Exciting tips on how to fail at your New Year’s writing resolutions

image No, we didn’t hit a time warp. And no, you aren’t just waking up from a rum-induced fog caused by fruitcake vapors. It really is FRIDAY! If you’re like me, and spent most of yesterday thinking it was Monday, this probably comes as a bit of a shock. Rest assured, being a journalist, I have verified this development through rigorous research and the help of my local Starbuck’s, where I was told it is Frappe’ Friday. That means in addition to saving .50 cents on a $9 coffee drink whose name sounds like a kitten getting sick, it’s also time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing — or my NWOW for short. Not that my NWOW has ever been called short.

At least in terms of word count.

For those who might be visiting for the first time, I should explain this is the day I draw upon my 15 years as a columnist to offer tips that Writer’s Digest recently called “… a shining example of why some writers go on to have successful careers as plumbers…” and what Tom Clancy has described as “The antithesis of precise literary implosion.”

I don’t know what that means exactly, but hey: Tom CLANCY said it! And that’s good enough for me.

But enough with the accolades!

No doubt, many of you have begun formulating your New Year’s resolutions:

“I’m going to lose weight.”
“I’m going to drink less.”
“I’m going to change careers.”
“Ned is going to stop referring to himself in the third person.”

Ok, maybe that last one was just me. Regardless, I think we can all agree resolutions are a great way to jump-start goals for personal improvement and life changes. At least until the end of February, at which point we often “re-evaluate” our goals and make “more realistic” adjustments to those goals by “dropping them completely.” For this reason, as writers, we need to be careful about the resolutions we make regarding literary goals, and in some cases we shouldn’t make them at all.

Many of you are probably saying, “Sure Ned, that’s easy for you to say!”

Oops, sorry — That was me speaking in third-person again. Still, I think it raises a good point: I’m fortunate enough to write full-time for a newspaper, so who am I to tell you not to set lofty goals for yourself when I’m living the dream my editor coincidentally calls her nightmare?

All I can say is that I’m the guy without a college education who spent 10 years cooking in kitchens before being mistakenly hired enthusiastically added to the editorial staff here at Siuslaw News 15 years ago. I can tell you from experience that reaching this level of success, which includes not two but three readers from Florida who are willing to admit they follow this blog, only came after making several important realizations — and failures — regarding New Year’s resolutions and goal setting for my writing.

Here are my Top Three writing resolution mistakes:

1) Waiting for Jan. 1
What I came to realize after several attempts to “start and complete that novel” was that the mere fact I was waiting for a start date doomed me to failure. I can honestly say the best things that have happened to me in my life — including meeting my wife on Match.com, getting this job, actually starting and finishing a mystery novel years ago — didn’t come by way of setting goals; they came from acting on them instinctively and following through, regardless of the date. The decision to start pursuing your goals as a writer — whether it’s to start a blog or publish a blockbuster — shouldn’t hinge on the New Year.

The only exception might be writing for a calendar company.

So am I saying NOT to start pursuing your writing goals next Wednesday? Not at all. But you should probably ask yourself, “Ned, why are you waiting?”

Sorry, I’m still working on that “third person” thing…

2) Setting resolution goals that include things beyond your control:
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to write a blockbuster, land a book deal or increase blog followers by 1,000 or more. But don’t make them goals. Ultimately, just like the women The Bachelor will decide not to send home this season no matter how much you yell at the TV, you have no control over those kinds of things. As a writer, all you can do is focus on what you’re putting on the page and have faith in what happens next. The same goes for watching The Bachelor, which is why most of them eventually end up on The Bachelor Pad. In short, set goals that are within your realm of control — the most important of which is the quality of what you write. Like a successful restaurant, people don’t come because of the plate ware — they come for the food. Unless you work at Hooters. Which brings us back to The Bachelor…

3) Lumping too many resolutions together
“I’m going to lose 30 pounds, write a novel and give up bacon!” Let’s face it, if those are your resolutions you’re doomed once again. Why? While it’s true that resolutions are supposed to be difficult and life changing, even if you could drop 30 pounds and write that novel all in the same year, what’s the point if you can’t eat bacon? Whatever your resolution is, in order for it to be successful it needs your full attention. Remember that a root word of resolution is “resolute,” which means “determined and of singular focus,” and “lute” which is “a guitar-like instrument with a pear-shaped body.

What does this mean? Clearly, writers who set resolutions for themselves should be “singularly focused” and should not simultaneously diet, even if they have a pear-shaped body.

In short, keep your resolution exactly that: singular. That way you can give it your complete focus and not be distracted by the success or failure of other goals you promised yourself.

My intention isn’t to dissuade anyone from pursuing resolutions into the New Year, or setting lofty goals for themselves. Though I had my share a failures with resolutions over the years when it came to my writing, I don’t regret them.

Except for that time I tried to learn how to play the lute…

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, will be released this December from Port Hole Publications. You can write to him at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

40 thoughts on “Exciting tips on how to fail at your New Year’s writing resolutions”

  1. Thank you for being so inspirational Ned…this post alone proves you don’t have to have any idea what you’re doing, why, or even what you’re talking about to record mental ramblings. Well done, sir!

