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

For those who might be visiting for the first time, I should explain that I literally wrote the book on how to fail at writing. No, seriously. It’s an actual book. In it, I drew upon my 16 years as a columnist to offer tips that Writer’s Digest once called “… a shining example of why some writers go on to have successful careers as plumbers…” and what Master of Horror™ Stephen King has described as “The antithesis of precise literary implosion.”

See? I’m shucking an oyster, so it HAS to be good!

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, it raises a point: I’m fortunate enough to write full-time while also helping other writers through my editing service, so who am I to tell you not to set lofty goals for yourself?

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 at Siuslaw News 23 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 in my life — including meeting my wife on Match.com, landing in journalism, getting a syndicated column, writing three books and starting my own editing business — didn’t come by way of setting goals as much as 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 if your goal is writing for a calendar company. 

So, am I saying NOT to start pursuing your writing goals this Sunday? 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. 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 flatware — they come for the food.

Unless you own a Hooters.…

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).

Whether you start that novel, memoir or screenplay today, tomorrow or Sunday, trust your instincts and remain resolute in your pursuit of your goal.

And never, ever give up bacon. That’s just silly.

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Are you a writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir? Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE

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Still looking for that perfect Christmas gift? These won’t help.

[Warning: This blog post contains gift ideas of an explicitly stupid nature and may not be suitable for some readers. Particularly anyone who might actually consider buying one of these items for a friend or loved one.]

It’s time for a special holiday feature: Gifts That Say Santa is Getting Senile.

As always, we spared no expense when it came to assembling a team of gift experts with the talent and skills necessary for this helpful feature. And, as always, we wasted those talents by spending our entire operating budget of $32 on lottery Scratch-Its. As a result, our plan to provide you with exciting Christmas gift ideas quickly deteriorated into this list of really dumb products that, if given as gifts, will surely lead to more than one hospitalization this holiday.

So, let us begin!

Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for creating culinary masterpieces? These next two items were designed to turn an average meal into the kind of dining experience people will be talking about for years…

…with their therapists.

We’ll begin with the amazing Octodog Slicer ($15.99), which can turn any ordinary hot dog into an octopus. Simply take your Octodog,

insert a Frankfurter and….viola! (i.e., Wha-LA!) An eight-legged meat bi-product that your guests will stare at indefinitely.

If THIS doesn’t make you hungry… Yeah, me neither.

For added excitement, throw in a set of Wiener Dog Corn Holders($6.99), which are just like regular corn holders, except that these look like the front and rear ends of a wiener dog sticking out of your corn cob.

Not into cooking? Well, this next item is something everyone can appreciate.
How many times have you said to yourself on a hot summer day: “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a small, battery-operated fan that looks like it’s being carried by a Sumo wrestler…?

As it turns out, for only $14.99, you can have your very own Sumo Fan! This incredibly life-like figure looks just like the real thing. Except that he’s made of hard plastic, stands less than six inches tall and, for some unknown reason, is holding a giant fan.

The point is, I warned you these gift ideas were really stupid.

Next, we have the gift that says: Honey, I think our love took a wrong turn. Ear Lobe Directional Signals! ($6.99) Light and easy to use, these battery-operated signals attach to any set of standard ear lobes and, with the flip of a switch, can immediately warn others that you are extremely weird. This is particularly useful at the supermarket during the holidays, when lines are long, isles are full, and nervous store managers — upon seeing your flashing ear lobes — will do anything to get you out of their supermarket as quickly as possible. 

If that still doesn’t get you your own express lane, add a Disco Ball Mouth Piece ($5.99) to your ensemble. This rubber mouth piece flashes changing patterns that can be seen up to 30 feet away every time you bite down — even if it happens to be on the end of a night stick!

Do you know someone who loves to hike but who, unfortunately, also has an inexplicable desire to play golf? Give them a set of Camouflage Golf Balls (3 for $10.99) and set both worlds on a collision course of fun! Imagine the hours of enjoyment they’ll have (depending on their slice) hiking through the woods looking for a nearly-invisible golf ball. And even if they keep the ball on the fairway, once it leaves the tee it’s as good as gone anyway because its camouflaged! 

Where did it go? 

Only the groundskeeper and his lawn mower will know for sure.

This brings the only item on the list I’d actually consider buying: Bacon Strip Wrapping Paper ($4.99 per roll). That’s right. Gift wrapping paper covered in bacon strips. I don’t believe any further explanation is necessary.

This next item is the perfect gift for that special someone who should really see a psychiatrist but can’t afford one: Sigmund Freud action figure ($5.99) It’s the gift that says how much you care, but that you’re really tired of listening to their whining.

Our next gift solves what has been an age-old problem for men, which is that many of us LIKE a good daiquiri but see them as a “woman’s drink.” For this reason, there is the Gas-Powered Blender ($229.99) Any man will feel rugged making a daiquiri in the bowl of his 25cc gas-powered blender. With just a yank of the start cord, you can grab onto the handle bars and use the throttle to shift from blend to frappe — all while leaving absolutely no question (particularly in the eyes of women) that you are, indeed, a total man.

Men, there’s no reason to avoid making foo-foo drinks anymore! Not when you can throttle down on those daiquiris like a MAN!

And while we’re on the subject of gifts for men, how about a Glow-in-the-Dark Toilet Seat ($21.99) or pair of Mop Slippers ($6.99)? While the toilet seat is pretty self explanatory, the slippers, I should clarify, have mop-like fringe on the bottom so that you can clean up messes with your feet. (Wives: The toilet seat and slippers aren’t sold as a set, but, depending on your husband’s aim, you might want to consider it.)

Next on our list is a gift for that special someone who’s always wanted a complete set of hardwood furniture but couldn’t afford it. Well, now you can make their dream come true with the Grow Your Own Furniture Kit ($2.95), which includes:

One walnut seed. 

But from that seed you can grow a tree with enough wood for: 1 chest of drawers, 1 dining room table, 2 nightstands, 6 chairs, 1 rocker, 1 foot stool — and 82 toothpicks (Note: Actual number of tooth picks may vary.)

And finally, we have the ultimate stupid gifts:  Walking Sushi ($2.99) Frighteningly, it’s exactly what it sounds like: A plastic wind-up toy that looks like sushi and walks across the table.

Imagine the laughs you’ll get from the chef at the sushi bar!

This is the perfect compliment to yet another gift direct from the orient, the Pocket Zen Garden ($4.99). Just like the popular zen gardens of Japan, where people (and some cats) find tranquility by placing objects in areas of sand, this version is exactly like those.

Except really, really small.

However, it does come with real sand, some colored stones, and a really tiny wooden rake — which, I should mention, happens to be just the right size for…

You guessed it!

Your Sigmund Freud Action Figure!

There you have it. This year’s list of potential relationship-ending holiday gift ideas. 

Use it in good health.

Or, at the very least, not without a good health plan.

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Are you a writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir? Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE