I don’t believe in making New Year’s Resolutions. The term comes with too much baggage and that impending sense of doom, the secret suspicion that you’ll forget all about your resolutions by Valentine’s Day. Plus “resolve” is such a stern sounding word. For me it brings to mind a grey-faced Puritan pounding on the pulpit, warning parishioners against the dangers of frivolity. We must resolve to be better, to be different, to be something other than what we have been in all those previous years. But that belittles our previous efforts, despite the fact that they’ve brought us this far.
Instead of resolutions, I’m a fan of aspirations. I think about what I’ve achieved the previous year, where I might have done better, and I come up with a set of goals for the year to come. No deadlines, no huge looming personal threats, just things I’d like to work toward. Generally these are things I can break up by month or quarter, so I can make progress toward smaller chunks of my goal. That way, if I don’t quite manage to achieve the final result during 2013, I can still point to all the progress I’ve made along the way. For instance, saving $6,000 sounds much more difficult than saving $500 a month. Maybe some months I’ll only manage $400 or $300. Maybe by year’s end I’ll come up a little bit short. But if I save $5,500 by the end of the year, that hardly seems like a failed resolution to me; it’s $5,500 that I didn’t have before, and very close to my ultimate goal.
This works the same way with writing. Where do you aspire to take your writing in the next year? Do you have a word goal in mind? A professional aspiration, such as finding an agent or publication? Break it down into steps. What tasks are required to work you toward that goal? Can you do one thing a month? One a week?
If you want to write 250,000 words in 2013, that’s less than 700 words a day. But if you know some times of the year are busier for you, work out your goals on your calendar to match your schedule. Put in more writing time when things are slow, so you can afford to take a family vacation in June and not worry about hitting your daily goals.
If you want to get an agent, first determine if your writing is ready to submit. Do you have a finished manuscript? Has it been revised to the best of your ability? Perhaps January’s goal will be a final look; February could be for researching agents and prioritizing who you’d like to work with; March might be writing your query letter and synopsis, and revising them; April wave one of sending your queries. You get the idea.
Published writers are often tied to a set schedule due to deadline commitments, but that can make it even easier to determine when you might have a little time to work on a new idea. Work out when you need to write or edit contracted projects, and if your schedule allows, slip some smaller, goal-oriented projects into the slower months. Maybe you’d like to experiment in a different genre — difficult if you’re building a readership for a certain type of novel, but very doable if you play with short fiction on the side. Perhaps you’d like to use that extra time for a new marketing campaign or to create extras for your devoted readers to find on your website. Whatever your goal, break it into smaller segments and work it into your existing commitments so you won’t feel pressured or overwhelmed.
Those writers who participated in my December Writing Challenge discovered what many other writers already know: You can almost always slip a few minutes of writing time into your day. Keep this in mind when you’re determining your aspirations for 2013. Virtually any goal is attainable if you chip away at it bit by bit.
So what do you aspire to for this new year? Where would you like to take your writing in 2013? I hope to keep you all inspired in the months to come. Happy writing!