17 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

As a writer, I am only as good as my self-discipline. Over the years, I’ve learned that without daily habits, I might as well call it quits. If you’re in the habit of making New Year’s Resolutions, consider adding some of these to your list.

17 New Year's Resolutions for Writers

  1. Measure activity, not results. As a writer, your job is to share your truth, not worry about the outcome of your work. The first goal of a writer is to sit down and do the work, no matter how scary or hard it may be. When you do this, you almost always create something better and more honest than worrying about “what will people think?” So, write what moves you and leave the results to the readers.
  2. Tell the truth. No matter what, regardless of what is at stake, we must create something that is true, both to us and to the world. That means not only to be honest but to true to oneself. If something feels wrong, don’t do it. Your gut is the only thing that separates you from a robot. Try to trust it and be wary of the quick and easy route that leads to success (it doesn’t).
  3. Write what scares you. There is something powerful about leaning into fear and doing the thing that petrifies you. Nothing stirs the emotions of a reader like writing “from the heart,” as they say. Don’t hold back now. This is the year where you show all your scars, and maybe people will thank you for it. Regardless, you will be sharing your truth and that is enough.
  4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. I am guilty of this myself, but the truth is some of the best writing in history has a sense of humor. There’s nothing wrong with making the reader laugh. If all you’re writing is the facts, then you’re a reporter, not a writer. Which is fine, unless you want to create something that tests the boundaries of the status quo, something that goes beyond “just the facts.” In which case, you had better be funny.
  5. Try a new genre. Are you a business advice writer? Try memoir. A novelist? Consider journalism. Whatever you are comfortable with will ultimately cause what you create to stagnate, unless you infuse it with some novelty. Honor your calling as a creative and test the boundaries a little. Push yourself and see how you grow. As for me, I’m trying my hand at fiction.
  6. Write when you don’t feel like it. Professional writers don’t just write when inspiration strikes them. They offer themselves no excuses and do the work, no matter what. You need to do the same. Show up every day, without fail, as often as you can. When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. This is how you will develop the discipline that turns you from an amateur into a pro. If you do this, you’ll do what so few are able to do. You will turn your passion into a habit.
  7. Do your research. It’s not enough to just “write what you know.” You have to expand what you know. Read a book or two, for crying out loud. Don’t merely pontificate. Tell us something we haven’t heard before, something we won’t hear unless you take some time to ask important questions like “why?” and “how?”
  8. Rewrite until it hurts. Let’s face it. Nobody is brilliant on the first draft. And the second one after that usually sucks, too. This is okay — it’s normal, even — 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 in to whatever piece you’re working on. Remember: all good writing is rewriting. Everything else is just prologue.
  9. Shut up. Take some time and listen — to what people are saying, to what you’re reading, and 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 once in a while. Learn from your surroundings, then use it all to make your writing better.
  10. Read widely. This isn’t just research, it’s practice — honing your craft by studying the masters who came before you. Pick a book that didn’t just pop up on your Amazon list; read a classic or something that has nothing to do with your 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. Fast from social media. 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). So, take a brief break — at least a week — from the noise and focus just on the work.
  12. Break a rule. Write in an unusual voice or depart from a norm. Stop using commas. Get rid of all adverbs. Do something that causes others, maybe even yourself, to feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry; this isn’t a new style — it’s just an experiment. In the discomfort, we grow. So, mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good. Or maybe not. Regardless, you’ll learn something.
  13. Publish something. An eBook, a manifesto, a full-length book. If you’ve never put your work out into the world in the form of a publish book, it’s time. Nothing grows a writer like shipping. Yes, it’s hard and scary and you probably aren’t ready. But do it anyway. Enough with the works in progress and plans to publish “someday.” It’s time. You’ve got this.
  14. Make money. You heard me. Set a goal to actually earn some income from your writing this year. I remember the first year I set this goal — it changed my life. Our son was born, and seven months later, I was making plans to quit my job and become a full-time writer. Amazing things happen when you set a goal, chart a course, and stick to it.
  15. Start a blog. Blogging is an essential craft for the modern writer. It helps you practice in public, get discovered, and build your fanbase. It’s fun, too. For a step-by-step tutorial on how to get a blog started, read my “how to launch a blog” page.
  16. Meet other writers. You can’t succeed alone. We all need the help of others who are in the trenches with us. Set a goal to grab coffee with another writer at least once a month. If there are no other writers in your town, then hop on Skype and talk online. Don’t try to go this alone; the writing journey is a long and lonely one unless you have friends to share it with. For more on this, you can read my post on networking.
  17. Quit stalling and get writing! Quit reading this post or re-checking your email for the fifth time today. Turn your phone to silent and unplug from the world for an hour. Just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for a writer to do. Not to think about writing or talk about writing, but to actually write.

