A Writer’s New Year

New Year’s Resolution. Beneficial or dangerous for writers?

Why do we make goals in accordance with a certain day of the year? The minute we know we want to change things is the minute we should set our gears in motion. Waiting around for a special day is really just another excuse to procrastinate.

And writers are too good at that already.

When I think about all the little goals a writer needs to reach in her career, one new year’s resolution doesn’t cut it. Writers need to be constantly on top of their game, they need to be constantly assessing their position, their progress, their attitude. Setting one or multiple goals once a year isn’t enough.

And yet, if we set ourselves too many goals too often, we will be overwhelmed, anxious, and drained (perfect victims of writer’s block).

Even worse is when we set ourselves the wrong goals, when we miscalculate, or when we simply don’t care enough.

2013 was a strange year for me. I started off with a bang and ended with a whimper. My 2013 resolution was to keep trying. Back then, I was struggling. I was feeling the pressure of failure (again), and I was facing the choice of giving up (again). Yet, I was able to turn that angst around into a fight and by the end of the post I was determined to succeed.

Immediately after reading that post, I wondered, ‘Who the hell was that woman and where did she go?’ It was the tone, the mood of the piece that struck me hard.

Because I don’t feel that fierce or spunky these days.

Rather, I’m numb and my emotions have plateaued. Rejection and disappointment have now become part of the expectation rather than the monster I’m fighting under the bed. I am road-weary.

So, what happened?

I resolved to keep trying. If that doesn’t scream procrastination, I don’t know what does. The problem with this resolution is that it isn’t specific enough. “Keep trying” is a great motivational phrase, but without a detailed strategy of exactly how I’m going to keep trying, then the resolution is nothing but an idea. The wheels may keep turning, but we go absolutely nowhere.

2013 fizzled out on a kind of sour note. And now, I have these pieces from 2013 that I have to either put back together or throw away.

writer puts story together like puzzle pieces

Google images

I have to make a decision. Do I still care enough about this writing gig? What am I going to do in 2014?

Part of me wants to say that I don’t know if I’m going to make a resolution. But that would be another act of procrastination. Been there. Done that.

Instead of a resolution, I’m making a plan. A plan that can grow with me. A plan that is flexible and can be shaped dependent on how Life treats me. A plan that has deadlines and schedules and challenges. A plan that is meaningful, specific, and heartfelt. A plan that will get me places.

Procrastination Station will not be a stop on this revamped journey.

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73 thoughts on “A Writer’s New Year

  1. Great post, Kate. Sums up the place many of us are at when we look back at 2013 and ahead to this year. I guess it’s like a diet. You go on it for a few weeks, lose a few pounds and drift back into the old ways (chocolate) and it fizzles out. Writing needs to be a lifestyle change rather than diet mentality. When it becomes second nature I think you’ve cracked it.

    Happy planning and writing for 2014 :)

  2. Great thoughts, Kate. I’m sorry you lost steam in 2013…but it often takes just as much energy to keep rolling as it does to start, so I don’t think you need to feel let down by the past year. You launched Musefly while still plotting some serious goals for yourself and your family life.
    A friend of mine from school calls her resolutions “revolutions” because it should be a refresh, but I like to think of them as New Year’s evolutions: learning from what’s come before and building from there.
    Here’s to lower procrastination and (more) great achievements in 2014!

    • Hey Mayumi,
      I had some great starts, yes, but they weren’t enough to keep me going. I didn’t really move forward with anything, and when you have so many things to juggle, you quickly grow exhausted from trying. My problem is that every goal I am trying to achieve is linked to my “being published” dream. So, I can’t really give up one goal without it affecting the overall quest. I’ll figure it out; I just know that I have to put things in motion.

  3. Your are so right. I need to sit down and just write down my goals month by month then week by week. In a sense I need to get more organized. I am a huge procrastinator and when I get rejected it’s like everything stops. It stakes weeks to bounce back. But the good new is that I always do. I know that rejection is part of the writing job, but it still sucks! Thanks for this blog!! :)

    • Organization is key, yes! Just this weekend I tidied my desk and I feel rejuvenated every time I walk into my study. If a clean desk can reenergize me, just think what a reorganized life would do!!

