Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. As the new year approaches, we begin to think ahead to what it may have in store for us and what we want to accomplish for ourselves. The television is flooded with commercials for dieting products, nicotine patches, and storage crates. The air is buzzing and hope begins to balloon in your chest. Even though January 1st is just another day, we have given it social and psychological meaning, and it marks an almost-tangible transition. You have goals, resolutions, and you will keep them.

new yearAnd then the magic dissipates, the champagne goes flat, mid-January or early February hits, and you suddenly do not care about those resolutions. And even if you do care, you convince yourself that you do not have the time, energy, or resolve to stay committed. Is this just the hectic reality of life? Maybe. But it may also be that you simply did not set the right kind of resolutions.

If you want to make new year’s resolutions that you truly will keep, follow the steps below. I’m using these with my own resolutions, and they have proven to work for me in years past.

Step One: Dream BIG

The dawn of a new year is the perfect symbolic time for refocusing on your dreams. However, most people stop at this step. They say to themselves, “I will be healthy this year.” That’s a great dream! But if that is the resolution you use to represent that dream, you aren’t going to get very far in achieving it.

Step Two: Get Specific

Okay, so you want to “be healthy.” Awesome! Now, what does that mean for you? There are several kinds of health: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial, etc. Whatever your resolution is, make sure you know exactly what it is you plan to accomplish. Without a clear picture of what your dream looks like, you won’t be able to make it a reality.

Step Three: Get Real

Let’s say your dream is to “get rich.” Okay, fine. And you specify that to be “make one million dollars.” That’s all good and well, but is that goal actually realistic for your current and projected situations over the next twelve months? Chances are, it’s not. A few more realistic ways to work toward your dream of riches would be to receive a raise, find a higher paying job, invest, or create multiple streams of income. While it may take you longer to reach your dream, I guarantee this approach of small realistic goals over big unrealistic goals will help you stay motivated and get you much farther in the long run.

Step Four: Get Quantifiable

So, you have your dream and your specific goal, and you’ve made sure they are realistic. Great. Now it is time to make your goal(s) measurable. Going back to the “be healthy” example, let’s say you decide that means to have better nutrition. Lovely. Make that into one or two even more specific goals that you can quantify. These could be: eat one serving of vegetables every day at lunch, only eat one serving of junk food per day, or drink less than five sodas a week. The choice is yours, of course, but make sure that you can track your successes and failures clearly and without negotiation.

Step Five: Get Tough

But not too tough. If you set a goal for yourself that is too easy or too difficult, you are bound to fail. For example, I drink maybe one soda a month. Tops. So, if my healthy resolution was to cut out soda altogether, that is a healthy decision, but it would not be difficult for me at all. However, I LOVE chocolate, so if my goal was to cut out chocolate completely, I would fail within a week. There has to be a balance. If your goal is not challenging, you are deceiving yourself into believing you are moving farther than you are. Likewise, if your goal is too challenging, you will never reach it and feel like a failure.

Step Six: Get Honest

Selecting your new year’s resolution(s) is a deeply personal decision. However, so many people choose their resolutions based on what others do. Is this a product of social groupthink, social pressure, or just a lack of creativity? No matter which way, make sure you are only taking on resolutions that you actually want to try and that you truly believe will benefit you. Don’t feel like losing 10 pounds? Don’t resolve to lose weight. Don’t want to record every second of your life? Don’t resolve to keep a journal. It’s that simple.

In the end, the keys to making new year’s resolutions you will actually keep are these: know yourself, your situation, and your dreams. Be smart, be logical, and be entirely honest.

And remember: the only judge and the only victor is you.

What are your new year’s resolutions? What factors do you consider when choosing your goals? Share your advice below!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing Craft & Tips

Following the Stars: How I Discovered I Am a Writer

The original subtitle to this post was “My Journey to Becoming a Writer.” However, as I thought about my progression from regular person to “writer,” I realized: I’m not sure that I ever was not a writer. Or, at least, I have always been a storyteller of some sort.

