How to Set and Keep Your Writing Resolutions

by Brenda Joyce Patterson
published in Writing

It’s well into January and by now, you’ve probably read about the most common (and achievable) New Year’s resolutions. Or articles challenging you to read all 2017 National Book Award nominees. Or a testimony on the best techniques for writing poems, essays, or novels, distilling the whole process into three easy steps. It seems everyone has a method for how to set and keep your writing resolutions.

I read those articles, too. I’m so Pavlovian about them, I rarely let one pass without at least skimming it.

And of course, I write those selfsame articles as part of my job as a columnist. So I won’t tell you to stop reading them. Instead, I’ll give you four (almost) foolproof steps for achieving any objective:

1. Choose specific, realistic goals.

This is where you’ll need to really pay attention to your likes, dislikes, and habits. No need saying you’ll wake up at 5 am every day to write if you’re a night owl. Or vowing to write 500 words in 30 minutes when your usual writing speed gifts you with only 200 words over a 24-hour period. Try working WITH your propensities.

2. Bring your goals down to size…

…and connect it to something you already do.

Psychologist B. J. Fogg has pioneered the idea of Tiny Habits and how thinking tiny helps people change behaviors. He suggests coupling a tiny behavior with an existing one to successfully form a new habit.

3. Commit to your goals.

Commitment wears a different hat for each person. For some, putting goals in print — either on paper or online — works. Others find success in asking others to hold them accountable.

4. Revisit/reevaluate what you want to achieve…

…and why you want it. Regularly.

Don’t punish yourself by doing something you hate or that makes you hate yourself. Be willing to admit your initial attempt isn’t working. Try something else — a new path or even a new goal.

I know I’m covering well-trodden ground here. As much as I wish to the contrary, I have nothing new to tell you about writing, only another way of looking at it. But I can introduce something unique to this conversation about writing and resolutions.


Pay close attention to you. Read writing that excites you. Write what excites you. Embarrass that bad-mouthing inner imp by honing your writing to a fine point.

Never be afraid to ask for help.

Challenge your writing weaknesses. Play to your creative strengths.

This is your (writing) path. There is still time to achieve your goals. And no matter what you read or other writers tell you, you are the one who has to do the daily work. Remember YOU are the expert of you.

You’ve heard all of this before; so feel free to ignore this article.  Ignore any and all of it. Seriously. Just don’t ignore you.

Brenda Joyce Patterson is a poet, writer, librarian, and lover of short writing forms. Her poetry and flash fiction have been published in Vayavya, Gravel Magazine, and Melancholy Hyperbole. Along with works by Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Alice Walker, her travel essay “The Kindness of Strangers” appeared in Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Guide to Travel and Adventure.

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