting a goal to submit an article, essay, short story, poem, or whatever you write can help you bite the bullet and get it done. To make your goal specific, consider narrowing down this resolution to a favorite journal or magazine, or your dream editor or agent.
Note that this new year’s resolution for writers isn’t about publishing your piece, just submitting it. If your work gets picked up in the process, that’s great! But setting a goal when you can’t control the results could make it difficult to achieve.
4. Submit a Certain Number of Pieces for Publication
To a certain extent, publishing is about the volume of work you send out. Magazines, journals, and presses are inundated with pieces, and acceptance rates are often tiny as a result.
The more pieces you send out, the more likely it is you’ll find a home for your story. Setting a new year’s resolution to achieve a certain number of submissions works in your favor if you’re trying to finally get your name in a byline.
5. Read a Specific Number of Books
Reading widely is key to becoming a successful writer. Even though this new year’s resolution doesn’t involve putting pen to page, it can still help improve your writing practice.
One way to track your progress towards your reading goal is to join the Goodreads Reading Challenge. You can input the number of books you want to complete and add titles you’ve read to your shelves throughout the year.
6. Finish a Current Work in Progress
How many abandoned novels, short stories, or even fanfiction pieces do you have cluttering your desktop right now? When it comes to new year’s resolutions for writers, finishing a work in progress is one we could all benefit from.
If this is a goal you’re going to pursue, make sure you define what “finished” means to you. Is it completing a draft? Submitting your work? Getting it published?
Plus, remember that your resolution should be something you can realistically achieve by the end of the year. Making it through four drafts of your novel-in-progress and sending queries to agents may not fit that timeline (or maybe you’re a fast writer and it does, in which case, more power to you).
7. Participate in a Writing Challenge
Writing challenges can be a fun way to get words on the page and make progress on your work. If having concrete goals is a strong motivator for you, this could be an exceptional new year’s resolution to take on.
You can find writing challenges all across the web. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is one of the most popular and well known, but there are many more you can tackle throughout the year as well.
If this is a goal you choose to pursue, consider connecting with other participants. You can help encourage each other and hold one another accountable for completing the challenge.
8. Start a Daily Journal
I consider this new year’s resolution as different from setting a daily word count or writing time goal, although it could be part of one of those practices if you want it to be.
Journaling is such a personal experience, and I think everyone does it differently and for their own reasons. Some writers make notes on their daily activities for future reference when crafting memoir or autobiography. Others stand by the traditional “morning pages” practice, or like to outline their work by hand.
There are also those who use gratitude journals, bullet journals, and all kinds of other journals. Setting a new year’s resolution to start a daily journal can involve however big or small a commitment you want it to.
What’s important is that you’re writing something, even if it’s not narrative or even in full sentences.
9. Complete a Daily Writing Prompt
New year’s resolutions for writers like reaching a daily word count goal or writing for a specified amount of time every day can be hard if you don’t know what to write about. Daily writing prompts may be a better solution for you.
This could be a fun challenge to take with a friend. Anyone can follow a writing prompt, even if you’re not an experienced or skilled writer, so this resolution is perfect for anyone who wants to write more, regardless of skill level.
Setting new year’s resolutions and sticking to them is hard. For writers, however, they can also present an opportunity grow your practice and achieve your literary goals.
I shared nine new year’s resolutions for writers in this post. Some will help you build a regular writing habit, and others will help you on the path to publication or to brainstorming new ideas.
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.