by Pascale Potvin.
It’s New Year’s resolution time, which for many calls to mind people grimacing over elliptical machines or sweatin’ to the oldies. Even with everything a person could resolve to do in the new year, getting fit is still the most popular (right after save money and “enjoy life.”)
Writers may like improving their fitness as much as the next person, but they may also consider at the top of the year finally embarking on the writing project that’s been looming at the horizon for some time.
Yet where starting an exercise routine may seem feasible, even fun, many writers who consider their goals in the new year don’t commit to them with the same seriousness and let them flitter away as January fades away.
This may be because where getting fit involves doing it with other people in classes, with a workout buddy, or together with a personal trainer, writers know that they will have to go much of their work on their own.
The idea of tackling a big challenge alone can make it feel insurmountable even before a single word hits the page. This is the most common reason writers don’t reach (or even consider) the goal that would fulfill and fuel them in the long run.
The good news is we can borrow from our health-oriented friends and make our writing as collaborative and collegial as possible. The actual writing has to happen alone, but connecting with other writers over the process and progress, sharing ideas and intel, and getting guidance and support makes it much more rewarding and fun.
If you want to make a New Year’s Resolution to write your novel, finally get published, or simply improve your writing performance at work, then consider this: creating a writing practice, improving your writing skills and embarking on (and finishing) a writing project like a book is not that different from starting a New Year’s resolution-inspired workout.
These 6 tips not only work for setting up a fitness routine and sticking with it but are also ideal for helping you finally start that writing project in the new year.
Follow these, and you will be sure to arrive at a healthy place in yourself and with your writing– this year and always.
6 Ways to Finally Start That Writing Project in the New Year
Here are 6 pieces of advice that apply to exercise and writing in equal amounts:
1. Accept that it’s going to be a challenge.
Your big ideas have been filling up your head for a while, so you might expect that when you finally do sit down at the computer, everything will just pour out of you like an unstoppered dam.
If that’s not what happens (as in it’s the exact opposite), don’t be discouraged.
Everyone who writes, including famous writers, goes through the same fits and starts with their work. Famous writers, too, fight the urge to get up and vacuum their living room. Then the upstairs. Then their next-door neighbour’s upstairs.
No matter how excited you may feel about the project you have in-waiting now, there will be times when you feel completely unmotivated or totally blocked.
But if you feel strongly about achieving your writing goal, do like name writers do and treat your writing like a job and stick it out.
(Imagine your accountant/gardener/kids’ teacher throwing up their hands and stalking off to the snacks cupboard saying, “I just can’t do this.”)
Instead, remind yourself that hiccups are normal, take a deep breath, do a few jumping jacks, and then remind yourself:
The only way to get your job done is to do it.
- You want increased muscle mass? Do the reps.
- You want to progress with your writing? Keep writing.
You’ll be surprised by what you can achieve if you push yourself to simply sit in the chair. It’ll also get easier as you go.
A muscle that’s conditioned can flex more easily than one that’s used to hefting nothing but wishful thinking and hot air.
2. Embrace the challenge.
Now that you’ve accepted that writing is going to be a little hard, and you’ve decided that you’re going to do it anyway, smile: you’ve toughened up already.
It’s important to reinforce for yourself that you’re a baddie- you will write not in spite of it being a challenge but because it will be a challenge.
Don’t accept; embrace.
If you view your resolution as an attempt to “overcome” a challenge, you may still see your struggle as a kind of failure, which is a gateway feeling to defeat.
Exercising works because it’s hard, and writing is nothing if not exercise of the brain, heart, and body. Embracing the challenge and the struggle allows you to see results all throughout the process.
The key here is to keep not one, but two end goals in sight: a finished project, yes, of course … but also your growth as a writer. Every time you sit down to write, you’re growing. That’s a miracle, truly. Enjoy knowing that.
3. Set goals that are within your reach.
Articles about fitness all say the same thing: if it’s your first time taking part in a serious workout routine, expect to see results in a few months or longer, but not overnight.
Leaning out and feeling better by adopting healthier eating habits and mindset happens gradually.
If this is, say, your first time writing a novel, you shouldn’t expect it to be a) good (it won’t be) and b) turn into a seven-part fantasy series while you’re still fleshing out the first draft. Not at first, at least.
Slow and steady wins the race.
4. Do it every day.
The looser you are with your routine, the easier it will be to fall out of it.
That’s the reason so few succeed in keeping their fitness resolutions. You take off one day or one weekend, and it upsets your rhythm. Or like storyteller Mike Birbiglia jokes about in his Netflix special, “The Old Man and the Pool,” there was a torrential downpour one day when he had his swim lesson, so he skipped just that one– and returned a year later.
Writing is the same. If you miss a day, your writing muscles will feel rusty the next, and that will likely affect your motivation, which can cause deleterious effects to start creeping in.
On the flip side, though, no need to overdo it. Know your limits and nudge them without hurting yourself.
And for those times life does get in the way, you don’t have to pause or quit- as long as you write a little, even for 10 minutes, you’re still getting benefit.
A book may seem like a big goal when life rears up, but if you touch the book every day to any degree, those words will add up and be a constant in your ever-shifting personal landscape. And how gratifying it is to have something to show for yourself amidst the maelstrom of everything else.
5. Always warm up.
Before you start your day’s writing, complete some gentle warm-up exercises to get your words flowing. Make sure they’re unrelated to your project; that way, you won’t feel committed to them or to the idea of anyone seeing them, and you won’t feel pressured to write something “good.”
We have all kinds of great writing exercises and prompts on the One Lit Place website in the Resources section, or you can find more online. Try flash fiction. Or poetry. Or write without lifting your pen in a journal.
At the very least, the exercises are warming you up and priming your mind. At the most, they may lead you to hit on something important that has the potential to become a new project!
6. Make sure it excites you.
The only way you’re going to finish this project is if you hold on to the passion that pushed you to make the resolution in the first place.
The key is not to write what you think will make you look intellectual, but to latch onto what actually stimulates you mentally. While it’s good to remember you’re writing for others, you also have to care about the project.
While you may find yourself wanting to imitate classic authors, remember that this is a resolution for this year, and some of those styles and themes—plus the entire idea of the Great American Novel—might be slightly out of date. Now may be the time to hunker down with your essential voice and the style of writing that feels good to you.
Above all, take some risks. After all, the writers whose names we know didn’t play it safe.
If you find yourself feeling bored by your writing, your readers definitely will too. If that happens, take a step back and ask yourself:
- Am I writing too much beautiful prose without moving the action forward?
- Is there too much telling and not enough showing or scene?
- Is there enough conflict in this scene?
- Why are these characters invested- or if they’re not, how can I make them want something important to keep them moving through the scenes?
You can always throw your writing a curve ball to shake things up, make yourself laugh, or surprise yourself.
And any time you feel low, go find some inspirational quotes to ramp up your energy!
With that, I leave you with these 6 tips for starting- and fulfilling- your resolution of writing more, writing well, and writing to share your ideas with the world. That is the ultimate in becoming healthy, fit, and strong in the new year.
Please share your progress in the comments below, or let us know how you’re doing, ask for help, or share some insights with the others in our private Writers Lounge on Facebook, open to all writers.
And for specific personalized support, feel free to be in touch any time to chat about how writing coaching will help you make huge strides in your work and feel motivated and strong with all the writing you do!
Happy New Year!