Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

13 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

If you’re in the habit of making New Year’s Resolutions, which I’m not particularly fond of — but if you must — then here are 13 potential changes to consider for the New Year, especially if you’re a writer:

Writer's Resolutions

Photo credit: Alexandr G. (Creative Commons)

  1. Write what you’re called to write. Your job is not to pander or entertain. It’s to create, to share stuff from the soul as you are moved. If others are moved, well, then that is merely coincidental. Consider it “gravy.” Your job is to write. Leave the results to the readers.
  2. Tell the truth. No matter what, regardless of what is at stake, we must write what is true — true to us and true to the world. Anything deviating from that standard is a farce.
  3. Write from the heart. Nothing stirs up the emotions of a reader quite like writing that comes straight from the heart. So don’t hold back now. This is the year where you show all your scars.
  4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Good writing is funny. It makes the reader laugh. If all you’re writing is the facts without bits of fun thrown in, you’re acting like a reporter, not a writer. Which is fine, unless you’re called to create something that tests the boundaries of the status quo. In that case, you better start having fun.
  5. Try a new genre. Are you a business advice writer? Try memoir. A novelist? Consider writing a journalism piece. Whatever you are comfortable with will ultimately cause your art to stagnate. So honor your calling as a creative and test the boundaries a little. Push yourself and see how you grow.
  6. Write when you don’t feel like it. No excuses now. We’re counting on you to do the work. Don’t disappoint us or make excuses. Show up — at the keyboard, every day, without fail. If you do this, you’ll do what so few are able to do: turn your passion into a discipline. And then, who knows? We might actually start listening.
  7. Do your research. Read a frickin’ book, for crying out loud. It won’t kill you. And God knows we could use a few more writers in this world who aren’t merely pontificating. Tell us something that doesn’t come straight from your idea closet. We all might actually learn something.
  8. Rewrite until it hurts. Face it: you’re not that brilliant on the first draft. And the second one kinda sucks, too. That’s okay, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t consider yourself done until you’ve put in at least several hours and a few drafts. At that point, you’re really writing; everything else is prologue.
  9. Shut up. Take some time and listen: to what people are saying, to what you’re reading, to what you’re writing. It’s all trying to teach you something. Pay attention, shut that big mouth of yours, and open your ears. You might learn a thing or two from your surroundings.
  10. Read widely. This isn’t just research, it’s practice. Honing your craft. Studying the masters who came before. Pick a book or two that didn’t just pop up on your Amazon referrals list; read a classic or something that has absolutely nothing to do with your chosen field. We base our careers on words, so the best thing you can do is absorb as many of them as possible from as many different sources as you can.
  11. Focus on the writing. Get off Twitter or Instagram and spend a few hours a week writing. Not your platform or your growing contingent of Internet followers, but the the thing that really matters: the writing. No one will thank you for this, which is precisely why it’s important. You will feel better, and the work will improve (promise).
  12. Break a rule. Maybe write in an unusual voice or depart from a norm you’re used to. Do something that causes others — and yourself — to feel uncomfortable. Because in the discomfort, we grow. So mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good.
  13. Quit stalling and get writing already! Stop reading this post or rechecking your email for the umpteenth time. Turn the phone to silent and unplug from the world for an hour and just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for a writer to do. Not think about writing or talk about writing, but actually write. Imagine that.

Of course, resolutions aren’t what make a New Year new. They’re merely a formality. Writing down something rarely, if ever, accomplished anything. The real trick is having the resolve, the wherewithal, to do something about the dream.

And once you start moving in a direction, you don’t really have a plan or a goal. You have a habit, which is way more powerful than something as pitiful as a resolution. Food for thought, if you can stomach it.

What are you resolving to do this New Year? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. To get updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Ryan McRae

    I really appreciate this post, Sir Goins. 

    • http://aparchedsoul.com/ Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

      Wait, Jeff did you get knighted and not tell anyone? :)

  • http://www.allandubon.com/ Allan Dubon

    This is a fantastic post. As a new writer I love the suggestions. There have already been times when I didn’t want to show up, but those times were when I was most richly rewarded by my readers. I am working at honing my skills as a writer, I do much better as a speaker. Thanks for putting out such great content. 

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    It has taken me a while to figure out exactly what I am called to write.  I do allow for some variety.  I’m writing a serialized story on my blog on Saturdays just for fun.

  • http://aparchedsoul.com/ Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

    Trying a new genre is something I’m experimenting with. Interestingly, it helps you figure out number 1, what you’re called to write about. Sometimes in our struggles and failures in one place, it points to our strengths and success somewhere else.

  • http://twitter.com/cupojoegirl Eileen Knowles

      “Because in the discomfort we grow”….learning this in my  life over and over and over.  Great tips, Jeff. 

