New Year, Same Resolutions
There is a subset of people who say, “Why make resolutions on January 1? It’s just an arbitrary date! You can make changes in your life any time of the year.” While I do make goals all year round, I think there’s something nice about using this season to look back on what I’ve accomplished in the past year and what I’d like to do in the upcoming year.
Generally, I have the same “resolution” every year, which is to write more consistently. Since convincing myself to sit down to write is often my biggest roadblock, I’ve spent the last few years refining resolutions that trick me into actually starting to work.
2018 in review
For many years, I’ve tried a version of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” method. (For those unfamiliar, Don’t Break the Chain is a habit tracking method that you can learn about more here.)
Most of these attempts, I’d set a goal to write 500 words a day, which would result in a chain that was between three and eight days long. In 2018, I decided I would Not Break the Chain, but make the behavior so easy that I had no excuse not to do it.
That behavior: write a single sentence every day.
There were, of course, some criteria. My day job is as a magazine writer, and I almost always write more than a sentence every day for work. So in order to check off my daily goal, I decided that the sentence had to pertain to a personal creative endeavor.
Beyond that, I was flexible. One sentence towards a blog post or my current manuscript would of course count. Even a jotted down thought about a future story in my Notes app or a scribbling about a character’s development would result in me X-ing off that day on my chart. “One sentence a day” really became shorthand for “stretch your brain creatively for just a minute or two.”
In addition to the task being so minuscule there was no reason not to do it, I also hoped that once I wrote one sentence, I would have the momentum to write two, then three, and before you knew it I’d have written a thousand words!
Did it work?
I’m gonna be upfront here: I did not write a sentence a day for 365 days in a row. At the end of the year I took an international trip and moved cross-country, and somewhere between the two I stopped faithfully marking down my progress. Overall, I’d estimate that I wrote at least one sentence between 275 and 300 days this year.
Because in the past I’ve often gone weeks or months without working on personal creative projects, I have no hesitation in counting this as a success. When I skipped days, it was usually either because I forgot (not a great excuse), or I was on deadline at the magazines and working incredibly long hours (only a slightly better excuse).
There were also many days where I was really tired or just not feeling creative, but I still pulled out a notebook or a Google Doc and spent two minutes to write for the sake of keeping my chain going.
Like I’d predicted, most days even when it was a struggle to convince myself to start, I usually ended up writing more than one sentence. To be sure, there were certainly days where I jotted down a single phrase then called it a night, but there were just as many days when I was feeling cranky and uncreative and then once I got started that one sentence spun into an entire page or more.
What’s on deck?
For 2019, I want to continue the “one sentence a day” resolution, as well as get back into the habit of keeping track of whether or not I’ve actually completed it.
I also want to take this opportunity to set some larger goals, as well as detail how I’m going to accomplish them.
My biggest goal is to finish the manuscript I started for NaNoWriMo 2018, but to be honest, just stating this makes me cower a little at the work ahead, so I’m going to break it down into smaller parts. Instead, I’m going to resolve to write one chapter a week until my manuscript is finished. By rough estimate, I have about 12 chapters left until the end, so if all goes well I will have a completed draft one within the first quarter of the year.
Beyond that, I’d also love to finish a complete edit of the manuscript by the end of July. Once I have a complete draft, I’ll come back and break that goal into further teeny tiny parts to make it happen.
Other writing goals include writing one blog post per month, a number I set both in the name of consistency and realistic achievability. In order to help that along, I am going to spend some time during this long weekend to generate a list of potential future topics. (If you have anything specific you’d like me to write about, please let me know!)
What are your 2019 writing resolutions? And do you have any tricks for sticking to them? Leave a comment below!