      Rejection used to have that same effect on me. Then, I started working on another story and that helped me a lot. It gave me something else to focus on aside from the mounting rejection emails. That doesn’t mean I handle the rejections any better, but when I can write something else I’m reminded why I’m in this gig at all.

      Good luck to you and your endeavors!

  4. I don’t do well with resolutions. However, a plan is something that makes sense to me as that is what I do, Contingency Planning. I did not get as far in 2013 as I wanted so I have created a plan that is flexible enough to allow for emergencies but has a definite deadline for completion that is realistic, attainable, and measurable. So, let’s get our plans in motion, shall we?.

    • Resolutions have this romantic air about them, but I think they tend to be too broad in scope — at least, the ones I make are. The word ‘plan’ is kind of boring, doesn’t really get my juices singing, but I can break down a plan into bite-sized morsels and that might fit my Life better. And I like how you mention the need for a plan to be flexible to allow for emergencies. That alleviates the pressure a bit.

      You’re on, Dennis. Last one is a rotten egg.

  5. I see your new header has a copy of The Sugar Queen in it, which is one of my favorite books from a favorite author. I read an interview that Sarah did, and she said that she wrote for over 10 years before she was finally published and had to fight the urge to quit every single day for that decade.

    That gave me the energy to keep going. If she had quit, what a loss that would have been to all of her readers. What if she had taken a job in a cubicle and sold insurance? So sad!

    I’m so glad you’re forging ahead!

    • OMG, I love The Sugar Queen — all of her books, actually. I’m so excited for Lost Lake to come out in a couple of weeks. :)

      I never read that interview with Sarah, but thank you SOOOO much for sharing it, Jessie. I didn’t know she had written that long before she was published. Knowing how hard she worked and how much she struggled helps to break that feeling of everlasting failure that I’m enduring.

      Goodness, selling insurance!? That would have been a travesty!! :)

      • I know! I went into the library to make sure we had a copy coming, and then I sort of put my name on the top of the list. I’m going to be standing at the librarian’s desk all January until I get Lost Lake in my hot little hands.

        I found that interview again–it’s at the end of my paperback copy of The Girl Who Chased the Moon. I think I might tack a copy of that question to my wall in front of my writing desk!

      • Are you on Goodreads, and do you follow her? Sarah’s been doing some promos with her book — free copy for a random commenter and things like that. I haven’t won yet, but I’m hoping!

  6. I know a few people who have ditched a ‘resolution’ in favor of more achievable goals. Maybe it’s because too often we don’t follow through on our New Year’s resolutions. I believe the best strategy is to do your best (nobody can ask for more than that) and strive for balance in your life. The minute writing stops being fun, pull back and try to remember why you started writing in the first place.( I’ve had to do that several times in the last 10 years, LOL)!

    • Hey Nancy -
      Remembering how and why I started writing does help me get through the doldrums. I don’t know if I assumed I’d be published by now, but I think I saw myself in a more positive place. Writing still brings me joy, especially if I get more than a couple of hours to do it. I still choose to write over going out with my friends, and for a mom who rarely gets to go out, that’s saying something!

  7. Sounds like an exciting writing year ahead! I’m sure you accomplished more than you realize and sometimes it can be a huge accomplishment just to keep trying. I love how the new year can push us into renewing those efforts or figuring out a better way to reach our goals. Wishing you publishing success and happiness in the new year!

    • Thanks, Sheila. I know the two of us have been striving for similar goals this year, and I wish it could have been. But I am grateful that I still want to figure this quest out; I don’t want to abandon the dream. I’ll make it. It’s just a matter of “how.” :)

  8. In order to get anywhere, specificity is required, isn’t it? As you point out, setting vague goals only invites procrastination. But when we assign dates to small goals, it gives us something to work with, something that is not nearly as overwhelming as “I will write a book this year.”

    I hope you find your writing spark if that’s the path on which you’d like to keep trodding. :)

  9. I don’t make resolutions anymore because when I did, I usually failed to keep them. These days, I think of objectives I’d like to meet, which I suspect is much like your plan. I also find it easier to set those objectives around my birthday, which to me has more of a personal feel of “new year” to it than an arbitrary day in the depths of winter. You can see my writing objectives in tomorrow’s post. ;)

    Most importantly, though, I want you to know this. Kate, you are a wonderful writer, and I hope your negative feelings from 2013 can be left in the dust of its passing. The stories of yours that I’ve read are beautifully written with engaging characters and gripping plots. You have the “chops” for writing, of that there is no doubt. I sincerely hope 2014 sees your plan come to fruition, and may the year also be a productive and satisfying one for you.