  • http://erinulrich.com/ Erin Ulrich

    I’m not big on resolutions either, but as you said these are great tips regardless! This year, I’m focusing on carving out that time I need to write, even when I “don’t have time.”

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Good prompts.  One reason I write poetry, song and fiction is because I’ve become lazy in doing research.  In the future, I hope to write a non-fiction work, which I know will require more research.  I also have been spending more time blogging and less time working on the third book to my trilogy.  That’s another dilemma: to write or promote?  It’s all writing, but which is more important?

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    I don’t do resolutions as such, but I do adopt a theme word for the year. This year my word is finish. Enough said :)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I like it.

    • Denise Gabbard

      As the great procrastinator, mine is “start”….once I get going, I am a machine, but could use someone to kick me in the pants, daily.

      Here’s to a happy and productive year for all!

      • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

         Jeff is one of the best ‘kickers’ out there.  All these great ideas without action is for naught.  (Speaking for myself) I gotta get off my butt and get things done.

  • http://bobholmes.blogspot.com/ Bob Holmes

    I used to do New Years resolutions when I enjoyed rolling around in failure. :-) Nothing fails like perfectionism.   I agree with Dan, Good Prompts!

    You’re such an encourager Jeff! Thanks Man.

    PS  I wrecked into a soup kitchen and I’m reading monk books like mad.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    You wrote what was on my mind this morning Jeff!

    I sent a very similar email to a friend this morning.

  • http://jeffsanders.tv/ Jeff Sanders

    This is exactly what I have been trying to do: “Your job is not to pander or entertain. It’s to create, to share stuff from the soul as you are moved.”

    I’m trying to get away from pure entertainment or writing just to attract an audience and instead create content that has real value for myself and my audience.

    Thanks for the great post Jeff!

  • Bethhavey

    You have challenged me in many ways. I read a lot, because reading inspires me to write. But I need to read different stuff. And get off Twitter for a while.  THANKS!  

  • http://www.tessahardiman.com/ Tessa

    Awesome resolutions…I’m trying the get out of your own field. Working on a piece for a magazine when I normally only do non-fiction for my blog and fiction for my books. Might stretch me a little bit, but that’s the point, right Jeff?!

  • http://www.kathynick.com/ Kathy

    Points taken. (and well-put)

  • http://twitter.com/HopeScribbles Elisabeth Allen

    Thanks for these – I’ll refer to them later this year when I’m feeling stuck! :)

  • Robin Stanley

    Set myself free . . . to fail.

  • http://twitter.com/TyjuanaWilson Tyjuana W.

    *begins that slow hand clap in the back of the room*

  • John Thomas

    Jeff, thanks for this helpful list. I don’t care for resolutions either so I turned this list into 13 Theses for Writing in 2013 and nailed (actually taped) it to my shelf beside my computer.

  • http://www.love-laugh-learn.com/ Deanna

    I almost didn’t read number past one and two, since they alone are awesome — but so glad I did…  Best. List. Ever!!! 

  • http://hugmomma.blogspot.com/ Hugmomma

    If you can get these points right, you are indeed a writer in the artistic sense.

  • http://www.tammyhelfrich.com/ Tammy Helfrich

    Write more consistently.

    • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

       Tammy — I’m right there with you, sister.  For real!

  • Regibald Inkling

    Remarkable post there Jeff.  I am an advocate of writing from the heart, writing what moves you, writing truth within your fiction.  Remarkable words.  I do have one comment on this however.  In the thirteenth resolution there, you state, ” It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for a writer to do.”  While I do with certainty agree with your first superlative, if writing is the hardest and scariest thing for one to do, then that person is not a writer.  It is work, perhaps even enjoyable hard work, but one cannot call himself a writer if it is the hardest thing for him to do.  Always take time out to do what you do best and write, if you truly are a writer.

    I have more.

    Regibald Inkling
    http://regibaldinkling.blogspot.com/

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    Always love this  – “Don’t consider yourself done until you’ve put in at least several hours and a few drafts.” Am a posture child for edits/re-edits so I love such encouragement.  Thanks for the whippin’, way to start the year!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      no prob. :)

  • Melissa Mashburn ~ Mel’s World

    I absolutely LOVED this list…and your voice on it too Jeff, I really felt your heart behind it. Thanks for the kick start — here’s to a great year!

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    One thing you said in one of your posts really hit me. You talked about every word counting, not just writing a nice post. I took that to heart and so far this year have written posts that have challenged me and made me nervous because I put myself out there. I’m not just going to write a bunch of words this year, I’m going to really write! 

