I hate New Year’s Resolutions.
I hate them for the usual reasons (they don’t change your bad habits), but the metrics for success are frustratingly limited. You either do it or you don’t do it. If you don’t do it, then you’ve failed.
I used to be this way. New Year’s rolled around, and I was all about the resolution I was making. I told myself I would read more or write more or follow a budget.
I would tell myself that I would make these changes, but the declaration never gave me the tools I needed to effectively make that change. The messed up things in my routine were still there impeding the change. Sometime around the tenth I would screw up, get discouraged, and feel like a failure.
So, I stopped making New Year’s resolutions.
I decided if I was going to do something, then I would find a way to do it.
I decided that I didn’t need New Year’s resolutions or a bucket list or some crap like that to give me permission to do something different.
I started making these changes for their own sake.
I started making the changes, and I fell down a lot. The changes to my life came – writing every day, running consistently, meditating regularly – but they didn’t come easily.
But when I fell down I got right back up.
My biggest change this past year was sparked well into September. I began participating in a challenge that fundamentally changed my habits as a writer.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the idea of this challenge was daunting. I have tried – and failed – many times to do writing streaks. Inevitably there’s a point when I break the streak, and the discouragement and disappointment I feel from this always weighs heavily on me.
1st month (September): 16 days. This is the month where I was simply trying to work on the habit. I felt like I had some work to do before I got the hang of writing every day. I resolved to stick with it no matter what.
2nd month (October): 15 days. This was a pretty spotty month. My longest streak was only four days. I struggled to hang on to the challenge.
3rd month (November): 23 days. Pretty badass. I unofficially participated in NaNoWriMo to invigorate my novel writing. I knew it was pretty ambitious and that I might not make it to 50K words, but I kept the number in my head throughout the month. (I ended up with about 14K words, not too shabby). Because I was doing it every day, I learned to take myself more seriously.
A few things I learned from this that may help you:
- Routine, routine, routine. If you are going to do this seriously, then you need to take yourself seriously. Do the work, and do it every day. Once you get the hang of a routine, it will seem like a small sacrifice and will improve your attitude enormously.
- Limiting distractions. The most deadly poison to your writing routine: the crap you read on the Internet. Seriously toxic. Whatever is on your Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram feeds is distracting you. It does not add any value to your life. I’ve been there, and let me tell you I was consumed by matters that were inconsequential to my work and my life goals, yet they sucked up not only my time but my energy as well. The more energy I put into that junk, the less energy I put into my work. So ask yourself: do you want to put your energy into your writing project, or a “truly inspiring” video that will supposedly “take your breath away”?
- Accountability & tracking. I started using the Lift app to check in on the days I completed my writing tasks. You don’t have to use Lift, though. You can use an Excel spreadsheet pretty easily for this. Whatever you choose, it will give you a picture of how frequently you’re working, and when you see that it will dramatically change your perspective and leave you hungry for more writing time.
As you go forward with your New Year and your own changes in mind, remember that real, meaningful change takes work. Doing it imperfectly doesn’t mean you have failed entirely. You can miss a day for the umpteenth time and still try again. Any time is a good time to make a change in your writing habits, whether it’s New Year’s Day or the middle of June.