• Going Public With a Writing Resolution

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 35 comments

    FireworksAccording to this random study, 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions accomplish them. That sounds about right. Put another way, if you make twenty-five resolutions on New Year’s Eve, you’re likely to achieve two of them by the same time next year. Two outta twenty-five, gang. And the two would be probably the simplest and/or least important ones, too. (No study makes that claim — it’s just me being a cynic. Twelve days ago I resolved to be less of a cynic in 2016. Oh-for-one.)

    There’s a formality in the word “resolve,” a certain firmness. (A comic, maybe Carlin, once lobbied to have “firmth” become a word. I support that.) If you resolve to do something, it’s not just a passing thought; it’s a declaration. “I don’t just want to do this thing — I declare that I will do this thing!” It’s a strong statement.

    Well, folks, we humans struggle with strong statements. And most other things. And so another year passes and another set of resolutions goes unachieved, and we feel a little bit more like pieces of shit each and every December 31.


    Big Fat Zero

    On December 31, 2014, I resolved to write a novel.

    On December 31, 2013, I resolved to write a novel.

    On December 31, 2012, I resolved to write a novel.

    On December 31, 2011, I resolved to write a novel.


    Number of novels written = zero.

    Number of chapters written = like three.

    My New Year’s Eve writing resolution success rate = 0 percent.

    I never really put pressure on myself to achieve a writing resolution, or other kinds, really. What I need? Is a bit of outside pressure.

    [Tweet “if you make twenty-five resolutions on New Year’s Eve, you’re likely to achieve two of them.”]


    Fifty Shades of Hell No!

    Since 2011 or so I’ve kept a log of the books I read. Just title and author, but that simple amount of info is enough to keep the books fresher in my mind.

    At the end of 2012 I scanned my list and was disappointed at how few books I’d read that year. Not that quantity is all that matters, but it’s not like I’d read an entire year’s worth of Proust and War and Peace. It was clear just from the list that I hadn’t spent as much time reading as I would have liked to. Or should have, as a writer.

    So! I made a simple resolution to read eighty books in 2013. And then I took a second, more important step: I went public with it. In this space I laid out my resolution, and then I invited our readers to offer up ideas for punishment if I fell short. The chosen punishment was that I would have to read Fifty Shades of Gray in public while wearing a hot-pink onesie, with footies.

    I didn’t want to do that.

    So I read eighty books in 2013. Eighty exactly, as it turned out. And I can guarantee you this: If I hadn’t gone public with that resolution and consequence, I wouldn’t have accomplished it.

    [Tweet “Going public with a writing resolution will help you achieve it.”]


    Throw it All Out There

    I guess what I’m saying is, if you have a writing resolution for 2016, consider taking it public, and consider laying down some consequences. Fun ones, ideally. Because this doesn’t have to be life and death.

    Do so in whatever form feels right. Your own blog, Facebook, a town meeting, public access TV.

    Or do it right here! Leave your 2016 writing resolution in the comments below, along with your idea of a fun consequence for missing your goal. Or leave your consequence/reward up to your fellow readers, the way I did. Risky, but worth it.

    And include a fun reward for achieving it. Because yes, writing is its own reward … but the reward of writing and the reward of, say, a giant cupcake is even better.

    Tune in next week, when I write basically this exact same post, but about reading instead of writing.

    [Tweet “”Writing is its own reward … but writing and a giant cupcake is even better.””]


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services.

    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.

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    Brenda H.

    Well, mine’s the same as yours …write a book. It’s more like a goal than a resalution, though. It’s something I want to do, not something I’m declaring I will do. So I won’t make any punishments, cuz then it makes it a thing. But I will take suggestions on a reward. Maybe just a giant cupcake, like you said. But isn’t a giant cupcake just cake? lol

    Lisa Michener

    To write six essays.. finished, complete and polished essays. Essays that could be ready for publication.

    Lisa Michener

    HI David,
    I’m concentrating on the writing. That in itself will be an accomplishment. My writing is rusty and I just need to free my brain to be creative.

    Vinod Paidi

    My resolution will be submitting four manuscripts to peer reviewed journals. At least three of of them should be published in 2016. If I don’t accomplish it, the punishment will be explaining my science research to drunkard friends.