    • http://ernestdempsey.net/ Ernest Dempsey

      Atta baby Kimanzi!  

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      love that, Kimanzi.

  • http://ernestdempsey.net/ Ernest Dempsey

    Number 6, so tough to get through.  But it’s a must.  And I would say that for most of us, everyday is a day we don’t feel like writing.
    Number 9 is one that so many people forget. Listening is a lost art for people who make their living or are hoping to make their living by talking.  Listen to your mentors, your readers/fans, your friends, your peers.  
    Now I’ll shut up and start listening to the rest of the comments.  :)

  • JanetHertogh

    THANK YOU, JEFF!
    Each point is so applicable for me! You totally called me out – so I’ll be doing #6, #11 and #13 which all work together for the good! 
    Loved this post!!!

  • Serina_lane

    Paint more, write more, dance more, sketch more, love, love, love more!!!

  • Jenn Discher

    These are fantastic. This is why I read your blog–practical advice that kicks me in the pants in an encouraging kind of way. My resolution: to launch a blog and keep at it for at least a year.

  • http://brianbbaker.com/about/ Brian B Baker

    I have a book that I’ve been trying to write for three years, but it’s very personal and I’ve done the, “This is a work of fiction, any similarities to people or places is done as fiction” thing with it and I keep hitting a wall because of the personal nature of the story.

    This year I’m going to write the story no matter what, that is my biggest goal for this year.

    1-5 of your list hit me the best, especially numbers 2 and 3.

    Great post Jeff!

  • http://josephiregbu.com/ Joseph Iregbu

    Jeff, O Jeff… What would I do without you? :-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      :)

  • Lauren

    Really, really love this post!!!!!

  • http://DavidHelmsBlog.com/ David Helms

    All great choices for a resolution. Personally I don’t make resolutions. They feel too easily broken. One new habit I am developing is when I sit down to write I have a specific word count in mind (whether 300 or 500 or more) and I don’t do anything else until I’ve hit that word count.  It has really helped to mine the depths of my own soul and prove my deepest fear wrong. I won’t just run out of words. My own creativity is not a limited resource.

    • http://garymorland.com/ Gary Morland

      David, I like what you said about creativity and proving your deepest fear wrong.

      I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who made himself write a joke a day and put a big red X on the calendar every day he did it. Then he kept going because he didn’t want to break the string of X’s.

  • http://sevensentences.com/ Geoff Talbot

    Thanks Jeff,

    I skim read these because I really don’t believe in resolutions either. Why would I find all the things that I struggle with and try and force myself to do them?
    I do think a lot abut developing good habits and healthy ways of being though… a resolution without the spirit of grace could be a pretty tough thing.

    ThanksGeoff

  • Turn The Tide

    My resolution is to finally just write.  See where it takes me.  Follow through.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    I have loved your idea on creating habits, not resolutions.  Both have commitment in common, and if I were to resolve to do something this year, it would be to have the discipline to follow through on the commitments that I make to myself.

  • http://pickadirectionandgo.blogspot.com/ mickholt

    Jeff,
    6, 11 and 13 are words I needed to read – especially 6,

    “…We’re counting on you to do the work. Don’t disappoint us or make excuses. Show up…”

    I love “…do the work…” hits me the gut!  Lots of truth.

    I do have to disagree with you on one point though. While I do not make resolutions, I do set goals for the year – I know it may be a distinction without a difference but it helps me sleep – and I think it does help to write them down. I think, as with our writing, it solidifies them and helps us to envision the end. Iwill even write them index cards and tape one to mu computer and carry the other around with me.

    Good post. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Meg R

       I agree that  “…do the work….”  is a great comment, and it can apply to all of the goals I set for myself,  As I get older I want to know if I am taking care of the business of my life that is important to keeping me going.  Sometimes life as a surprise is not as effective as I had anticipated. 

  • http://somewiseguy.com/ ThatGuyKC

    Great stuff, Jeff. I’ve got a few personal projects I’m tackling in 2013, but focus is a big theme overall.
    And to go all Nike and “just do it” instead of planning endlessly.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      cool, man. excited for you.

      • http://somewiseguy.com/ ThatGuyKC

        Thank you, Jeff. You’ve set a great example.

  • http://leadright.wordpress.com/ Brent Dumler

    I started off 2013 with a One Word 365 focus.  I’ve got one word as a personal theme to drive me through the year.  Check it out http://wp.me/p1Et3O-9v 

  • http://1stteacher.wordpress.com/ Anita

    You’re right. A habit is so much more powerful than a resolution. 
    Here’s to sound writing habits!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen!

  • Betsy Houston

    2013 is my year to shine. I will write and write and then write some more!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      awesome. that’s the way to do it.

