Tips and Tricks

Achievable New Year’s Writing Resolutions

Well, bookwyrms, it’s another new year again! I know the last few have been particularly trying, but, at the risk of jinxing it, I remain cautiously optimistic about 2022. And that’s because I’ve learned how to make stronger new year’s resolutions that, while they won’t necessarily make the world less crazy, do help me become less crazy.

A while back, I attended an online lecture by Brandon Sanderson, during which he made a harsh but true claim: it won’t do you any good to make yourself promises that you can’t keep. (I’m paraphrasing, of course, seeing as how the lecture was a while ago.) It’s so easy for us as writers to make new year’s resolutions like, “I’ll publish a book this year!” or “I’ll triple my bookstagram following!” We want to set our sights high, and then we get discouraged when we fall short.

It’s easy enough to make these big promises, but resolutions like these aren’t really in our ability to keep. I can tell myself that I’ll publish a book this year, but if we’re talking traditional publishing, it’s not entirely up to me. First, the story has to be plucked from the slush pile, then an agent has to believe in it, then the agent needs to convince others to believe in it, and on and on and on. Sanderson admitted in his lecture that a lot of the publishing industry comes down to luck. Same with something like social media: I can do all I can to get my name out there to a certain number of people, but it’s up to those people themselves to be interested.

The problem with this is that it’s so easy to get discouraged or even fall into despair. That’s not to say that, “If I can’t publish this book, it isn’t MY fault.” No, I’ve still got to write the thing and then revise the thing and then polish the thing and on and on…it’s a lot of work on my part. But promising myself to get a book published when so much of that depends on other people and outside events that I can’t control — well, that’s just setting myself up to be disappointed.

Instead, it’s far more productive to make small writing resolutions that 1) I know I can keep if I try, and 2) I know it’s within my power to keep if I try. Maybe I won’t promise myself to become the most popular new author this year. Maybe instead, I’ll promise to carve out 10 extra minutes a day to write. Or maybe I’ll dedicate those writing sessions to better focus. Maybe I’ll promise to make each passage, each story, better than the last. All of those things are absolutely something that I can do. And they’re something you can do as well.

It’s important to aim high with your goals and shoot for the stars. But we all know that joke about the New Year’s gym membership that gets ignored come February…if it even makes it that far. A brand-new year can be scary when we look down and realize just how far we can fall short of the goals we want to achieve or the people we want to become. In that case, it’s comforting to know that you’ve done similar things before.

Look back on the previous year. Sure, 2021 was another dark time; the coronavirus is still keeping us indoors, and there’s plenty of sadness to go around. But take a look inward. Instead of focusing on the world and how crazy it seems to be, look at your own life and what you’ve accomplished.

Here’s a short list of my highlights from 2021. These aren’t necessarily things that happened to me, but things that I worked toward, things that I made happen for myself. To me, that means I can make similar things happen again.

  • I moved to a new city and became independent for pretty much the first time ever. I’m having a blast exploring my new city and making my new place a home. (Plus, my roommate is literally the best!)
  • I adopted a crazy but beautiful (and funny) cat named Pika. She causes a lot of trouble — I can’t count how many times she’s tried to climb up our Christmas tree and broken several branches — but she’s my little feisty furball and I’m glad I was able to make her part of my family.
  • I found a stable in-person job that isn’t far away from where I live.

And if we’re talking about writing goals, here are a few more.

  • I completed my second year at the Rainier Writing Workshop and moved into my thesis year. I continue to learn so, so much from the program that I can feel myself becoming a stronger writer as time goes on. My fellow students, my mentors, and the RWW faculty and staff are extremely supportive, and I’m glad that I’m able to keep up with such amazing writers.
  • I submitted a short story to Night Picnic Press, which was accepted and will appear in the next issue in February this year. Since publication like this hinges on other people believing in my work, this success isn’t necessarily about the publication itself (though I’m very happy that’s how it worked out), but rather about two smaller, more personal goals that I achieved: 1) Commit to writing a better story, each time, and 2) Don’t give up on submissions.

With these successes in mind, I can look forward to 2022, not necessarily with just hope, but with surety: I can and will achieve things like this again. And you will too. I encourage every writer to make a list of their accomplishments from this year, no matter how small they may seem. If you consider them accomplishments, then they are important to you, so don’t discount them. With them in mind, you can be certain that 2022 will be a good year. We can make it a good year.

And so, in the spirit of the New Year, here is a list of personal writing goals of my own.

  • I will recommit to making each story better than the last, ensuring that I continue growing as a writer.
  • I will continue submissions and will not give up on sharing my work with others.
  • I will write more of what I want to read and experience, rather than worrying about if it’s good or not (first drafts are never good). If I can’t make it work, then at least I had fun; if I can make it work, then that’s the cherry on top!

What are your New Year’s writing resolutions? What are the smaller, more personal and more achievable successes that you’re shooting for in 2022? They may seem like little steps on the long journey, but every little step counts. Happy New Year, bookwyrms! I believe in you.

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash