Saturday, January 1, 2011

Extinguishing Writing Excuses: New Year, New Habits

 2011.

It's here. A whole new year. You may be launching straight into your New Year's Resolutions today (or tomorrow, if you need to shake off last night's party) with pretty high expectations of what the New Year will mean for the "New You".

And why not? Starting off the new year with goals is commendable; setting goals and working at achieving them every day is even more valuable.

I'm sure many of you have resolved to improve your writing and/or your writing career in some way. Like other resolutions, there are some common pitfalls that arise when you start the Big, Life-Changing Resolution. Over 15 years ago, I resolved to quit smoking. Over 10 years ago, I actually quit. Thinking back to that time in my life, when I was chained to a habit that didn't serve me well at all, I'm reminded of the similarities of that time with my Writing Excuses.

Success Doesn't Happen Overnight

I tried to quit smoking many times. Each time, I thought it would be the last time. After all, I made the decision to quit. I stopped buying cigarettes. I would occupy my time with other things to keep my mind off of the smoking. But, eventually, I found myself back where I started, but worse, because now I was a FAILURE.

Thinking of yourself as a failure makes it difficult to want to try again. Instead of thinking of the starting and re-starting of your Great American Novel as repeated missteps, view each draft as Practice. The same idea holds true for rejections. Getting a rejection and then giving up on writing is the same as staying away from cigarettes for months or years, and then starting back with a pack a day: You've put so much work into reaching publication (idea, draft, edit, submission), you should consider your dream partially fulfilled. Many don't get that far. Don't let one bad day/rejection abolish all of that hard work. Remember, failure is not falling down, it's staying down.

Milestones May Not Live up to Expectations

A month after I quit smoking (for real), I was at the gym. I joined right around the time I quit, thinking that it would give me something to do to keep my mind off of smoking, and fend off the weight I was sure to gain from quitting (food tastes fantastic when your taste buds work!). I thought by then, I should have been able to run a mile, easy, without labored breathing or any other problems. I was a young, healthy woman! And now a NON- smoker! I shouldn't be winded!

Well, here's the thing: I was an EX-Smoker. And I am human. I shouldn't have expected my body to forget what I had put it through that quickly, and I shouldn't have believed that, just because I had started to rid myself of ONE obstacle to my health, that I would automatically turn into an athlete!

When I made the decision (for the 100th time) to write--really write-- I did feel better right away. I was finally putting words to paper, just like I had always imagined. I finally had plans which included a few markets to submit to, and an outline for a novel. My first two submissions were accepted. There! Accomplished Author! Well, not so fast. I wasn't a Non-Procrastinator, I was an Ex-Procrastinator. There were still times when I found it easier to fall back on old habits. A few published essays didn't automatically turn me into Midas of the Writing World. The rejections I started to receive were not weighed down with gold.

As you begin the new year with goals and plans for your writing to be the Best Ever, be patient with yourself. There will always be a good reason to say, "Today isn't a good day to stick to the plan." Instead of giving up, notice that you are falling back on old habits. You might delay your goal, but you can still go for it. Push yourself just an inch at a time, instead of the mile you were planning on.

Just because you take a puff doesn't mean you have to buy a whole carton!

After a while, taking those bigger leaps with your writing will be easier. It's a new year, you have a whole new slate to fill with writing goals, writing submissions and writing successes.

Happy Writing!

Share your 2011 goals here, and I will check back on your progress in a few months! Happy New Year!

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Last year's Quick Guide to Writing Resolutions
Need a writing goal or two? Check out this month's list of contests and markets in The Scoop.

How long DOES it take for your body to recover from smoking?

How much money will you save? (Put that money towards your writing: contest fees, new computer, home office...)

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reminders..."each draft/rejection is practice...I'm an ex-Procrastinator, not a non-P...be patient with self...push an inch at a time." Need to post this list next to computer. I'm calling my 2011 goals "targets"--and the big one is WRITE EVERY DAY, no matter how much, how little. I'll try to let you know how I'm doing :-) Happy New Year!

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  2. Good Luck, Kenda! I think "targets" is a good way to look at goals. If you "miss", at least you have done the practice of aiming and shooting, and that can only strengthen you.

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