Five Tips for Sustaining a New Year’s Writing Resolution

Five Tips for Sustaining a New Year’s Writing Resolution

Did you know that as many as 40% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but fewer than 8% will actually succeed? While it doesn’t figure in the Top 10 most common resolutions, one of the resolutions I tend to hear from people I meet is “I’m going to get my book written this year!” If this one’s on your list, here are five tips to help you beat the odds and be one of the few who actually succeed in following through. 1. Be Realistic Many people fail because the goals they set themselves are not realistic or achievable. If you’re a first-time author, for example, don’t set yourself up for failure by declaring that you’re going to write your book in the first month of the year. While that may not be impossible (I’ve written books in as little as six weeks), it’s not the best approach for someone who’s never written a book before. Think about what you can reasonably achieve in the time you have available. For example, you might decide to draft one chapter per week, or two per month. Give yourself time to do the best work you can—too much self-imposed pressure can end up stifling your creativity. If you do need to work intensively (perhaps you have a publication deadline to meet, or you have a limited amount of time set aside to focus on your writing), consider scheduling a writing retreat to give yourself the best chance at success (see my series Planning Your Writing Retreat for advice on how to do this). 2. Give Something Up Writing a book is a big commitment. If you’re going to make space for it in your life, chances are you’ll need to stop doing something else. Think seriously about what you’re willing to not do in order to get your book done. Talk to the important people in your life about how they may be able to support you by temporarily picking up responsibilities you need to set aside for the time you’re working on your book. Making a conscious decision about what you’re going to not do is a critical step toward your success. Not only will it free up time and mental bandwidth, but it also makes your commitment more tangible—in your own mind and for those around you. 3. Don’t Try To Go It Alone Unless you’re a very experienced writer and accustomed to working on large, long-term projects, you’ll most likely need support from someone who can keep you on track, hold you accountable, give you feedback, think through the tricky parts with you, and help you organize your time. This could be a friend or “writing buddy”—perhaps you know someone who is...

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Planning Your Writing Retreat Part III: Choosing the Perfect Place

Planning Your Writing Retreat Part III: Choosing the Perfect Place

When you think “writing retreat,” do you dream of a secluded cabin in the woods, miles from anywhere? A beachfront condo on a tropical island? Or perhaps a mountain refuge, high above the world and its distractions? Unfortunately, options like those are not always available to writers, especially those struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their dream of authorship. But the places I described above may also, in fact, not be the most conducive choices. If you’ve decided to set aside some time for a writing retreat (read Part I in this series for more on why this is a good idea), your choice of place is critical. Here are some criteria I’ve found to be helpful in choosing a place for your retreat. Try to find somewhere that: 1. Is removed from your usual routines… This is perhaps the most important criteria when choosing a place for a retreat—ideally, it should be far enough removed from your home/workplace that you won’t be tempted to go pick up your laundry, reorganize your office space, or any of the other easy distractions that surround you at home. If you simply don’t have the option of being away from your home, try to at least designate a space in your home that is free from distractions, turn off phones etc for the times you’re working, and let your friends and family know that for this period of time you are not available in the ways you might normally be. 2. … But is not too far from civilization.  Unless you plan on taking with you and preparing all your own food etc., secluded locations are actually often not the best choice for writing retreats. You’ll end up spending a lot of time dealing with things like grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes, and so on. I like to plan my retreats in places where I can easily get to a selection of good restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores. While I don’t always want to eat out, I want getting meals to be easy and not a source of distraction. 3. Provides a variety of locations for work…  Some people like to work in one place every day. Personally, I find that I need variety—sometimes I need to head to the coffee shop for a change of scene. I’ve found that doing writing retreats in areas where there are several hotels or resorts nearby can be a great option—you don’t have to be staying in these places to go in, use their facilities (food, drinks, wifi), and enjoy working in a beautiful environment. These kinds of places often have big beautiful lobby areas that are perfect for writing. I was once...

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