On the brink of the New Year, a friend and I were discussing how to work writing into our resolutions. Each year I make some kind of writing resolution; but I try to stay away from vague resolutions, because I heard sometime ago that most goals fail if they aren’t measurable (eg. “eat a healthier diet,” whatever that means). I also usually end up with a list of forty or so resolutions, though obviously, not all pertain to writing.
Most writers create and maintain a schedule, and while it’s something they resolved to do, they probably didn’t make a New Year’s resolution out of it:
Hemingway wrote from first light to noon. Toni Morrison resolved to rise and shine at 4 am to write until getting her children ready for school. But there are many others who write in bursts (Jack Kerouac) or refuse to leave a story while on a roll, typing late into the night (George Orwell).
I find it easier to measure page counts or word counts—such as write 500 words in the morning, but I know for some people that gets tricky. Must the words be new? Does revision count toward your 500 words? Can I write 250 one day and 750 another? Before you know it, you are legislating your writing.
I like a deadline, a goal, tally marks. Scratching an item off of a list makes it real. So, typically, my writing resolution follows this formula: add x pages to current manuscript, write x essays, one story, x poems, x posts for Bark, x letters, etc. Read x number of books in addition to the ones I’m teaching. This resolution is concrete and measurable, unlike, say, “write more” or “publish more.”
My friend formed her resolution by writing a routine act, but not in the scheduled way of Morrison or Hemingway. Every day she has to write, read, exercise, or stretch. There is a nice sense of flexibility to this resolution. It likewise builds routine, but doesn’t quantify it, doesn’t have any expectations from the acts. There is no “run a marathon” at the end of exercise and stretching, no “chapbook due” after twelve months of writing and reading.
I think there might be another way to create a writing resolution, but I am struggling with how one might measure it: “Care less about what other people think.”
One might be able to quantify it by counting rejections (though one would hope the two don’t go hand-in-hand)? By taking bigger risks in her writing? Or, perhaps, by promising that this year, she will write with all the abandon and confidence of a nineteen-year-old?