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

imageNo doubt, many of you have embarked on your New Year’s resolutions:

“I’m going to lose weight!”
“I’m going to drink less!”
“I’m going to change careers!”
“I’m going to stop referring to myself 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 publisher 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 16 years ago and, most recently, was promoted to editor. 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 dates to begin 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 you shouldn’t have started pursuing your writing goals on New Year’s Day? Not at all. But you should probably ask yourself, “Ned, what were you waiting for?”

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 plateware — 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. This post is an excerpt from his latest book, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnistHis first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)




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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...

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

  1. Ned, I’m afraid you got the etymology of resolution wrong, a common mistake. It actually comes from “re,” a drop of golden sun, and “sol,” a needle pulling thread, and “shun,” to avoid. This year, I swear I will spend more time sitting in the sun with an umbrella drink, while avoiding blog threads, which I’m sure will delight you.

  2. Give up bacon? Who does that?

    Good advice, Ned. I never make resolutions about my blog or writing other than to keep it going and enjoy your posts that the three Florida ladies and I read.

  3. i made two resolutions several years ago and so far they are still in force. To worry only about things that I can influence or change, all others to either accept or avoid and secondly, to no longer suffer fools lightly. Just as life is way too short to not live in Texas, it’s also too short to put up with sheer stupidity for the sake of making nice.

    1. Those resolutions will bring you much happiness. Especially your resolve to live in Texas. I was in Dallas for 4 years in the mid 80s and truly loved it. Not as many fools back then perhaps 😉

  4. My resolution is to develop Bacon Fruitcake, to see if The Magic Meat can rescue this forlorn holiday food (and I use the term “food” loosely.

    P.S. Don’t be too enamored of your Florida fans. They’re just trying to lure you to Florida. The alligators are tired of eating those old retirees and are demanding plumper younger meals…..

  5. YES! These are spot-on and point to the importance of both knowing yourself and bacon. Happy New Year! (I’m starting mine off by binge-reading your blog, food for thought being the only kind that doesn’t immediately show up on my waistline…)

  6. Ummm…did you write #3 for me? If so, thank you! Guilty as charged 🙂
    PS: When you get the chance, look at a direct message I sent to you on Instagram. Something funny happened with your book when I was dusting my shelves today 😉

  7. I totally agree with all of them, but especially #3! Setting too many goals any time is only setting yourself up for failure. When I had my weight loss business I had clients come in and tell me things like… I’m want to lose 40 pounds! I also quit smoking and drinking and I left my husband. Not kidding… WHOA Nelly! First of all, you shouldn’t put those kinds of goals on yourself all at once because each one of those are difficult enough by themselves. When/if you fail at one, you will say “screw it” and go back to smoking, drinking and eating… maybe not take the husband back, but you are definitely on the road to failure with all of the above by doing them all at the same time. And those clients would prove me right every time!!
    I have never really believed in “New Year’s Resolutions” because I believe you shouldn’t wait for a date to start something new. If you have a scheduling issue that prevents you from starting a good thing for yourself, then wait on that… not Jan 1!
    All good advice though! I wish you a very Happy New Year Ned with continued success and peace and love! 🙂 ❤

  8. Hilarious as always Ned, and natch, you had to bring bacon into the post! I’m with you though, don’t set yourself up for failure by planning to commit to too many goals, especially goals that overlap. I’ve given up the ‘resolution thing’ a long time ago. I get an idea, I act, there’s no setting a start date, I just start. The only deadlines I give myself are for when my book should be published, it keeps me accountable knowing when I have to finish edits, bookdesign and formatting to reach the goal line. 🙂

  9. For years I wanted to be vegan. Failed every January. This year I set myself the much more achievable goal of going pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish). I’ve been going strong for 7 days. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

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