Please welcome Sarah Penner to Writer Unboxed as our newest regular contributor! Sarah’s debut, THE LOST APOTHECARY, releases on March 2nd. You can learn more about her HERE. Welcome, Sarah!
At long last, 2021 has arrived on our doorstep. I’m an optimist, and I imagine a number of you will agree with me on one thing: 2021 is destined to be better than 2020.
This holiday season has looked nothing like we anticipated. Old traditions—New Year’s Day brunch, traveling to see family—have been set aside. But no matter the quarantines and restrictions in place, there’s one tradition many of us will still keep: we’ll sit down with a pen and paper to make a list of resolutions for the shiny new year.
Personally, I love this tradition. It’s an opportunity to revisit the goals I set twelve months earlier; identify the strategies and habits that worked; and set new priorities to pursue in the coming months. I’ve always been a goal-setter, and I can’t imagine rolling into a new year without a bit of introspection.
But before we take out our pen and paper to set goals for the new year, let’s talk through a few things.
Resolutions that stick
It’s been well-established by psychologists that new year’s resolutions simply don’t stick, and the reasons for this are varied.
Most of the time, resolutions fail due to lack of specificity. Some resolutions are too vague (“I will improve my craft this year”) or too all-encompassing (“I’ll be more active in the writing community this year.”) So, when setting goals for the new year, remember to be specific: “I will sign up for a class about better dialogue-writing,” or “I will join an online critique group aimed at YA writers.”
Also, ensure your resolution is something you can control. “I will sign with a literary agent” is a nice resolution to make, but you only have so much power over this. No matter how polished and on-the-mark your manuscript might be, it still needs to hit the sweet spot for an agent—a person with their own thoughts and behaviors that should not drive your sense of success. Instead, set goals you can control, like how many agents you will research or query this year.
You might be tempted to think that resolutions don’t stick due to a lack of willpower or desire, but this is a sure-fire path to low self-esteem: this is not a matter of how badly you want it. It is a matter of strategy and approach. Your desire to achieve a goal is there, but it needs to be transformed into a step-by-step approach that will bring your goal closer.
Said another way, successful resolutions require good habits.
Habits are better than resolutions
Resolutions are often big, life-changing visions. Habits, on the other hand, are subtle. They require less change to our behavior, making them more likely to stick.
When writing down your list of goals for the year, it’s perfectly fine to write down the big goals. But then, beneath each one, write down the smaller habits necessary to make them happen (daily or weekly is best!) A habit, by definition, is a practice or a tendency. Keep this in mind when listing behaviors that will support your goals.
Let’s take a few examples. [Read more…]