Did I grab your attention with that title? I hope so. Too many of us, whether the intention is to write more or lose weight, the allure of starting fresh with a New Year’s resolution is very seductive. We tell ourselves that we will get back on track, especially considering how the holidays tend to derail everything in our lives for several weeks. It’s a promise we make to ourselves that most of us inevitably have to break. Why does this matter for us writers?
Well, like any habit we struggle to be consistent with that takes the dedication and will-power it’s far too easy to fall off the wagon. Then we’re left feeling like failures, and if you’ve been following along that kind of hit to our self-esteem makes for a poor environment for maintaining a writing habit. Once the negative thoughts set in it’s hard to turn them around and if you’ve started and failed a writing habit before it’s just one more example your psyche can hold against you later when you sit down to face that blank screen or page. For those of with ADHD, we have more than our share of tried and failed projects, we really don't need to add to that.
All Or NothingResolutions are a terrible idea because it creates this idea, whether we’re conscious of it or not, of all or nothing thinking. We make a vow to stick with something and life happens, it happens to all of us, you get thrown off course, and then you feel like you blew your one chance at “starting fresh for the New Year.” It gives you an excuse to hide from your aspirations under the false notion that you don’t have what it takes to be a “real” writer.
Set Intentions InsteadRather than the pass or fail set up of a resolution I prefer to set an intention. An intention can’t be something you “break” by merely missing a day or week or month of writing. An intention is more flexible and more forgiving. When you get off course, you can just revisit your intent and get back at it. However, you want to set an intention is up to you. Some people have great luck creating a vision board, some hang notes in their office or on a bulletin board, whatever works for you. Keep it loose and general rather than rigid and overly-specific. If you tell yourself you're going to be published by the end of the year that's both too vague and specific to be of any help. Instead set an intent to simply write more or write at least once every week. Something you can easily accomplish and will give you a sense of accomplishment. My intention is to get back to writing at least three times a week like I was before the holidays hit.
Be Kind To YourselfI’ve done the resolution thing in the past, so I know first hand how bad it feels not even to be able to go a week without messing it up. And it took me many times of trying and failing to realize that it’s not just me that’s to blame. The holidays are a stressful, busy time and all that nonsense doesn’t just magically end when the ball drops. We’re still playing catch-up from everything we had to put off to do to get ready for the holidays. Some still have holiday parties to attend that couldn’t all be crammed in before the end of the year. And some of us need much-needed couch time to veg and escape. There’s no reason to pile another load of stress to your already strained life even for a noble cause like re-starting your writing habit. Give yourself a chance to regroup after the holidays and lay off the guilt trip you’re giving yourself.
Ease Back Into It Slowly
Maybe you’ve been going strong as a writer right before the holidays hit, but you haven’t written a word except to sign “To/From” on a few packages. Or maybe you were gearing up to recommit or even start up a new writing habit but were knocked off course by the holidays. That is all totally fine. (By the way, if you managed to maintain a writing habit during the holidays, even a sparse one, big congrats to you!) Now that the holidays are winding down and after you’ve given yourself an adequate breather, ease yourself back into a writing habit slowly rather than trying to hit the ground running with it. I have said many times that stress and self-pressure are the creativity killers, so there is no need to go at it guns-blazing to get back into your writing. You may have to start very slowly. You may have to start all over again (see How To Restart A Writing Habit, if you do) and there’s no shame in that.
The only person that you need to be accountable to with your writing is yourself. You have the power to make yourself feel good about your writing or make it something dreadful that you want to run away from, so break those resoltions now, if you made them, and set an intention instead.
Good luck and keep writing!