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Why Setting New Year's Resolutions Can Be Detrimental for Writers



I’m not doing a Goodreads challenge in 2024.

 

For those who don’t know what this means, it’s when readers set a goal on January 1 of how many books they want to read in the new year. In 2023, my goal was to read 60 books. I finished with 63. But it wasn’t fun. Far from it.

 

I love to read, and Goodreads should exist to augment my adventures, not mess everything up. But something about this year made that 60-book goal a millstone around my bookshelf. Every time I finished a book, I kept checking to see how ahead or behind I was.

 

Things really got out of whack when I agreed to read American Prometheus, the 700+ page biography of Robert Oppenheimer, with my dad. It took me over a month, and I’m a great speed reader. Finishing that book should have felt like an accomplishment, but instead, I was just mad that I was now six books behind.

 

At one point, I was reading a book that really sucked and engaged in a debate with myself about whether to finish it anyway so I could add another book to the list or refuse to relinquish my soul to it. It really was awesomely bad, so I chose to file it under Did Not Finish, but I still felt guilty.

 

So, no more Goodreads challenges for me. I want to enjoy reading, not be slaved to maintaining my stats on some app.

 

This situation applies to any goals we make as writers or readers at the start of a new year. As the forthcoming year draws near, numerous authors might feel a surge of expectation to make lofty New Year’s objectives for their craft. Sometimes, this benefits people immensely—they need accountability and an occasion to change their habits. New Year’s brings both.

 

Although setting targets can often be beneficial, authors must understand that inflexible goals might not fuel their creativity. For some, forming new year's objectives can hamper their growth and excitement for writing.

 

There is a ton of content out there right now about New Year’s resolutions for writers and what goals to set. But I want to take a different approach.

 

This is a piece about how, for some of you writers, New Year’s resolutions aren’t the answer. In fact, they may be a big problem.

 

 The Pressure of Unreachable Targets

 

The new year often brings an adrenaline-fueled aspiration to aim for the moon. We promise to pen that best-seller or churn out blog posts with machine-like efficiency. However, the reality of these ambitious targets can often become a burdensome weight on our shoulders. An unrealistic expectation can paint a daunting picture of impossible goals, triggering undue stress and discouragement.

 

Imagine vowing on January 1st that you’ll complete an entire novel by the year's end. As the weeks slip by and the blank pages in your notebook don’t seem to fill up as quickly as you'd anticipated, that initial enthusiasm might wane. The result? An increased likelihood of abandoning your project mid-way, defeated by an artificial deadline that you imposed on yourself.

 

And what about those numerous articles you pledged to write each week? Missing even one could bring on an avalanche of self-doubt and question your writing abilities.

 

These unreachable targets often prove to be self-imposed barriers that hinder our progress rather than propel it. The undue stress these create can often sap the joy out of writing, transforming a passion into a chore. And who wants that? When writing becomes a source of dread rather than delight, the creative spark can quickly be extinguished.

 

Remember, it’s okay to dream big, but keeping those dreams realistically achievable is equally crucial. The key is to strike a balance between aspiration and feasibility. That way, your writing journey will be more about growth and less about unscalable heights.



The Trap of the "All or Nothing" Mindset

 

A subtle trap often accompanies stringent resolutions—the "all or nothing" mindset. This rigid perspective can hinder more than it helps, and here's why.

 

Suppose you've sworn to yourself that you will pen down 500 words a day, come rain or shine. Then life happens—you get sick, there’s a sudden work crisis, or it’s simply one of those days where the words refuse to flow. You miss a day or maybe two.

 

Then, the self-reproach begins. You feel like you've failed your resolution, and before you know it, you've abandoned it altogether. This all-or-nothing mentality can be incredibly detrimental, instigating guilt and disappointment and making you lose your writing rhythm altogether.

 

The fundamental flaw in this mindset is the failure to acknowledge life's inherent unpredictability and the whimsical nature of creativity. Creative inspiration is not a steady stream; it ebbs and flows. Some days, you're bursting with ideas, and on others, the creativity might seem to dry up. And that's okay. Adhering to a strict, unwavering regimen might put unnecessary pressure on your creative faculties.

