It’s 2021 and you, like many writers, have probably made a resolution to write more. We all know the stereotypes about New Year’s Resolutions—they never last. Well, that doesn’t have to be true for you.
Here are a few tips from professional writers on how to turn your goals into regular writing habits:
Set Aside a Specific Daily Writing Time
It sounds obvious, but it’s true. Having a dedicated writing time and a set schedule is the best way to tell your family, and yourself, that this time is important. It might be during the kids’ TV time, or early in the morning before anyone else is awake. On the other hand, you might be a night owl or prefer writing during your lunch. The point is to find a time that works for you and stick to it, the same way you would an office job.
There are only so many hours in the day, so you’ll have to sacrifice something in order to meet your goals. You might have to sleep a little less, or watch less TV, or switch to audiobooks. It’ll be tough, but worth it in the end.
Set Progress Goals
Something often talked about alongside goals are setting measurable benchmarks. It’s true. You not only need a way to measure your progress, but a way to reward yourself, too.
Find manageable benchmarks to aim for daily. Some writers might go for 3k words, while others might just have time to write a page. The important thing is to sit down every day and make it a habit.
Don’t push yourself harder than you reasonably can go. Remember: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Every word you write is one that wasn’t there before, and you should celebrate that.
Measure Your Progress by Plot Points, Not Word Count
This one might be a bit controversial. I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I thrive under its structured format. You, on the other hand, might not. And that’s okay.
Another way of setting smaller goals is by measuring your progress in plot points. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write 3k words,” tell yourself, “I’m going to finish this important scene.”
By focusing on plot, you can avoid being bogged down by some of the more stressful aspects of writing. Plus, you might even find yourself swept up by the story and write more than you thought you would.
Reward Yourself Frequently
Seriously. Don’t forget to thank yourself for the hard work you’re putting in. You might sacrifice a daily hour of sleep or games, but before sure to dedicate time to making them up. If you don’t, you’ll burn out. That’s the reason so many New Year’s Resolutions fail—because people get over-enthusiastic and forget to take care of themselves. You’re an author, but you’re also a human.
One technique to prevent burnout is to prepare rewards for whenever you reach your goals. Use something that keeps you motivated, while fueling your body and spirit. Maybe you let yourself sleep in once a month or give yourself a slice of cake whenever you finish a chapter.
The type and frequency is up to you. Just be sure that you’re as dedicated to yourself as you are to your writing.
Find Your Support Group
This is crucial. The beautiful thing about the literary industry is that there is an abundance of authors looking to build up and support their fellow authors. Find a group you mesh with, whether online or in person. Share your goals and let them encourage you.
If you’re able, pick someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Make sure it is someone who will be sure to remind you about your writing, and that they’re someone who supports you wholly. This person is your cheerleader and, in a way, your soccer mom.
Remember: You Can Do It
Seriously. You can. There are stories that only you can tell. Don’t let them die.
You can do this.