Of course, resolutions aren’t what make a year new. They’re a formality. The real trick is not setting the goal but having the resolve to do it. Once you start moving in a direction, you don’t have just a plan or a goal. You have a habit.

And that changes everything.

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

105 thoughts on “17 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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?

    1. 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!

      1.  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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!  

  9. 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?!

  10. 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.

  11. 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
    https://regibaldinkling.blogspot.com/

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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! 

  15. 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.  🙂

  16. 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!!!

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

    1. 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.

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    1.  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. 

  23. 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.

  24. 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 https://wp.me/p1Et3O-9v 

  25.  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.

  26. 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!!)

  27. 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. 

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

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

  33. 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.

    https://en.thedecameron.net/

  34. I’m resolving to excel in my specialization area being an engineering student. Any skill to get honed requires “to devote your full time & be committed & be ambitious towards, to the possible extent”. By doing so, the success will grace you without any time delay!

  35. As for as writing is concerned, to become a good writer, I believe in to have developed a ‘vision’ & then begin writing. ‘Vision’ needs to contemplate on, incubation & sometimes brainstorming sessions as well.

  36. The most uncomfortable piece I have read thus far into this new year, hence # 12. More powers to you, Goins.

  37. Hey Jeff

    This is a really good article. I was thinking of this topic recently and this really helped me out. I hope that it works well throughout time as well.

  38. Thanks Jeff. i’ll be 100% honest with myself to dedicate with my writing. Prematurely Happy New Year. All good wishes to you. 🙂

  39. I’m seriously going to print this out and pin it to the wall next to my desk. I’ve already resolved to the first one by reviving my personal blog. I’ve been focused so much on writing professionally and for others that I sort of (in a big way) let my own truth fall behind the bookshelf, as it were.

    So, I’m dusting it off and recreating a safe space where I write freely, which I hope in turn make me a better content marketer.

    1. Berrak, I really hope you will succed in reviving your own personal blog! Every writer or creator should have a one safe space where only truth should ve told.

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  42. Again, good stuff.
    No I am not going to write what scares me. I enjoy walking around without being afraid of the the dark (most nights). However, there are things that scary me but won’t put me into a panic attack and those would be good to write as they bring out the deepest emotion. Thanks again for your encouragement to us little guys.

  43. I see from the comments that this post was written 5 years ago. My publishers used it this week for the weekly online chat with their writers. I didn’t join the chat, but decided to respond anyway.

    Firstly, it amazes me that so many, supposedly successful writers have suddenly switched to telling potential writers how to become a writer. Could it be that they are struggling to make a living as a writer, like most of the rest of us?

    Without wishing to cause offence, I find that some of the advice can be just a little pompous and sometimes trite. As an example, your first piece of advice is: As a writer, your job is to share your truth, not worry about the outcome of your work. I don’t share any truth with anyone. I am a storyteller who merely writes to entertain. We don’t all want to be Dostoevsky or Ernest Hemingway. What is wrong with a writer simply telling a good story (in my case, an erotic story) to entertain his/her reader? My genre is fiction, not reality.

    Write what scares you? Why? Why would I want to write what scares me? And why would my reader want to know what scares me. As I said before, I write to entertain, to provide escapism from the mundane.

    Nobody is brilliant on the first draft. And the second one after that usually sucks, too. Sorry to disappoint, but my stories pour straight out of my brain and on to the paper. My first draft is almost always my last one. No, I’m not a perfect writer, and I make no pretence to be. My stories (written as both Rachel de Vine and Juliette Banks – of which I have published 11) seem to please my reader, and that is all I want. I write when it pleases me, and not to order, and as long as people enjoy them I am happy. The hardest part as a writer is not to write the stories. Instead it is to market them and find your readers.

    I appreciate that your blog is meant as a gee-up for prospective writers, but in all honesty the majority won’t make it as a writer. For those who have genuine talent, they don’t need anyone to give them resolutions. The urge to sit down and write will be in their gut. Just write what satisfies you and makes you happy. That’s all the advice I would give.

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