    • JM, you always know the right thing to say. I appreciate your thoughts, and I do take them to heart. Thank you.

      I like your idea of setting objectives around your birthday — that’s actually so brilliant I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. ;) I definitely want to set something up — short-term goals and more of them, spread out across the year, that will help me move forward. That’s my big objective. To climb to the next level. I’ve been at the same place for too long and I’m getting bored. ;)

  10. I wish you all the best with your plan. I kind of feel like you about one of my jobs and keep wondering if I’m going to keep slogging along and work to improve in it, or give it up because it brings me no enjoyment. I can’t decide yet, but procrastinating about it definitely hasn’t helped me any. I feel for you, but am glad you have a plan to go forward. I need to make a plan and decide where I want to be in a year and see if that job helps me in any way ‘get there.’

    • Thanks, Char. You hit on a key question — does it bring us joy? I think that if your job is no longer bringing you joy then it makes sense to let it go. We don’t have that kind of time or energy to waste. You have helped me get to the basics of my struggle — does writing bring me joy? Yes. Therefore, in my book, it is worth the heartache. I just have to handle it differently, I think.

  11. Kate,

    If it helps at all, you’re editing critique set me off on the right path and helped me achieve one of my goals for last year. It’s no wonder you’ve struggled with your own writing with trying to get these new ventures off the ground.

    Keep at it, and I wish you all the best for 2014 :)

    • Thanks, Darren. I loved reading and helping you with your story — that was easy! :) When it’s easy like that I can justify having it in my life. My own writing suffers when I’m feeling vulnerable in other areas, like life and family and health and money…the list goes on. So, I think with my new “plan” I will figure out a way to make sure my writing isn’t affected as deeply by external forces as it was in 2013. Thanks for the chin up. :)

  12. I guess I like to evaluate the previous year, then try to figure out what I can change or improve. Turns out I have a lot to ponder when it comes to self-confidence and people pleasing. I thought I was getting better, but I guess shifting life roles (ie impending empty nest time) and other changes have left me feeling kind of defeated. I need to focus on tapping into my personal super powers. :) Happy new year–wishing you all the best!

  13. Julie Hedlund, a children’s book writer and blogger, suggests making a list of things you DID achieve in the past year and then name specific steps you’re going to take to build on those achievements in the coming year. I don’t know if you will think that is helpful, though.

    I don’t make resolutions. I have started to use Google Tasks. It stares me in the face every day. And it gives me great pleasure to check the items off. I was pretty low after November’s NaNoWriMo debacle, but I’ve come around since then. I hope you find the strength to continue. Make a plan, and as Anne Lamott recommends, work your plan “bird by bird.” That way, you don’t have to deal with the whole flock at a time. Good luck!

    • I love “Bird by Bird” — I should read it again to pump up my energy and enthusiasm. I think Hedlund’s suggestion makes sense, because I still want to achieve the goals I set for myself. I need to be more specific with my steps.

      I have never used Google Tasks. But I do like the feeling of checking off items that I have completed. I’ll look into it. Thanks, Jilanne!

  14. This is such a great post, Kate, and one that I can relate to. I love that you are making a plan, rather than a resolution. It’s like the difference between having a dream and a goal. Go for it, Kate! Best wishes for a great year.

    • Hey, Naomi. I like your analogy with dream vs. goal. While I think it’s important we all have dreams, we can’t really achieve them because they’re not tangible. When we turn them into goals we subconsciously make steps to help us reach them. Game’s on, Dream! :)

  15. 2013 was a fizzle year for me too, writing-wise. Not writer’s block, but writer’s ennui. I kept looking around for the fire I had in my belly where writing was a must-do for me not a should-do. Life’s ups and downs take us many places. Let’s hold hands while we find our writing mojo together.

