What Are Your Writing Resolutions for 2013?
Written by
Anne Zimmerman
January 2013
Written by
Anne Zimmerman
January 2013

I always lose track of my creative work over the holidays. The culprits are obvious: Morning baking parties and afternoons spent shopping, celebratory time with family and friends and a wee bit of overindulgence in holiday good and drink. By the end of my vacation I’m aching to return to my desk. There’s just one problem. For me, jumping back into my writing practice after a few weeks away isn’t always that easy. So I wait and wait, watching the days after Christmas turn into the days before New Year’s. Finally, after the ball has dropped and the old year has come and gone, I get inspired to get busy.

January, with its chilly bright days and sense of newness, is the perfect time to reassess my writing goals and make some resolutions about what I want to accomplish in the upcoming calendar year. But rather than being too dictatorial (after all, life’s already hard enough since I’ve given up sugar and staying up late) I like to play a bit loose. I find strict dictums oppressive and personally believe that the easiest way to get derailed from the goal of “writing a book in 2013!” is to pair it with a resolution to “write every day for two hours.”

Instead, I like to work backwards. Say that goal of “writing a book in 2013!” is on the top of my list. What do I need to do to make that happen? Sure, I need to write. And it’s quite possible that it would be best if I could “write every day for two hours.” But I know myself too well – that simply isn’t going to happen, especially if there’s not a story that’s tugging at my heartstrings.

Before I can begin a book, I have to find my story. And as a nonfiction writer, what I usually need to do before I sit down to write, is research. Thus, on January 3rd you could find me at my dining room table with my computer on, surrounded by stacks of notebooks, newspaper clippings, file folders and other “stuff.”

Over the course of a long afternoon I weeded through all the ephemera (all accumulated in the past calendar year) making notes, looking things up, shooting off query emails, and making lists: Find home for essay about RL; pitch story about blueberry farm; spend one day a week at the research library.

Some might call such dalliances procrastination and they could be right. But by that evening I’d reacquainted myself with my creative self and my work in a way that’s absolutely imperative for my future writing success. I’m ready to dig into new projects and reach my writing goals.

So, before you get too lofty with those resolutions (read Anna Karenina, write a memoir, finish a novella in 2013, oh my!) try some of these simple tips guaranteed to get and keep you writing in the new year:

Take a class in person or online: I teach in the Stanford Online Writer’s Studio, at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and at bookstores and conferences. As an educator, I can safely say that writing classes are well worth the financial investment. Sign up, shake up your routine, and get to work. You’ll be amazed by the progress you can make.

Hire a coach. Some of the most rewarding teaching relationships I have are with students who I work with one-on-one. For the student, it’s an opportunity to mimic that intense writer-editor relationship (think Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson), get individualized feedback, and ask lots of questions. If you have a specific project you’re interested in advancing this year, a coach can help.

Find a writing group. I’m always a bit jealous when other writers tell me about their writing groups. There’s nothing better than a committed cohort who is familiar with your work, able to stick by you while your project develops, and willing to provide honest critiques.

Get active on She Writes: Join groups, post status updates, join conversations, and more. No matter which time zone you write from, this supportive community of creative women will bolster you.

But remember, just like any other new year’s resolution, it’s important to be realistic about creative goal setting. Writing is part inspiration and part determination. There will be days when you just don’t feel like sitting down at your desk and other days when you simply can’t. The goal should be progress, not perfection.

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  • Anne Zimmerman

    Thanks for the nudge, Terianne. I'm deep in the throes of conceptualizing a new project now and should definitely look for a group once I have writing to share.

    Your intended book sounds fascinating. Good luck!

  • Terianne Falcone

    @Anne Z., oh i get that you must be tired of reading/critiquing by end of the day...and yet, there ain't nothing like a great writing group, a place we can call my own.

    i joined she writes for support, ideas. still trying out how best to use the site. signed up for query critic 2.0 because i've started my book proposal research. working on comic memoir stories. 

