New Year’s Resolutions, Part 2

Previous Post in this series.

This year, I tried to be smarter about my New Year’s resolutions, after making just one resolution in 2018 and failing miserably. This year, I made five resolutions, but I tried to calibrate them to what I was pretty sure I could do and then carefully track how well I was doing with them. It turned out even that wasn’t quite right, though, because after actually trying it, I decided I needed to adjust my goals after only three months.

I described that process at the end of March. At the time, I was pleased to report that I was mostly increasing my goals. Unfortunately, things change. When my life got busier, my resolutions started to fall apart, so here is my second update and revision.

My current resolutions are:

  1. Exercise 30 minutes (at home) at least 3 days per week, except when I’m traveling. One of them must be Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Completion rate: 57%.
  2. Send 2 query letters for my novels to agents per month. Completion rate: 100.
  3. Read at least 3 chapters of different books per week, including one audiobook. Completion rate: 97%.
  4. Publish at least 1 blog post per week. Completion rate: 81%.
  5. A complicated set of weekly and monthly writing goals that I chose not to list in detail. Completion rate: 84%.

For that last one, my shortfall was not entirely a failure in writing. On one project, I was doing a lot of editing that didn’t add much to my word count, and on another, it needed extensive worldbuilding, on which I’ve made a lot of progress. On word count, however, I’ve struggled to keep up. Mind you, I’m still doing better than last year on many counts, but I still feel like I’m in a rut.

For exercise, well, that’s the most common New Year’s resolution and probably the most commonly failed. And I’m probably not alone in saying it’s not a matter of “But exercise is really hard.” It’s the time commitment that trips me up. Yes, I know I could make time, but it’s so hard to do that when I’m constantly behind on my writing goals and trying to find time to do those, too. And also, I’ve been traveling a lot, so it’s harder to keep up the habit. I’m still trying to get back on track there, though.

And through all this, I’ve increasingly wished I had a working daily writing ritual again. I said before that daily writing goals just don’t work for me anymore, but as I’ve struggled to keep up with my weekly and monthly goals, daily ones have started to look more attractive. As I’ve said before, I had about two years where I was really on a roll with writing every single day. Since then, I’ve struggled, but I think I might be finally getting back in gear now with some newly adjusted goals.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to make these kinds of goals because I don’t understand it myself. I’ll limp along for weeks and months, struggling to do things halfway and thinking, “I don’t know what else to do. I’m all out of ideas.” And then I’ll hear something that wasn’t even useful advice in itself, but makes me think about it again for five seconds from a new angle, and suddenly, I’ll have a new idea.

I’ll preface this by saying that a daily or even just a regular writing ritual probably won’t work forever because circumstances change. Writing a little bit first thing in the morning worked for a while when I was still taking classes and didn’t need that much of an early start. Writing last thing before I go to bed worked for a while when I had a reliable sleep schedule and didn’t have to force myself to stay awake to finish it. My sleep schedule started to break down, and I wrote complete gibberish a few times and had to give it up. Writing while on the bus to work sort of worked for a while, but it was really awkward, and I decided I was more comfortable listening to audiobooks on my commute instead. (Just as well because for my next job, there’s not convenient public transit.) Writing immediately after work never really worked in the first place because I couldn’t do it every day, and I guess I didn’t have the right attitude for it.

But my new idea is that every day isn’t going to work, but I could scale it back in a specific way. My schedule isn’t reliable enough to write every day, but I can do it like my exercise goal and only require it when something else isn’t getting in the way. (It also helps that I’m counting my blog posts toward my total word count–for now–where I didn’t before.)

I’ve tested this idea over the past three weeks, and it seems to be working so far, so I’m adding it as a sixth New Year’s resolution. (In the middle of the year, I know, but it’s really only four resolutions either way; it’s just that my writing goals are really complicated.) And here it is:

  1. Write at least 250 words immediately after dinner on days when I don’t have something else going on.

I’m hoping this will get me writing more consistently again, even if it’s not every day. So far, it looks promising, although making progress on any specific projects remains to be seen.

About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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