Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Looking Backward and Forward

New Year Resolutions; you've probably made and broken more than you can remember. They are usually about stopping something - you will not eat sweets or you will give up smoking - and when three weeks into January you break your promises, you chastise yourself and give up.

Sometimes your resolutions will be positive, but often they are also unrealistic. Then, when you break your resolutions, you decide you will never succeed and give up trying at all. My answer to all of this is don't make New Year resolutions. Instead try something I started two years ago and have found to be a much greater influence on my path to writing success (feel free to apply this to non-writing aspects of your life as well).

The first stage is to write a letter or journal entry to yourself during the last week of the year. In this letter you will do two things: evaluate your successes and failures over the last 12 months and decide what your writing ambitions are for the year ahead.

Celebrate what has gone right for you. Then look at what didn't go the way you planned it, but (and this is very important) don't beat yourself up over it. Instead try to turn any failures into a positive. Why did it not go right? What have you learnt about yourself? What lessons can you apply to next year?

The next stage of the letter is to decide what your new writing goals will be. It is okay to aim high but be realistic. In my letter last year I aimed to submit and be published in short story anthologies. I also said I would begin writing my novel. I didn't say, I will write and submit my novel, begin the second and third, and start several screenplays. Also, I'll give up work and write full time. Push up the bar but not so high you'll never get over it.

Once the first stage is complete, print the letter and seal it an envelope. If you're keeping it on your hard drive, file it away where you'll not see it every time you use your computer. This is important because you are not going to re-read it until the last week of following year. It will be there at the back of your mind, a kind of subconscious stick driving you to succeed. But you won't keep re-reading it and then punishing yourself for not sticking to your goals resolutely.

The second stage will come at the end of the New Year, when you will rip open that envelope, or double-click on the file, and re-read your writing ambitions. You will use this letter to begin the process again - evaluate, celebrate, learn, and plan ahead. You'll be surprised at just how much you achieved over the last 12 months. The important part here is that you gave yourself 12 months not the first few weeks of the year.

This method might not be to everybody's liking - you may be the type of person for whom New Year resolutions work. But I've found this technique to be cathartic and invaluable for motivating me to carry on and never give up my writing dreams. It really does work.

Have you used this technique or do you make New Year resolutions? Did either method work? Is there another way of starting the New Year you would like to share with us?


  1. Hi Ellie

    I gave up making New Year's resolutions ages ago!

    Your suggestion however sounds very workable :)

    I think the key is to realise that New Year is nothing of the sort. So often we imagine that the New Year is a new beginning, but really it is simply another date in a long line of dates. We imagine that it can empower us to start afresh, but the moment we look outside ourselves for a substitute for will power we are doomed! My "New Year" started in mid October when I started my blog. It has completely transformed my life. I dropped several activities that absorbed my time and devoted that time instead to writing (both my blog and fiction). Or you could say my "New Year" started in early July when I changed my diet. I've lost a stone since then. What is the secret of my "New Years"? Routine. I created new (easy) routines and I created time by stopping other activities. If you want to do something new you cannot add it on top of the old, you have to replace the old.


  2. I don't make New Year resolutions as I believe that the time has to be right for any sort of change in direction or new endeavour, not merely a change in the calendar date.

    However, I do think there is value in a review of the year and these days between Christmas and New Year are an ideal time for the task.

    I like the idea of your resolutions substitute and the key to success with it seems to relate to setting realistic goals.

    Best wishes for a great writing year in 2011.

  3. Oh what a lovely way to start the new year!!! And yay that you've stuck to your writing goals for this year!! Good for you!

    I guess I only have one writing goal for 2011 really!! Finish my novel's edits!! Finish it. Darn it!! :-)Stop dawdling and finish it already! LOL!

    Good luck with your 2011 writing plans!!! Take care

  4. Sounds like a great technique. I don't usually make resolutions or give things up for lent, I usually leave that up to my hubby, but this year I have made write1sub1 my resolution.
    Good luck with your 2011 goals :O)

  5. I never make resolutions except to try and remember to write the correct year when I have to write the date for something. It will probably take me to at least March.

  6. I like your idea! I gave up resolutions. Last February, I decided to write again and began my blog as a discipline in daily writing. Late in the summer, I had to scale back so I could actually write.

    This year, I want to concentrate on 'follow-through.'

    Good luck! And I have goodies for you on my blog!

  7. This sounds like a good way of getting thoughts down for the next year.

  8. I don't make resolutions - they just get broken. I just make a decision and set a goal - if I do both, I stick to it.

  9. I'm a resolutions type of gal but I have to say I like your way best. I think I shall do that! Yes I will!

    Have a wonderful and safe new year's!

  10. Great idea! I'm getting ready to do my writing goals post next week. I believe in writing things down. When your goals are "out in the world" the universe knows you're serious and you'll attract the things needed to make the goal come true.

  11. Fantastic idea, Ellie.

    I am certainly going to try it. It's a more positive way to look at the coming new year.


  12. Dominic de Mattos - what you have said makes absolute sense; if we want to change our lives, there is no magical day to begin. Just do it! I read somewhere that it takes 30 days to install a new habit and after that it will become part of your daily routine.

    Congratulations on the weight loss and entering the world of blogging. I started my blog in late May of this year and it has helped me to focus in ways I never thought I could. Sometimes I spend too much time blogging, but, as you say, you need to cut down on other activities to find the time!

    Christine - you are spot on about the time needing to be right; why do we thing New Year's day will change everything? It doesn't and that is why so many New Year resolutions fail.

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Old Kitty - you have the same goal as me for 2011 - finish my novel! Yay for us. We CAN do it!

    Madeleine - Write1Sub1 is the perfect way to start the New Year and I know you can do it! I'm aiming to fit that in with my novel writing goal. LOL.

  13. Chris Phillips - thank you!

    Susan Gourley/Kelley - LOL. I though I was the only one!

    The Words Crafter - I love the fact that you're using your blog to develop the writing habit. Like you, sometimes I spend too much time blogging and not enough writing my fiction. Blogging is addictive! Good luck with your follow-through - you can do it! Ooo. . .goodies. I'll pop over to your blog shortly.

    The Golden Eagle - it really does work and I highly recommend it.

  14. Alex J. Cavanaugh - good advice! Thank you.

    rebecca - I used to be like you but I never latest more than a week or two - I think the thought of failing put too much pressure on me. I'm glad you're trying my suggestion - it really does work!

    Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Janel - so true. The act of writing something down seems to cement it in our subconscious minds.

    gideon86 - thank you. It really does work!

  15. I gave up on resolutions a long time ago. I am who I am. When I decide I need to make changes I make them. If I'm feeling like I'm not achieving anything I review my successes. The date has nothing to do with it.

    But I think the secret is to do whatever works for you. Like you, the pressure of January 1 is too high for me. So sometime in 2011 I shall do some decorating in the house. I shall edit my Nano novel and probably publish it myself. I shall search for a new job that's closer to what I want to do. And I shall do my best to be happy with my life and appreciate what I've got.

    Luck and love to you and yours for the next 12 months!

  16. cross my fingers, that this year the vampires don't get... i miss the sun.

  17. MorningAJ - Happy New Year! I love your non-dated resolutions and that you are not pressurising yourself by giving them a date. Perfect advice.

    iZombie - LOL. Come back Sun; all is forgiven!


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