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?