  • Karoline Kingley

     Every one of these great, and I have already began to actively do some of these things. I especially like #9. People, myself included, don’t shut up enough.

  • http://twitter.com/jrheimbigner Jack Heimbigner

    Thanks Jeff for the insights! I really appreciate them! I am really starting to get into your blog as I have started to write more myself!

  • http://www.elizabethingersoll.blogspot.com/ Beth Ingersoll

    I wouldn’t call it a resolution, but I am being more intentional with my time–eliminating some time suckers and replacing them with things far more beneficial.  I have been surprised and pleased so far! (Now I have time for my Tribe Writers classes!!)

  • http://emitezblog.blogspot.com/ Thescriptedboy

    very informative article thanks for sharing 

    Emitez  make money online and more

  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    I’m going to trust my instruments. By that, I mean that I’m leaning in on the habits that I developed in 2012 that have really brought a lot of vitality and focus to my day and week. A few have been 15 minute nap, a real sabbath, and writing for at least 30 minutes a day. 

  • http://twitter.com/TMikeMartin T. Michael Martin

    Fantastic piece, Jeff.  In the best possible way, this reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s work, especially TURNING PRO and THE WAR OF ART.  Thanks so much for sharing — your work always inspires me.

    Mike

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Mike. That means a lot!

      • http://twitter.com/TMikeMartin T. Michael Martin

        Absolutely!  :D

        Mike

  • http://twitter.com/Fearless_Men Fearless Men

    I’m a little anti “NY Resolutions” as well. I’m all about new focuses, and you’ve shared some great ideas! Specifically to reading widely. I do read the most random stuff that piques my interest online, but I need to invest in getting some books outside of my usual genres.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Ditto

  • M.L. Swift

    Hey Jeff,

    How many times do you have to read, “Great post?” Don’t get me wrong…it was a great post, but I’m not one to pander that way. ;o) I’m a fan of your ability to express yourself so succinctly. It would have taken me three times as many words to say the same thing less effectively. Taking notes…

    And by the way…great post.

  • http://www.yepi2.info/ yepi2

    Thank you to show me the emotions that day I was so

  • Daniel Lynch

    Thanks for the motivation boost Jeff. Lets make this a great year!

  • Pingback: Friday Features #39 - YESENIA VARGAS

  • Breakingintotheadworld

    I like this post but do you have any advice for beating writes block?

  • Kathy

    Hey I just learned something new about resolutions.  If you pose a question, such as “Will I write every day?”, you are more likely to succeed than if you make a statement, or an affirmation, “I will write every day.” This is based on research (which I can’t cite because it wasn’t cited to me).  One group of people, before they were asked to solve a puzzle, were told to say to themselves, “I will be able to solve the puzzle.”  The other group was told to say to themselves, “Will I be able to solve the puzzle?”  The group who asked the question had a greater success rate of solving the puzzle than those who made the statement, or affirmation.  The theory is that when you make a statement or affirmation, the brain can shut off, as if it is a done deal.  When you ask a question, the brain starts to work on a solution as to how to make it work.  Anyway, sounds interesting, and I’m going to give it a try.

  • Janice

    Would going to a quite place to write help?  I saw http://www.yourworldyourhome.com/novelgig/ and I am thinking about it

  • KarimAli

    Thanks Jeff for your ideas..

    for me I just published my new blog ‘The Decameron’, I want to present a new literary and intellectual experience, to collect thoughts
    and ideas about books, novels, philosophies and movies, talking about
    them, understanding them, pondering them, and exercising better writing
    through them.

    http://en.thedecameron.net/

  • http://www.yepi-yepi.com/ Yepi Kizi

    I suppose one suggestion. It is your dream. I think most of our dreams have interesting content so why don’t we rewrite them?

  • http://www.kizi1.net/ kizi

    Hey there, You have done a fantastic job.

  • http://www.kizi800.com/ kizi

    You write exactly what I have thinked…

  • http://www.frivgame.co/ Juegos Friv

    a nice post. thank for sharing

  • http://www.jugarfriv.org/ friv

    13 New Resolutions. thank you

  • http://www.kizi-2.org/ Kizi 2

    Very good article and very rewarding good work! Thanks

  • http://www.hopy1.com/ hopy

    Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it. Thank you

  • http://www.kizigame.co/ kizi
  • http://www.yepi10.net/ yepi 10

    very very great! thank has information…..

  • God’s Grace Notes

    Current Focus is on #12 – I will be writing more of that which causes discomfort, for ALL of us, but especially for the faith community. I intend to continue writing until we change the way we see and respond to “the least of God’s children…” http://www.squidoo.com/how-i-plan-to-help-the-homeless-in-2014