2021 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION EXPERIMENT (NO GOALS WHA?!)
It’s January 2021, there’s still no end in sight to the pandemic, I’m 9 months pregnant, and starting the new year not having written very much during 2020.
I admit, I kept myself from writing during 2020 because I was afraid of not being able to maintain my momentum after having my baby (and also afraid of losing momentum and projecting my resentment onto my totally innocent child). I was terrified to have a baby and lose myself.
So…instead of setting actual goals for 2021, I decided to focus on having a “yes year” (which was really more like a ‘I’ll stay open to any and all possibilities’ year).
I know what you're thinking...
(Hold yer horses!)
Because I wasn’t sure what my capacity for productivity/output would look like as a new mom, I decided to give myself time to just settle into that life and NOT STRESS AT ALL ABOUT WRITING while also keeping an open mind about what I might be able to realistically add to my plate.
My plan/set of rules looked like this:
1) Do not stress about writing. Presence with baby, husband, and self is #1 priority.
2) Whenever you find yourself doing something that is a time waster (ie: scrolling socials) jump to a note on your phone or laptop and jot down at least 10 words-3 sentences of a writing project. Dialogue, description, character or world building info, anything.
3) Seriously consider and say YES to as many opportunities as possible, whether it be writing challenges, slush reading, editing or beta reading jobs, and short story submissions, and stop whenever your plate appears to be getting too full. (Too full= unable to rest and remain present with people & things that bring you joy because you're stressed about all you need to get done)
4) You are not allowed to stress about the end goal of a project—work in a way that brings you joy, and do not force anything.
5) You are not allowed to beat yourself up or feel bad for not completing anything you’ve said YES to doing, or for any mistakes you might have made.
6) Give yourself credit for whatever you managed to accomplish.
7) Take note of what you did accomplish in that time to better gauge your realistic productivity output, as well as mistakes made that needed correction to avoid them in the future. (For the latter I started my own editing style guide)
8) Celebrate EVERY win. A short story finished even if it didn’t get submitted in time. A short story submitted but rejected. A short story acceptance (obviously). Booking clients for editing/beta reading. Finishing a freelance job. Any draft finished regardless of finesse. Etc…
I spent almost the whole year dedicated to this set of rules.
I wrote, submitted, and published more since having my baby than I have IN MY WHOLE ADULT LIFE.
Removing the pressure to officially finish things MADE ME FINISH THINGS.
This year, I started what I already consider a successful freelance beta reading and copy editing business. I joined the editing team of one of my favorite literary magazines. I wrote a rough draft of a novel, five short stories (two were published), and one novelette (debuting Feb 2022). I also edited, wrote a story for, and helped publish the horror anthology Nightmares When I’m Cold with my dear friend Nicola Thompson of Natural Writer Coaching. (Get it HERE!)
It took a few months after having the bebe to get in the swing of things, but I managed to jump start the habits after joining the Wordmakers writing group and doing the 20kin5days challenge. While I didn’t hit 20k, I did write a little over 16k IN JUST 5 FRIGGIN’ DAYS and it really helped motivate me to just keep trying. Having a supportive group that cheered me on (with a baby on my lap) regardless of whether or not I hit the 20k gave me more motivation than I knew I needed.
This silly plan has miraculously helped put me in a MUCH better place to set goals for 2022. I think a lot of people probably struggle to meet their goals because they don’t take time to explore and understand their realistic capacity to actually accomplish those goals. It often leads to burnout and eventually the dreaded “failure”.
So, if you’re struggling to set goals or just struggling to figure out what goals you can reasonably accomplish, I highly suggest doing something like this.
The key: be hyper aware of how you’re utilizing your time AND hyper aware of how much you can realistically put on your plate without overwhelming yourself. If you can be honest with yourself about those 2 things, I think it’s impossible to fail.
I really needed a year of being more forgiving with myself, and apparently committing to showing myself that grace was all I needed to prove to myself what I'm capable of. Being a new mom is so hard, and nothing I've done this year has been without error, but finding small ways to pat myself on the back has been a huge help and I’m so proud of how much I learned and accomplished this year. I’m moving into 2022 with a more solid game plan and, for the first time EVER, I’m quite confident I can achieve what I hope to.
Whether you’re setting concrete goals, doing something like this, or nothing at all, I wish you all the best in 2022!
(Keep scrolling to check out more pics of the Nightmares When I'm Cold anthology)