    • Hey, Robin. I definitely had to force myself to the study on more than one occasion. And I find that when Life is stressful, my writing takes a beating. I still get up at 4, but I stare and stare at the computer screen. I broke my hard and fast rule about no internet while I write. Things like that. 2014 will be better for both of us, my dear. :)

  16. Kate, keep writing. You are too talented not to. I know well enough how easy it is to doubt myself, maybe I should be doing something else – maybe this maybe that. If I only didn’t have to work so much, etc. That is what sets us apart from the monkeys isn’t it? The ability to rationalize. Despite abysmal failure of my goals in ’13, I’m going to stop making excuses this year and DO!

    • Heya Neeks. As much as I complained in the post about the silliness of our tradition of making resolutions, without that tradition I would still be stuck. At least knowing that I failed in some areas, succeeded in others, helps me to make the changes I need for 2014. However, I need to reassess my situation more than once a year. Maybe quarterly. If I set 3-month goals, I could catch myself before I get too far down the wrong road. Just thinking out loud here, I don’t know if that’s how I’ll do it. :)

      Good luck to you and your goals in 2014!

  17. I don’t make resolutions at the first of the year because I follow the school calendar. It makes more sense for me to make changes in the summer and gradually edge them in, but I defeat myself because I have so much more time in the summer than I do in the school year….I feel guilty about not writing or READING – it takes time to read and think and I feel like I am shorting everything in my life… so it comes down to balance. I do plan to give up a few things in my life that I just can’t give enough time to – but writing and blogging isn’t one of them. Keep at it.

    • Hi Clay,
      Setting goals by the school calendar makes sense. I have two kids, so that would be a viable option for me. Summertime, though, is too busy because my kids are young and at home. I took this summer off from blogging, which helped ease my workload. I still got up at 4 to write, so I didn’t lose the crazy.

      Everything comes down to balance, doesn’t it??? And it takes time to figure out the perfect balance. Every ingredient needs to be measured carefully, and what works once might not work again.

      Thanks for your encouragement. I will keep at it. I got to.

  18. I think one of the reasons for New Year’s resolutions is that we all kind of have that childlike element of us that looks to an authority outside of ourselves – someone else is telling us that this is the time to make resolutions and so we do it!

    As part of my current studying, I read an interesting article which spoke against setting goals. It said that setting goals involves some element of predicting the future, which is impossible, and it’s better to take a problem-solving approach to projects rather than a goal-setting one – I can’t remember all the details, and I only skim read it at the time, but I’m going to dig it out and read it again because for me, I find most goal-setting ends in disappointment and feelings of failure, so if there’s an alternative way of accomplishing things, I’m all ears! Horses for courses and all that.

    Hope this year goes well for you Kate.

    • Hi, Vanessa.

      Oh, I like the idea of a problem-solving approach to projects. I’ll have to turn that over in my mind and see what I can do with that.

      I’m generally okay with goals when they are in my control. That’s the catch with the publishing goal — it’s out of my hands, yet I need to work at it otherwise it really will never happen. At least, by making it a goal I’m giving myself a chance. But I have to change the way I’m going about it, I think. It’s all in the ‘tude. ;)

  19. Hi Kathryn. Great minds think alike. ;)

    I have an author workshop on being a productive part time writer I’ve been working on and one of the major points in it is the importance of setting measurable and attainable goals. We are all guilty of thinking a dream is a goal. But dreams are usually contingent on someone else. Like getting an agent–cool dream. Send out 50 query letters is the goal that may get you there. :)

    I think it’s smart to setting a few big picture goals at New Years for the year. Then coming up with daily/weekly/monthly steps to getting there. :)

    Best of luck with your planning!
    Hugs,
    Kourtney

    • Hey, Kourtney. Precisely — I have to turn my dream into a goal, turn the ‘try’ into ‘do’ and come up with attainable deadlines over the course of the year. Maybe I need to come up with a chart of some sort. Something I can look at in bite-sized pieces as well as the overall picture. That could be very helpful.

      Have fun with your workshop. Wish I could be there!

      • Action plans are great Kathryn. Breaking it down into daily tasks, weekly milestones, and monthly milestones. It’s the only way to get the big picture goals done. One step at a time. :)

  20. Oh, Kate! Believe me, I know how you feel. 2013 was pretty rough for me on the writing front. Sure I finished the first draft of my third book, but I was also carrying around a big bag of disappointment after seeing the teeny tiny sales numbers on my first two books.