2481261494_3520edfe12_zMy mother likes to tell me stories about my childhood, as mothers do. Whenever my love for language comes up, she likes to tell me about how I was quick to speak and read. When I was a child, my mom read to me every single night. Apparently, as soon as I could speak in sentences, I would tell her the stories simply by looking at the artwork in the books. Most of the time, I would quote the books verbatim. However, every now and then, I would add my own flourish for dramatic effect. Soon after, I was reading on my own, and I would read the books to my mom with little stumbling over words.

This all happened by the age of three. Like my mom says, I have always been quick to language.

While my storytelling began in my toddler years, I did not take up “writing” until I was about six or seven. My first memory of story writing comes from second grade. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Cram, was brilliant. She gave prizes out to avid readers, directed several plays for her students each year, and best of all, she encouraged creative writing and made time for it in class. One day, she gave us blank pieces of paper stapled into booklets and had us make our own story books. I don’t remember the specifics of my story, but I can clearly see a picture I drew of a young girl standing under a tree and staring up at the Big Dipper. My story was about a girl who ran away from slavery during the Civil War and traveled north to find her freedom. Heavy stuff for a seven-year-old, I know. If anyone feels like psycho-analyzing that, have at it.

big dipperThe rest of my elementary school years are spotted with memories of writing. First, I recall computer class. On special days, our teacher allowed us to use a story-making software to create our own story books. This was my favorite aspect of computer class, and I would meticulously craft my sentences and construct the perfect image from the clip art templates. Next, I remember my fifth grade class with Mrs. Vopat, who also gave us free time for creative writing each day.

In Mrs. Vopat’s class, I wrote the second story I remember from my childhood. It was titled “The Adventures of Kate and Lizzie,” and it featured my best friend and me as mystery solvers who saved our crushes from danger. I was too shy to read it aloud to the class, so my friend read it for me. Even though we are no longer close, this childhood best friend is still one of my biggest fans, and I can honestly say that her enthusiasm for my writing, both then and now, has given me a great deal of confidence and reassurance. So, if you read this, thank you.

downloadIn middle school, I switched gears to the world of fan fiction. I religiously used Quizilla (back when it was cool and the HTML-savvy ruled) to write and read all kinds of fan works. I started out writing NASCAR fan fiction, of all things, and even co-authored a series with another fan my age. In high school, I wrote an embarrassing (okay, I’m actually really proud of it) amount of Harry Potter fan fiction. My Draco Malfoy romance series (okay, that sounds embarrassing) frequently made the Most Popular and Highest Rated lists, and I had many loyal readers. If I put each story’s chapters together, I probably wrote three full-length books. My experience on Quizilla taught me three things: that I can finish projects, that my writing is actually decent (even if it is just fan service), and that I work best when I feel held accountable to people (ie: my readers).

When university rolled around, I pursued two Bachelor degrees: English (with concentrations in literature and creative writing) and Sociology. Unfortunately, my university was small, so there was only one creative writing professor. While she was fantastic at teaching poetry (which I hadn’t written since a seventh grade Language Arts unit) and creative nonfiction (which I had never heard of and is now my best genre), she was not the best at teaching fiction. I understand this perfectly, as fiction is out of her realm of expertise. However, the result of this is that I spent my college career waxing poetic and recounting my life in new way. Useful and enjoyable skills, applicable to fiction, but not fiction. I haven’t made a real go at fiction writing in about three or four years. Needless to say, this leaves me a little nervous for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Despite all this, I am confident that I can get back to that place of fiction writing. Why? Ever since I could talk, I’ve been crafting stories, and even when I’ve been writing poetry and nonfiction, my mind has been swimming in fiction ideas. When inspiration strikes, it still strikes as a fiction story. Fiction, well, it’s in the stars for me.

And all I have to do — just like that little girl in my first ever story — is follow my stars to freedom.