How do you resolve to write in the new year?

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?


  • Nicole says:

    I love your resolutions, Amaris. Thanks for sharing. I’ve tried setting a time of day to write and adjusting it quarterly, but that fell apart three weeks later. I’ve tried page counts, word counts, minutes writing daily. As you say, it all usually leads to “legislating” what writing is. Is thinking about writing writing? (If so, we are all writing constantly, so pat yourself on the back, kids). For now, I’ve set myself a page count schedule with the goal of finishing a manuscript this year. I have to hit 100 pages at date X, which means 50 by date Y, and so on. So far, I’m on track. Additionally, I want to figure out how to re-engage with Bark (help?), and read 40 books.

    Recently, the Hidden Brain podcast put out an episode on how we can keep our resolutions. In addition to things like writing it down and creating pressure (say, if you fail to meet your resolutions, you have to mail $1,000 to Donald Drumpf), it was suggested that we need distance from self-ideation, and that we can achieve that by thinking of ourselves in the third person.

    I tried.

    Nicole eats healthily, I thought, walking past Stumptown Coffee and their perfect cafe au laits. Nicole makes healthy choices, I thought, opening my homemade salad-in-a-jar at my desk. (Nicole could never admit this stupidity to anyone, I thought, simultaneously). But I pressed on, for a few more days. Nicole eats healthy. Nicole is a healthy eater. String cheese instead of peanut butter cups. No, thank you, co-worker, I don’t want that cookie. Top Pot is the devil. Top Pot is the devil. Get thee behind me, Top Pot glazed donuts.

    Nicole takes it easy on herself, I thought, tossing a pack of gummy worms on the counter with my deodorant and tampons at Bartells. Nicole chooses organic sugar candy.

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