    Then, I turned things around because of my love for writing. It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of soul-searching. Once I ditched my obsession, the one where all of my dreams would come true when I could write for a living, I became a lot happier. Do I still have the dream? Yes, and I will never let it go. But for now, I will keep writing and see what happens.

    • Hi, Britt.
      I know that you had a tough time this year, and I remember the things you said over the months regarding your writing and how you’ve had to change courses. I don’t think there is ever an easy answer, or, even, a right answer. The wonderful thing about abandoning a dream like ours is that we can always, always go back and pick it up if we feel like it.

      And I’m glad that you are still writing. That’s important for a writer. ;)

  21. I agree with the other commenters — to me it seems you accomplished so much in 2013, i.e.: launching Musefly, but juggling too many things at once can be exhausting!

    For me the idea of New Year’s resolutions is like turning to a blank page of a journal. So much potential. I could write about anything. It might be the best thing I ever write! Who knows? The page is still blank … until I begin.

    I feel the same about New Years. I’m at the beginning again. I’ve turned the page on last year and what I may not have accomplished. It’s a new year and the page is blank … I hope you are able to write that plan, Kate, and set it in motion.

    You are such a great writer and I look forward to seeing what you create!!! :)

    • I think that New Years’ resolutions have their place in our lives. This year, for me, it was the knowledge that I screwed up my resolution last year, lol! But in all seriousness, without the tradition of making a resolution I never would have known that I needed to change things a bit. So, I am grateful for this tradition. From now on, I will be smarter about it.

      You’re very sweet, Arlene. Thanks for your kind words. :)

  22. Great post, Kate. I’ve also been reviewing what it means to make “resolutions.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one: “I resolved to keep trying… “Keep trying” is a great motivational phrase, but without a detailed strategy of exactly how I’m going to keep trying, then the resolution is nothing but an idea.”

    I always think of Yoda: there is no try, only do or do not. I got in a heated argument with an ex once, because I said I would TRY to do something, and he thought I was letting myself off the hook. He was right.

    I didn’t make a resolution this year, but when my family got together to tell each other one thing we wanted to get out of the year, I said I wanted to have fun. So, I keep reminding myself every day, Hey, you said you wanted to have fun.

    I believe all writers or artists have crises of faith. I’ve been there. Once when I was really down, sick of rejections and rejections and rejections, I told another writer friend that I was giving up. She said, Really, then what would you do?

    Good point. I couldn’t really NOT write, so I had to keep swimming.

    Happy New Year!

    • Wise is Yoda. :)

      At the time, trying was really all I could manage, so I won’t beat myself up. Too much. But as the year progressed I would have fared better if I had tightened up my goals and given myself something more concrete. At least, now I know. 2014 will be more productive.

      Wise is your friend, too. ;)

      • I resolved to stop beating myself up over anything, too. What’s the point? The thing didn’t get done and now I’m adding pain and guilt on top of the thing not getting done?

        But I agree about concrete. It’s one of the issues I have with “doing” social media. Well, what does that mean? I have very little social media plan, I just sort of float around in it. That’s something I’d like to get more concrete about.

      • I totally hear you about social media. I do okay with the blogging because it is so interactive. But the other venues bore me, frankly. I’ll go to a bar with my writing pals any day of the week over tweeting 140 character stories. :)

  23. It seems as though resolutions are merely wolves in sheep’s clothing. You’re right about all of the hype that leads up to them and that intensity to perfect can be quite daunting to us flawed and imperfect humans. Mathair and I try to do the same as you and set attainable goals. Things like ‘keep trying’ or one of our infamous ones ‘try harder’ don’t confine our efforts into failures and allow us to rise to the challenge rather than fear the inevitable.

