This is the time of year when all of us, or at least us self-involved, sensitive writing types, think about how we can make this upcoming year the best ever. This is an exciting time of year and it’s also kind of scary. We can’t be the writer we want to be if we keep doing the things we’ve always done. We’re going to have to make some changes. Sigh.
1. You may have to say no to the expectations of others. Why is this tricky? For better or worse you have invested in relationships. Some of these people around you may not fully understand your need to write. Sadly all of us have only 24 hours in a day. If you’ve been filling some of your days hanging out with your mates at the local pub, and all of sudden you decide to take time away from the pints to write a bit, you may disappoint others. The best relationships will understand your need and encourage you, but don’t be surprised if that’s not the reaction you get. If not your barfly friends, it could be your co-workers, your significant other, or your kids. They may expectations of your behavior. If you are going to make a change, you’re likely to encroach on their time and habits. What to do: evaluate your time. Can you find 10 minutes here or there to write that will offend no one? Can you eliminate relationships in your life that aren’t supportive? Can you communicate what’s important? Can you separate your desires from pleasing those around you? This is tricky, but you can do it.
2. You may have to write down a plan and stick with it. Why is this tricky? This is tricky because you may have good experience with specific goals before. It’s easy to say something big and vague like, “I’m going to lose weight in 2018!” And it’s quite another to buy a gym membership, get up early, go every day, and not buy a dozen donuts on the way home. Goal setting requires thought and discipline. You need to look at the specifics of what you want to accomplish. You may want a measurable goal, like word count or 10-minute increments. But the only way to make a lasting change is to do the work. What to do: Go through the SMART acronym and make choices in your schedule that will allow you small successes. This is tricky, but you can do it.
“The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication. ”
― Cecil B. DeMille
3. You may have to go to bed later or get up earlier to find time to write. Why is this tricky? Because everyone loves their sleep! But let’s be honest, our days are already full. Squeezing in 10 minutes here or there may not be possible.What to do: Think through all of your day, not just the sleep time and rearrange your tasks and habits in such a way that you can free up time. Then, without altering your sleep habits too much, get up a bit earlier, or stay up a bit later. You can still be productive in all your other responsibilities, get your sleep, but get your writing done at the same time. This is tricky, but you can do it, especially if you move your alarm on the other side of the room.
4. You may have to make writing a priority even though you’ve never treated it as one. We will always, always do what’s important to us. For example, I homeschool my children and because it’s so important to me that they are knowledgeable, wise and critical thinkers, homeschooling is the biggest part of my weekday mornings. If writing is important to you, then it appear so in your day. Why is this tricky? This is going to require a serious evaluation of the way that you spend your time. Obviously, time spent working and going to school can’t be changed, but a good portion of your other time can. Can you write during your commute, your lunch break, or your time waiting on others? Can you block out evenings? Can you make choices that would be consistent with someone who identifies themselves as a writer? This is tricky. You’ve probably never evaluated your priorities. But if you’re going to write and be successful, you must make it a priority.
“You need a plan to build a house.
To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal.”
― Zig Ziglar
5. You may have to lower expectations for other areas, like housekeeping or meals. As a mother of five, I can tell you with authority that it takes time to plan, shop, prepare, cook and clean for a hungry family, who apparently won’t stop getting taller. (I’m looking at you, you teenagers!) My family, apparently, likes to eat. And I like to cook to keep our expenses down. But I’m going to write and do my magic in the kitchen, I may have to scratch Beef Wellington off the menu and settle for Annie’s Mac & Cheese. Why is this tricky? Let’s use that word again: expectations. If your family already has an expectation of extravagant cooking, they may not welcome this sacrifice so you can get in that word count. Nobody likes having their expectations changed. However, I am a big fan of teaching children to cook and do chores. But if you work less and your kids work more, and you get the bonus of getting a few more minutes on that work-in-progress, it’s a win-win! Even if it means hot dogs and beans a little more often.
6. You may have to sacrifice. You may have to ask others to sacrifice. This may get uncomfortable. Why is this tricky? There is this thing about artistic, sensitive types: often they are people pleasers. They don’t want to offend. They don’t want to make waves. Yet, it’s this kind of personality that can often make great art. So, it’s this kind of people that may have trouble speaking up for more time. What to do: Consider how your changes can benefit those around you. Suggest that you hold each other accountable to new goals and new disciplines. Don’t be afraid to be honest and vulnerable. It’s likely that others will be inspired by your courage.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra
You’ll likely see “New Year, New You” ad infinitum over the next few weeks. Take advantage of it and think about what you’d like to accomplish. Any changes you make will take work, but no matter how tricky it will be, your goals are worth it.
Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.