A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
This month’s column is being written in early January. You are, no doubt, reading it sometime in mid-February. Those time frames are not coincidental; they were intentionally chosen.
Every year, millions of Americans predictably make one or more New Year’s resolutions. We swear to lose that “rubber tire” encircling our waistline. We promise to maintain a low-carb diet and include more veggies in our meals. We decree that we will be nicer to other people, including our brother-in-law whose political views are driving us up a wall. Or, we commit ourselves to writing three dynamite young adult novels that will capture the minds and wallets of the reading public as never before.
Eventually, many (if not all) of those resolutions evaporate, are extinguished, or simply disappear by sometime in the middle of February. Gone with the wind, so to speak! Current statistics show that of those who make New Year’s resolutions, only 46% of them are still working on those edicts after six months.
According to a significant body of psychological research, the resolutions we make at the beginning of the year have virtually evaporated weeks later due to several reasons. Prominent among those reasons is that we tend to make our resolutions too large, too unwieldy, and too unobtainable.
Stephen Guise in his book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results makes a case for the power of small habits rather than our over-reliance on large and often weighty big habits. He makes a valid point when he says, “Big intensions are worthless if they don’t bring results.” For example, we may make a resolution to lose 50 pounds this year, but we often find ourselves giving up (sooner rather than later) because the perceived goal was much too large. Guise emphatically states that most people “have big ambitions, but overestimate their ability to make themselves do what it takes to change.”
Early in the book, he makes two clear and penetrating points: “1) Doing a little bit is infinitely bigger and better than doing nothing, and 2) doing a little bit every day has a greater impact than doing a lot on one day.” Now, let’s put that in terms of our writing: 1) Writing a little bit of text is better than doing nothing at all, and 2) writing a little every day is much more effective and practical than trying to generate a very large manuscript every so often. The point is clear—a determination to make (a little) writing a regular and normal part of our daily activities is much more “cost effective” than a focus on a finished book.
So, in case you’re still looking for some appropriate 2022 resolutions, please consider these:
- Effort is much more important than production. Celebrate your hard work, not your final product.
- Take a risk; take a chance. Try new things just because . . . just because they’re new—not because they’re safe.
- Don’t aim for literary perfection; rather, aim for the learning that’s involved. Far better to be a constant learner than one who rests on their laurels.
- Reflect: What is one new thing you learned today? If you can’t answer that query, then you have some work to do.
- If you are wrestling with a writing challenge or struggling with a problem, tell yourself that you haven’t quite mastered it yet. Perseverance is just as important as effort.
- Writing is a habit and an obligation. It can’t be done every so often. It must be a daily commitment . . . like brushing your teeth or fastening your seat belt when you get in the car. No excuses!
- Set an achievable goal every single day: 200 words, 300 words, 564 words . . . whatever! When you meet your goal, reward yourself. (I prefer anything with chocolate chips: cookies, ice cream, brownies . . . .)
Pick one of the resolutions above. Write it on a sticky note. Post it over your computer. Keep it there until December. Watch what happens!
Tony is the author of more than four dozen children’s books. In addition, he has written From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them (https://amzn.to/32UWeCB)—a guide to the nature and nurturing of creativity. Numerous references to the intersection of writing and creativity are included throughout the book.