After Christmassy indulgences and as the new year approaches, many of us will be thinking of ways we could better ourselves in the new year – whether it’s a charity donation or a gym membership, or something a bit more unusual. The writing resolution is nothing new – whether it’s to spend more hours per week writing, or finally finish that novel, or send more work out to literary magazines. All of these goals are admirable and will no doubt enable us to work towards writing and publishing more, but they can feel punishing and exacting if we can’t keep up with them. Below are a few tips for setting realistic goals that will set you in good stead for the year ahead.
SMARTT is something I first came across in a job interview circa 2007. It stands for ‘specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, targeted and timeframed’ which sounds like business jargon, and for that reason something it’s something I’d ordinarily shy away from. However, when you break it down, these elements are really helpful in not only setting yourself goals but also in measuring whether you’ve achieved them come December 31st!
Pick something you can stick to
I think this might be common sense, but just in case your writing resolution is to get up at 4am every day and write for three hours before taking the kids to school and going to your full-time job, I’d recommend picking something a bit less punishing. There’s nothing wrong with getting an early night and an early start when you feel like it, but expecting yourself to do this every day is probably going to make you hate writing more than you like it. You could try doing this twice a week. You could try and find half an hour every day. Pick something you’re going to be happy doing even on bad days when you don’t really feel like it.
Don’t beat yourself up
This might be a secondary part of the point above, but remember that everyone has good days and bad days, and that life is always going to be there to get in the way of your writing, whether it’s health worries, heartbreak or a broken boiler. It’s OK to have a day off if you don’t feel like it. Similarly, if you feel like you’ve been writing rubbish every day for a fortnight, remember that it’s often necessary to write the bad before you can write the good, and maybe have a day off or read something inspiring instead until the ideas start flowing.
One of the beauties of writing is that you can do it almost anywhere – on the sofa, in a café, on the train to work. Before you start your resolution, think about where this writing is going to take place. If it’s on a desk that’s currently creaking under a heap of papers, or in a box room full of, well, boxes, then perhaps you need to get it cleared out ready for your writing to begin! If you think the mess will distract you, then perhaps the writing can take place at a local café where the music is quiet and the coffee is particularly delicious.
It has been proven that sharing your resolutions, or working with others, helps you to maintain motivation. Apparently this is one of the reasons that Alcoholics Anonymous works so well – because you have committed, in front of other people, to a particular goal. So tell a friend about what you’re doing, and get them to ask you once in a while how it’s going. Or find another writer or group of writers that you can ‘buddy up’ with and create a support network to keep your resolutions going. That way if you struggle you’ll have someone to talk to about it, and someone who can help inspire you to get back on course.