How to smash your 2019 writing resolution

So – you’re committed. Your New Year’s resolution is to write. But whether you want to kickstart your blog, finish that manuscript or get that burning idea out of your head – you need a plan. After all, you won’t want your 2019 writing resolution to go the same way as 92% of other resolutions (ie. the wrong way). So, here’s our practical, 9-step guide to making sure your writing resolution sticks in January – and beyond. 

#1: Have writing goal and make it specific and simple

The first step toward achieving your 2019 writing resolution is to give yourself a target to hit – and make it as measurable as you can.

Setting out with only a vague and woolly idea of what you want to write about this January will only ever lead to vague and woolly outcomes.

Depending on what you’re writing, commit to writing a certain amount, a chapter or number of blogs over a period of time.

Perhaps you’d prefer to set a word count deadline each week or month – or write for a set amount of time each week. What goal you set is up to you but whatever it is make it as specific and measurable as you can.

Also, when you’re thinking about your goal, keep it simple. For example, if you set a goal that you’ll always write on your day off, it becomes crystal clear when you’ve missed that goal – or hit it.

If you’re not sure about how many words or chapters you want to complete, don’t worry – just start somewhere and change your goal if it doesn’t work.

Related reads: How to set the perfect writing goal (and avoid the approaches that fail) >>

#2: Give yourself stakes and consequences

If you’re all a bit meh about whether you’ll reach your goal or not – if you feel it’s just something you really should do – then you’ll never find the motivation to continue. You need to give your goal some stakes and consequences.

And one way to do this is to use a trick from neuroscience and project yourself into the future.

Ask yourself this: How will meeting your writing goal improve your life over the coming year?

Try to write as many benefits as you can. Try to make a list of 50 – yes 50 – good things that happen as a result of you smashing your writing resolution. Will you get a better job? Will you be creatively more fulfilled? Will you earn more money?

Thinking through the benefits in this way also has the side-effect of releasing brain chemicals like dopamine which actually make you feel happier. So, think big!

Related reads: How to visualise your writing goals and dreams >>

Related reads: How to harness your writing brain’s hedonic hotspots >> 

#3. Approach your writing resolution in small steps

It’s great to be ambitious but taking on too much too quickly is likely to lead you to feel overwhelmed – and that means you might grind to a halt.

Research from neuroscience says that we react to a large writing goal like ‘write a book’ in the same way we might react to any threat – we run away and hide!

So, when you’re starting out on your new year goal, approach it slowly and incrementally.

Rather than overwhelm yourself with a huge and massively ambitious writing resolution target, start with a small step – just stay focused on the next action that you need to take to move your project forwards.

Related reads: Why ‘just get it written’ is rubbish writing advice and tiny steps work >> 

#4: Schedule your time using the traffic light method

Too many people say their writing is really important to them – but then fail to put time aside to write.

Scheduling isn’t a sexy topic but it works because when you plan in time in advance you’re readying yourself for the writing session to come – and you reduce the stress that comes along with ‘trying to find the time’ to write. So, try this:

  1. Go through your diary and book out all the times when you definitely can’t write; when you’re asleep, at work or with family. These are your red times, ignore them.
  2. Now, look for the times you might be able to do some writing-related tasks – editing, thinking or note taking . These slots are your amber times. They won’t be ideal but you can get some work done.
  3. Lastly, look for the slots in your diary you definitely can write. These are green-to-go times – protect them at all costs.

Related reads: Why time blocking works for writers – investigating the science >>

How to smash your 2019 writing resolution

#5. Get a ‘when-then’ plan

A when-then plan is a simple technique you can use to make writing more routine-like – and less stressful.

First, think of an action you take every day without much thought. It’s crucial that it’s a regular, everyday activity and it’s something you quite like doing like going to the gym; taking the dog for a walk; returning home to a quiet house.

Now, make one or more of those activities you take without doing much thought the trigger for your next writing session – using this ‘when-then’ formulation:

  • When I get home from the school run, then I’ll do 30 minutes of writing.
  • When I have my first coffee of the day, then I’ll write 500 words of my article.
  • When I get back from my run, then I’ll spend 45 mins on my report.

Related read: The persuasive power of ‘when-then’ planning to make you a more productive writer >>

#6: Monitor progress towards your writing resolution goal

If you don’t log your writing progress in some way, how will you ever know whether you’re any closer to reaching your writing resolution?

Tracking or monitoring your progress doesn’t need to be complicated – start off super simple using your calendar or diary to log the days you write for – or how long you write or you can use a tool like Prolifiko – sign up free here.

Also, you might find that when you start logging your progress you start to see patterns in your writing – it’s also a good idea to ask ‘what went well and what didn’t go so well?’ at the end of each session so you start to learn over time.

Looking back and seeing how far you’ve come gives you great motivation to continue too.

Related reads: The planning fallacy: Why you miss your deadlines and how you can stop >>

#7: Share your goal

Okay, so you’ve named your writing project and committed to writing something achievable and measurable from January – fantastic!

One way to keep you on track and moving forwards is to go public – both with your project and your deadline.

Of course, you can make a commitment to yourself but you’ll never hold yourself to account in the way that friends, family or colleagues will.

It might feel painful but if it’s right for you, telling other people is one of the best methods you can use to stay accountable and on course – you might be surprised at how supportive and interested others are!

Related reads: Writing accountability: how other people help you achieve your goals >>

#8: Experiment, change and adjust

Never feel ashamed of altering your writing resolution goal along the way.

When you’re starting to write it’s so important that you don’t doggedly stick to a writing routine or goal that’s not working for you.

You don’t always know which of your writing goals will work so key to developing an effective routine is playing around with your goals.

Remember that nothing is set in stone so adjust the goal or change the deadline if it’s not working for you. This isn’t about giving yourself an easy ride, but rather, experimenting to find out what really works.

Related reads: Writing routines: why systems beat willpower every time >>

#9: Don’t be too tough on yourself

Writing is fulfilling, frustrating and fascinating – but it’s rarely easy.

We see that too many writers turn writing into a grind – churning out the words day after day without stopping and celebrating their achievements.

Rewards and writing ‘power-ups’ are important to help people feel motivated. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a series of small treats each day or week you’ve worked on your project or a bigger celebration for every creative goal you achieve.

Use writing rewards as a psychological pick-me-up when you’ve achieved a milestone – or just had a good day.

Well done – you deserve it!

Related reads: How to keep writing using rewards and people pressure >>

About the author: Co-founder and writer in residence at Prolifiko | failed academic and ex-philosophy lecturer | maker of unpopular short comedy films.