 

It's essential to understand that a missed day doesn't equate to failure. It doesn't diminish your talent or potential. Instead, consider it as a rest day in the creative marathon. Allow yourself the grace to take a step back when needed, to recharge and renew your creative energies without the burden of guilt or disappointment. Writing is an art, and art thrives not on strict adherence to rigid schedules but on freedom, exploration, and sometimes, even a little bit of chaos.

 

Overlooking the Importance of the Process

 

In the race to achieve our resolutions, it's easy to lose sight of the fascinating journey of self-discovery that writing offers. While a set goal might push you to write more, it can also cause you to gloss over the enriching process that ultimately shapes you as a writer.

 

In these experiences, you learn the nuances of your unique writing style, experiment with various narrative techniques, make missteps, and grow. And these crucial skills aren't honed by mechanically churning out words to hit a target but by immersing yourself fully in the process, savoring each triumph and learning from each setback.

 

Don't let the glamour of a finished product eclipse the value of the journey. In the world of writing, it's not just about crossing the finish line; it's about appreciating every twist, turn, and stumble along the way. When you find joy and value in the process, the pressure to achieve a certain word count or complete a specific number of projects dissipates.




 

Restricting Creative Exploration

 

Rigid resolutions can often become shackles, chaining your creative muse to a single goal and leaving no room for other intriguing possibilities. Say, for instance, you've committed to spending the year laboring on a science fiction novel. Suddenly, an irresistible idea for a historical fiction piece tiptoes into your mind. What do you do?

 

In the iron grip of a strict resolution, you might feel obligated to dismiss this fresh idea, sticking to your original plan instead. This is a classic example of how inflexible goals can stifle your creative instincts' natural ebb and flow.

 

Writing is an adventure, a journey across the seas of ideas and imagination. Sometimes, the wind of inspiration might take you off course, leading you towards unexplored territories. These spontaneous detours can introduce you to new writing styles, genres, and perspectives you might never have considered. They can open the doors to unanticipated growth and evolution as a writer.

 

And yet, these invaluable experiences might be missed if you insist on clinging to a single rigid goal.

 

In essence, unchaining your creativity from the rigidity of a resolution allows you to fully embrace the adventurous spirit of writing. It enables you to follow the winding paths of inspiration, even if they lead away from your original plan. And who knows? This spontaneous exploration might lead you to a more fascinating, engaging, and ultimately, more satisfying story than the one you initially set out to write.

 

Alternatives to Rigid Resolutions

 

Rather than pledging rigid New Year's resolutions, a more nurturing approach would be to set flexible intentions. Intentions are gentle guides rather than stringent rules, offering the space for exploration, innovation, and growth without the guilt or pressure associated with rigid goals.

 

Instead of committing to writing a specific number of words or pages each day, try intending to cultivate a consistent writing habit. This doesn't mean you must write every single day. It encourages you to return to your writing as regularly as possible without penalizing yourself for missed days.

 

Rather than insisting on completing a novel in a year, perhaps set an intention to immerse yourself in the story you're writing, allowing it the time to evolve naturally. Remember, it’s about the journey, not just the destination. Let your characters lead the way, and allow your narrative to unfold at its own pace.

 

Intend to nurture your writing skills. This can involve attending workshops, joining writing groups, or regularly reading books on writing craft. Understand that growth as a writer comes from continual learning and practice.

 

Finally, make it an intention to celebrate your progress, however small. Writing is an art that takes time to master, and every word written, every idea explored, is a step forward on your writing journey.

 

Need Help?



Inkling Creative Strategies is excited to enter our FOURTH YEAR of helping writers reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. One way I do this is by offering complimentary 30-minute Zoom conversations to talk about your work, help you set goals, and make a plan for solving the writing problem you’re facing right now.

 

I like to call it a Virtual Meetup. And, like I said, it’s completely free. No strings attached. No obligation to sign up for anything.

 

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