  2. i am so happy that i don’t have to give up my bacon and learn italian at the same time! viva la bella baconissimo! (see i need a few more lessons and more bacon)

  3. My new year’s resolution is noble but not lofty: to write a novel more entertaining with a plot more believable than an episode, indeed series of The Bachelor. And I won’t wait till Jan 1st to start! Annnnnnnnd, go! Happy new year! 🙂

    1. Can’t wait! I can think of few things more noble then that. And once you’re done, would you mind seeing what you can do about getting Temptation Island back?

      And a a Happy New Year to you, too, Jackie!! 🙂

  4. Ned I am absolutely against goals of any sort. Do you know what all the goals you write down on Jan 1rst 2014 are. They will most likely be a written record of your failure as a human being on Jan 1rst 2015. It will be a list of all the thinks you couldnt do. that is just a hell of a way to go into the new year. Goals are for suckers. for further explanation i refer you to a diagram i made years ago i think it applies to being happy.


    1. I hear you, Tom! And thanks for the highly effective graphic, which clearly illustrates the ratio of expectation to happiness, as well as dramatic color usage. Well done!

  5. I don’t think I have ever really made a new years resolution… I just don’t feel like taking the energy to lie to myself I guess… lol… though I do keep planning on loosing weight… and finishing my next book… and well I don’t like bacon so no worries there… the only goal I’m really setting is to pass my next semester of college… keeping it obtainable…

    1. Those are all important and achievable goals that will better your life experience. Speaking of which, you should really consider adding bacon to your list — and I don’t mean Canadian bacon, which isn’t really bacon. It’s more like sliced ham, except in a circle. Kind of lame…

  6. I can not even express my gratitude towards you right now, because I’ve been having the crappiest day. I love how within rambles you’re constructed a humorous, entertaining, and helpful blog post.

    At first I thought it was going to focus on plain sarcasm, but turns out you know what you’re talking about.

    I’m going to keep my new years resolutions simple:
    1) become president
    2) take over the world
    3) buy flowers for the neighbors and then BURN THEM.

    Happy holidays, and a happy new year to you!

    1. I’m so glad I could help brighten an otherwise crappy day; it’s usually the other way around. By the way, your resolutions sound very realistic, although I am confused on the last one: will you be burning the flowers or the neighbors?

      Truly, thanks for reading 😉

      1. Thanks!

        Unfortunately I can not put into writing a response to your question — “will you be burning the flowers or the neighbors?” — because I’m afraid it could very well be used against me when I run for president. (For the record, that was a joke!)

        And of course, any time.

  7. Make your new year’s resolutions in July. I mean, it’s the only way to make sure that you’re not just hopping on the feel-good bandwagon that will crash at the bottom of the hill come February. You know, like the wagon that Calvin and Hobbes are always crashing.
    Be a better person in July, not now, not when everyone else is trying to do the same exact thing.

  8. Inspiring read, yet I always make up resolutions I know I can live up to. This year they’ll be:
    -eat more bacon
    -always eat brownie with a lump of ice cream
    -speak about Ned in the third person…(it’s easier from where I’m standing)

    1. Those are fine examples of attainable resolutions. Sometimes, when I eat too many brownies with ice cream, the sugar rush makes me talk about bacon in the third person…

  9. I’m trying to decide which I’ve enjoyed more…the post or the responses! I may have some neighbors to burn (JK-geesh!) and I dream about bacon. Your friends are cool!
    The fact that I hadn’t read your NWOW didn’t pop unto my head until tonight. Once I realized I could have missed it, panic ensued and my family will not be getting supper until I have read it thoroughly.
    And YES, I do have a point. I sat down this afternoon to the new Scrivener application on my desk top to write “the novel.” It would have happened sooner, but my gaming teenager has been so busy slaying zombies and minecrafting, that I’ve been unable to gain access. Ironically, I almost stopped because it wasn’t JANUARY 1. How gratifying to read your post and “get permission” to move forward. The goal(s) isn’t(aren’t) official or written down (yet), but I’m definitely doing something more with this whole writing thing in 2014.
    I don’t plan to miss any more of your Friday posts…Starbuck’s is on me!

    1. The responses are my favorite thing about blogging, so much so that I’m working on how to create a post with no actual content — just comments and responses! Wait, I think that’s called Facebook…

      Anyway, I’m glad you plan to “do more with this writing thing” in the new year 😉 It would be a shame if you didn’t.

      And if I’m ever out your way, I’ll make it in December so you can treat me to a Starbuck’s salted carmel mocha.

      Cheers, Michelle!

  10. My only writing strategy is to write, write, and write some more. Eventually, something good is gonna come out of it.

    I used the same strategy for running, and went from an out of shape asthmatic to a fit half-marathoner.

    There is hope! 🙂

    Great blog.

  11. Three followers from Florida? You are one popular boy! (-;
    I started reading your blog when I was in Florida, but I left the U.S. two weeks ago. (No, I didn’t leave beause of your writing.)

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