    Vinod Paidi

    You’re welcome David. I think reading of my manuscripts will be more fun.

    Glynis Jolly

    I don’t think I could ever go public with anything I RESOLVE to do for one reason. My one and only superstition is: if I keep my goal, whatever it is, a secret from utterly everyone, I’m more likely to reach the goal. So far in my life, this logic has been pretty successful, although not always. I don’t make new year resolutions. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I make my resolutions as I think of them, and I get started immediately on completing each one as I make them. However, I came across an idea the other… Read more »

    Liz Mercado

    I think I’m signing up for a beginner’s online writing class today to pick up some beginner’s writing tips and details.

    Yi Shun Lai

    I want to have a complete draft of the next novel I’m working on by July. I’ve drafted the outline of most of the scenes (except that middle that pesky pesky middle ugh!) so it should be doable. Also, I need to be better about monthly blog posts. Le sigh.

    Yi Shun Lai

    No, no. It’s not eating nachos and drinking beer ON an airplane. It’s at the AIRPORT. <<oh, look. it's a blog post on the importance of setting. *checks box*


    I got burned doing this. I was three chapters into my psychological thriller, and needed feedback and encouragement. I reached out to family and friends, and generally made it known that I was going to achieve my dream, however long it was going to take. I might as well have said I was going to adopt an elephant. Many of the people in the rural area where I live believe that writing is an impractical pie-in-the-sky hobby, and my announcement was met with indifference and eye-rolling. A single offer to read and critique never materialized. My own mother said she… Read more »


    Yes, I checked out a local writer’s group in the library, but it was only once a month and plagued with poor attendance. I recently joined another one about 1/2 hr from my home, and it’s a glorified coffee klatsch, though the facilitator tries to make it more than that. People are reluctant to give any real criticism. It’s just something to do in a town where there are few things to do. It keeps me writing, but I can’t improve it.


    Hmmm my resolution is going to be using SOME of my free time to write. I generally use free time to drink beer or nap… I have a lot of free time, so looking back it’s quite bad that I only took the time to do some writing like, twice a month…

    Justine Duhr

    I’m aiming to write at least 500 words per day in 2016. My fun consequence is shame.


    My first writing resolution is just to start submitting again. I haven’t submitted anything in a couple of years. And as crazy as it sounds, it hasn’t occurred to me to do so until the other day when after reading through and making a few revisions on a story with which I’ve been tinkering for over a year, I thought to myself, ‘I think this is ready.’ I haven’t had that feeling about my writing in a long time. So I figure I should run with it. My second writing resolution: Magical realism. I WILL manage it without it sounding… Read more »


    Oh, I’m always writing something. Submission is almost an afterthought for me. I don’t generally think of my stories as something someone else might want to read. And I don’t know why. It’s just not how I think of fiction writing, which makes submission a bigger goal than it initially seems. Like every respectable writer, I’ll probably serial submit, brace for an onslaught of rejection letters, and hope I win the lit mag lottery in the form of some editor liking my story just enough to save it from the slush pile. I’ve always admired magical realism and horror because… Read more »


    Your fun consequence is shame? Really, shame? Oh, no, no. There is no crying in baseball, and no shame in writing. How ’bout we make a friendly contest? I need motivation, you need motivation. Time for humans to support and encourage each other. I will write 500 words per day because Justine Duhr will write 500 words per day. No shame. Shame makes people feel bad and fail. Sometimes, we won’t make our goals (perfection is overrated) but encouragement will get us on the right track again. I encourage everyone to write at least three sentences tonight. Start small —… Read more »

    Justine Duhr

    Thanks for your supportive response, Eline. I was half-joking about shame being my “fun consequence.” You’re so right that shame makes people feel bad, but it can also serve as an unexpected motivator. That’s how I quit smoking. Eventually, I felt so bad about my habit that I was finally able to break it. I’m like that with writing sometimes, too. A long period of stagnation can lead to a burst of productivity. I’m not saying that’s ideal; it’s just the way the cookie crumbles. All of that said, I accept your friendly challenge, of course. I will write 500… Read more »

    Betty G.

    No writing goal this year other than to write more. But you said that’s okay.
    Last year I didn’t really finish anything. This year is like to at least
    say that I finished something and maybe even get it published. This

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