New Year’s Resolutions: 6 Ways To Stick With Writing Goals

by Alicia Sparks on December 29, 2011

It's that time of year again, so sharpen up your ol' pencils, writers! (Make sure you have erasers, too.)

Hiya Sparklings!

This is the last time you’ll hear from me in 2011, and by now you should know I’m just cliche practical enough to do a post about New Year’s resolutions.

Only, I’m not going to TELL you what your resolutions should be or give you examples of New Year’s resolutions for writers. There are plenty of awesome sites and writers out there who’ve already done that. (Check out LaToya Irby’s Making Plans For Next Year, Ginny Wiehardt’s Top 10 Resolutions For Writers, and Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s Writing Goals: 7 Ways To Be A Better Freelance Writer.)

Instead of helping you decide on goals, I’m going to help you STICK TO them.

1. Determine your writing goals.

Who are YOU as a writer? Do you want to write and sell your own e-book? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in Web writing? Do you want to make money blogging? Determine the direction you want to take your freelance writing career before you begin writing your resolutions.

2. Write resolutions related to those goals.

Sometimes, writers get a few months into the year (or, a few months after they’ve set some goals for themselves) before they realize, “Um…these goals are NOT helping me get where I want to be.” (That’s why it’s so important to determine who you are – or who you want to be – as a writer before you write your New Year’s resolutions.)

Be sure to write goals that line up with your freelance writing career (or the writing career you want).

For example, if you do want to write and sell an e-book, you might create writing goals that involve learning how to format e-books, coming up with and sticking to a writing schedule, and developing a list of subscribers; if you want to make money blogging, some of your resolutions might involve planning and sticking to a blogging schedule and learning about and signing up for affiliate marketing.

3. Make sure you can outline specific steps for your goals.

Let’s say one of your writing goals is to build a list. It’s one thing to say, “This year, I’m going to build a list.” I mean, that’s specific, right? Right. It’s also most likely the answer you’ll give your friends.

However, YOU need an even more specific resolution – perhaps, more specific steps – in order to reach your goal.

So, instead of saying, “This year, I’m going to build a list,” try, “By the end of January, I will have a free opt-in product created and by the beginning of February, I will have an opt-in sign-up form on my front page and will start promoting the two on my social media networks.” By doing that, you can spend the rest of the year building your list.

4. Be realistic as you write your resolutions.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting New Year’s resolutions – or coming up with any goals, really – is to assume they’re going to make the changes or meet the goals immediately.

“This year I’m going to [quit smoking/lose weight/get organized]!”

Well, that’s great, but the cold hard reality is that a lot of people fail at those resolutions because they assume that once January 1 rolls around – THAT’S IT. One cigarette, one skipped day working out – only one pound lost in three weeks – and they throw in the towel.

What they forget to do is outline specific steps (sound familiar)? The smoker doesn’t spend any time preparing to quit; he assumed he’d just stop smoking. The dieter didn’t spend any time learning healthy recipes or reminding herself that she didn’t gain 30 pounds in one week, so she damn sure wasn’t going to lose that kind of weight in one week; she just assumed she’d cut back and voila! Become skinny.

Look, here’s the deal: $&@! takes time, okay? Time and planning. You’re not going to slap a few affiliate ads on your blog tonight and start making hundreds a day by tomorrow, nor are you going to churn out a quality e-book in three days.

(Hell, Copyblogger published How To Write A High-Quality eBook In 30 Days, and totally acknowledges the fact that 1) it takes steps, and 2) it takes bust-your-ass work.)

When you set a goal, consider factors like what you’ll need to learn, changes you’ll need to make, and the time it will actually take – the journey you’ll take – as you get from where you are now (not meeting your goal) to where you want to be (meeting your goal).

Plus, you need to consider your personal life. Do you have a day job? Kids? A body and mind that requires sleep?

Don’t set yourself up for failure: Keep all these factors in mind as you come up with your writing goals for the year.

5. Ask for help.

Whether you turn to your favorite blogger, a personal or writing coach, or your friends at the writing forum you frequent, don’t be too ashamed/shy/embarrassed/stubborn to ask others for help. If you don’t know something, ask. If you need help, ask. If you’re working on something you’re not entirely sure about or only have minimal experience with, getting assistance from someone who knows what’s going on can prevent you from giving up.

6. Reward yourself.

Sure, sure, the biggest reward will be when it all pays off. Until then, though, give yourself little rewards – little pats on the back – to keep yourself motivated and from burning out.

Have YOU set any New Year’s resolutions for your freelance writing career? What works for you when you’re trying to stick to your writing goals?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali Luke December 30, 2011 at 11:05 am

Thanks for the link to my Copyblogger post! :-) And thanks too for a refreshing read … I see so many people setting ambitious goals, but advice like this is crucial for writers who actually want to achieve something. A goal on its own isn’t much use; a step-by-step plan is far more likely to lead you to where you want to go.

Alicia Sparks December 31, 2011 at 12:24 pm

@ Ali – You’re more than welcome! I’ve had that article bookmarked since I first learned about it through the newsletter, and am planning on using it myself – so, thank YOU!

Laura January 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Great list!

I especially love the resolution of asking for help. So often we think we need to (or have to) do things on our own – and this is when the sensation of being overwhelmed comes in. A resolution shouldn’t be a burden. It should be fun as well as good for us. If we are overwhelmed (read anxious) then there is no way we can follow through with our plans. I for one plan to ask for a lot of help this year. Most likely, you will be fielding a lot of questions from me :)

Happy New Year!

Alicia Sparks January 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

@ Laura – Thanks!

I definitely love (and identify with) the asking for help one, too. When I first got into this business, I thought I could learn it ALL on my own. Fortunately (today even more so than back then – the Internet moves so faaaaaaaaaaaaast!), we CAN learn a lot on our own thanks to all the quality sites, blogs, books, etc. (and a lot of it’s free – bonus!). It didn’t take me long to realize, though, that in order to really sink my pen into freelance writing (haha, I’m so punny tonight), I needed to be able to do more than just write, and read the occasional blog post. These days, I have a collection of “experts” or “mentors” I turn to when I need something (or know someone who needs something) – whether it’s about writing, editing, creativity, or something even more specific (say, e-book publishing). Sometimes I ask for help directly; other times I scour their sites, classes, blogs, articles, etc. for help.

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