I hate the word “resolute.” Whenever I think of it, I think of soldiers circa 1800, marching resolutely into battle, knowing that they’re going to die. Yet every year I make resolutions anyway. Maybe if we had better attitudes about resolutions in the first place, it wouldn’t be so hard to keep them.
This year I have a number of resolutions.
It seems to me that if I approach my goals properly, then reaching them won’t be too hard.
For example, let’s look at writing goals. What if instead of saying, “I’m going to write twenty pages a day for at least three days per week,” I decided that, “I will approach each day of writing calmly, training myself to be excited about the task, and anticipating the rewards of a job well done”?
I think that I might get a lot accomplished, without feeling as though I’m marching into battle while the canons are exploding at my back and gunfire erupts all around me.
Or how about this as a New Year’s Resolution: I’m going to train myself to write by writing. Each morning, I am going to get up, and I will have my current novel/short story up and ready to go. I will begin typing on my manuscript before doing anything else, so that by the end of the week, I will have trained myself to think, Ah, there is the keyboard. I will go and work on my manuscript.
You see, many of your habits are subconscious. Some people teach themselves that the computer is for videogames, or it’s for checking email, or it’s for chatting on Facebook. So when they sit down to the keyboard, by force of habit they immediately begin playing.
But what if you trained yourself to make writing your habit? What if you tried something like this:
- Close your eyes and think about something that excites you. Perhaps it’s the idea of getting your first novel published, or maybe it’s an award you’ve won, or just the joy that will come when you complete your novel. Think about it, and let the excitement build for 15 seconds.
- Now, sit at your computer, open the file to your work in progress. Do not do anything else. Instead, open your WIP and write one paragraph.
- When you’re done with that paragraph, get up from your computer and walk around the room for a moment, thinking about what you might want to do with your work in progress.
- Repeat step 1, thinking about something that excites you, and letting the excitement sweep through you.
- Now write another paragraph. Make it beautiful.
- When you’re done, get up from your computer for a few minutes and think about what you will write next.
- Repeat steps one through three ten times. By the time that you have done it a few times, you will have begun training yourself so that when you sit down, you will become excited at the prospect of writing, and you will immediately open your work in progress.
This of course is a form of self-hypnosis. We do so many things out of habit—things like putting on our clothes, eating, driving. If you work in a factory, you probably don’t much think about the repetitive tasks that you’re doing. You quite literally may find yourself doing them in your sleep, dreaming about them.
Well, I’m convinced that writing is much the same way. When I go on a writing retreat, I choose to go places where I don’t have internet access or a phone. All that I can do with my computer is write. Without any distractions, I find that all of my computer time quickly gets focused on writing, and as a result, I can do tremendous things. So what if I train myself to avoid the distractions, to simply focus on what I really want to do most?
Give it a try. It really isn’t hard. You don’t need to be resolute at all.
I will be teaching a workshop in Texas this week. There is still time to sign up! Go here to learn more.