From December 31 to January 1 is a just a flip of the calendar page from one day to the next. Nothing more. But there’s something about hanging a fresh, new calendar on the wall (pressing the forward button on your electronic calendar) — something about the number 1 — something about the end of one year and the beginning of the next that invites us to take stock of where we are and where we want to go.
A new year invites new or renewed hopes and dreams and goals. Perhaps that’s why making New Year’s resolutions is such a persistent tradition. But resolutions rarely work. I believe that’s because resolutions focus on negatives and hard lines: stopping something (smoking, eating, drinking, arguing) or beginning something you find distasteful (dieting, exercising, getting up early, sleeping more).
Think about it:
- Resolutions focus on the negative: Goals focus on the positive.
- Resolutions are behaviors or actions you do or don’t do: Goals represent a series of actions that lead to accomplishment.
- Resolutions leave you where you started: Goals take you someplace new.
- Resolutions are inflexible: Goals are dynamic, fluid, and flexible.
- Resolutions are depressing: Goals are inspiring.
- A Resolution is black and white, it does or it doesn’t happen: A goal is like a destination city you’ve always dreamed of visiting — a destination so special you set aside the time, energy, and money to get there — and you don’t commit to more travel than you can afford.
So this year, instead of making writing resolutions — those win-fail propositions (“I will write 30 minutes every day!”) — why not create a few attainable, sustainable goals?
- Keep it simple, the simpler the better. Choose no more than three writing goals for the coming year.
- Goals should be significant to you and encapsulate your personal values. For example, your goals might include establishing an online presence (values: success, community, control), learning new writing skills or starting a writing program (values: learning, education, success, personal growth), or publishing an article in a local newspaper or magazine (values: recognition, success, money, confidence).
- To know whether or not you’ve reached a goal, it needs to be specific and measurable. For example, to publish one personal essay or to complete your memoir.
- For each goal, brainstorm a series of steps you need to take to reach it. For example, if my goal is to publish one personal essay or article, my steps might include (not necessarily in this order):
- writing the article
- getting feedback from trusted readers
- revising/editing the article
- making a list of potential magazines, anthologies, journals and other publications that would be a good fit for my piece
- studying the publications’ submission requirements
- Create a general timeline. If you’re going to accomplish this goal by the end of the year, when do you need to have each step accomplished? Can some be done simultaneously? What can you do today or tomorrow?
- Remember that goals are dynamic and can change as your life shifts. You may decide to add taking an online class on editing to help you polish that essay. Revisit your goals and steps often, and revise as necessary.
- Finally, celebrate each step along the path to accomplishing your goals!
What do you dream of accomplishing as a writer this year?
Inspire us by sharing your writing goals here (leave a comment).
Original image by: Karen White