    • I think ‘to try’ is a great start. In fact, before we do anything, we have to try to do it first, right? So, if we’re going to try something, great, but let’s follow up with a more concrete goal, one that gets us into the heat of things. Good luck to you both in 2014 as your reach your goals. :)

  24. I am glad you are not giving up. A friend once got very tired of me, put a pencil down on a table, and said, “Try to pick up that pencil.” I picked it up and he said (a little snarly), “I didn’t say to DO it; I said to TRY to pick up that pencil. TRY never does anything.”
    While I only technically agree with him, I will give him that, in my case, I used “try” to get around doing. I have since learned that while trying may not do anything, it is when you give up and stop trying that you normally fail.
    Don’t quit – you will persevere. I see a lot of you in me and me in you.
    Scott

    • Your friend didn’t let you off the hook. Good friend. And I agree that failure occurs when we stop trying. As I mentioned above to Inion N. Mathair, trying is the first step to doing. As long as we don’t get stuck there, and we move forward, there is nothing wrong with trying. That’s what I have to remember as I take 2014 by storm.

      Thanks, Scott. I am flattered. :)

  25. I like the idea of a plan that can grow with you, that’s flexible, rather than a resolution. That makes a lot of sense. My year always feels like it starts in the Spring rather than now in the dead of Winter so in the Spring I always remind myself that it’s a period of renewal and that gets my creative juices flowing once again.

    • I have that feeling about spring, too. It is a great time of year to feel rejuvenated and to use that to your advantage. Plus, it’s not that dark at 4am in the spring which makes it a lot easier to get up! ;)

  26. What was it with 2013? I had a dreadful year and so did everyone I know (I like to stay positive, but it was really hard last year). 2014 will be better – it has to be :D

  27. Truthfully, this is exactly why I’ve never been into resolutions. That feeling of failure at the end of the year. Don’t worry, my year was a total fizzer – you’re not alone. But nothing is wasted. It’s teaching us to get specific with our plans. Besides, 2014 has a much better ring to it, don’t you think? ;)

    • I have never had a fondness for the number ’13′, but I try not to give in to superstitions. I don’t know. 2013 was a crummy year on many fronts. I agree that 2014 has a better ring to it!

  28. I’ve never liked the idea of new year’s resolutions. The whole exercise is a bit silly to me. Bandwagony or showy or something. Very off-putting. To me, it makes more sense to set, work toward, and meet goals on an on-going basis. Sitting down and coming up with a list of things at the end of one year is like a set-up for a list of impossible things, being overwhelmed, poor planning, and all kinds of other horrible stuff.

    I keep my writing goals separate from everything else. I try to evaluate things on a monthly basis. I make sure my goals make sense and are SMART. Honestly, I think you were on the right track with “keep trying” but just needed to take it a bit further. HOW would you keep trying? Submitting to 5 agents per week? Entering one contest per year? I found that giving myself minimums like that really helped and drove everything else (writing, editing, polishing).

    • Yes, I really did need to take it a bit further. I think that this year I will be much more specific and detailed with my goals, and then give myself actual deadlines that I mark out on a calendar. Trouble is that when we do these things by ourselves, with no one else to really keep us honest, it’s very easy to ‘cheat’ or to get lazy or to make excuses. I have yet to figure out my way around that issue!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  29. Perfect Post for us writers, Kate!! And boy did I need this. I’m sure my biggest problem with everything in my life has been the same monster hiding under MY bed since birth. Procrastination!! And there it is. See why I said perfect post? I needed this Blog-kick in the a** but good! And your right. When you think about it, it’s hysterical that we wait one day out of the year to make these goals & think somehow this one day will be different than the others throughout the year. I find that when I make goals any time, I’m fired up, but fizzle out when overwhelmed, sidetracked or just plain tired. As you mentioned. The woman that started the journey is a completely different gal than the one whose sitting on the curb & whining….”Can I go back home now?” Mathair & I try to change the type of goals from large unreachable ones to small & doable and increments that make up the whole of our goal. Perhaps unadventurous but a far better ending than the big ones. Procrastination Station~ Ha I love this!! Life has a way of making a joke out of your big plans but like you, we will dig in, grab a hold of that procrastinator inside us & shake them loose, then take off. Here’s hoping we can stick to our goals!!

    • Glad you liked the post! Ever since writing it I have felt a tremendous burden lift off my shoulders. It as though I accepted my failure, but have also found a better method. I don’t think I’ll be worrying about New Years’ resolutions again, but I will be working harder at making smaller goals that are concrete and reachable. Good luck to you with your goals this year!

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