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Hi Terrianne,

    Good question. I teach a lot and deal with a lot of student work which leaves me a bit tired of reading and critiquing at the end of the day. Another reason is that I'm between projects. My first book was a biography and I would have loved to find a great critique group. I bet She Writes would have helped with that!

  • Terianne Falcone

    <<<<<Find a writing group. I’m always a bit jealous when other writers tell me about their writing groups. There’s nothing better than a committed cohort who is familiar with your work, able to stick by you while your project develops, and willing to provide honest critiques.>>>>

    how come you're not in one? when i finally decided to take writing seriously, it was the first thing i did. and i love them!!!

  • Nancy Cohn

    I, too, have a plan and have implemented about half: signed up for a workshop on crafting the novel, am test-driving a new writer's group focused on the novel, joined a couple of groups on She Writes and other sites.  Still to come: creating a blog, which feels like jumping off a cliff, and sending the damn novel out.

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Hi Barbara, Wow I am impressed what you got done in just one calendar year. 2013 bodes well for you! The research writers do for fiction is SO IMPORTANT (twist vs. screw top, etc). It sounds like you like the research part too, do you ever find yourself doing too much research and not writing? I hear this complaint from students a lot. Good luck!

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Lisa, I am so glad this helped you get up and going! Don't get too comfortable... get writing!

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Good job Lesly! I admire your tenacity.

  • I have an action plan for 2013. Thanks for sharing, I agree committing to a set time everyday is challenging, however I have committed to one thing and that is I will write!

  • I think I need to tack this up with highlights. It's so tempting to ease back into comfortable, safe isolation, but it never fails to steal creativity. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • barbara johnson

    Thanks so much for helping me get my head back into my action plan for the year! I have some personal things I am working on and my writing is taking second place at the moment, but I need to put myself into the writing for my sanity, I think! I only started writing seriously in 2012 and it was inspirational for me toward my personal goals; can't really explain that other than that it spurred me into making a decision that I had put off WAY to long.

    I finished my first book and the first draft of a sequel in less than six months. I found that the research was very interesting, not at all like what you are doing, I'm sure, since my work is fiction. But I found that, since my book takes place in the '60's through the '80's I needed to know when beer bottles had screw off caps. There were other things I had difficulty finding. Interesting research!

    So, thanks for the information. May your work come together much more easily than you anticipate.


  • Anne Zimmerman

    Kathleen, I love the idea of making monthly goals. I bet that helps too much time from flying by without productivity. In fact, I think I'm going to make some month specific goals now...

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Allison, you are TOTALLY right. Book research can take years. Years! (Maybe I should do another post on this?) But we must start somewhere, and I find getting my ducks in a row helps me wrap my brain around my project, which then takes the sting out of the fact that it always takes way longer than I expected to get off the ground.

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Susie -- you have definitely not blown it! And if you did, you can always get back to work.

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Yes Melissa -- progress not perfection! For example, today I've done reading and revising. I hope that will lead to writing tomorrow...

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Hi Evelyn, thanks for the comment. I sense we have similar feelings about the promise of a new year. Good luck!

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Thanks May! Good luck to you, too!

  • May Kosba

    Thank you for this inspiring piece. I will definitely think on it. And good luck in 2013! 

  • Evalyn Lee

    Thank you Anne: a perfect post, and so helpful as the far horizon of a new year imposes itself on all your hopes and dreams for the writing year!

  • M. Kinnel

    What an insightful post! I totally agree with progress, not perfection. I would love to write every single day but real life gets in the way and I have work around that schedule. 

  • Susie Klein

    Anne, thank you for this. It is just what I needed this morning! It IS still January so I have not completely blown it yet. 

  • Alison Gunn

    I am so glad you've broken down this list into manageable, realistic actions the nascent writer can reasonably expect to take in a given (short) period of time. A year might seem like a long time in January, but comprehensive research (the kind that provides the level of detail that makes a book worth publishing) can take years, not just *a* year. I think having a realistic plan of approach is crucial for the writer who is beginning a project, particularly if that writer has never taken on that kind of task before, and possibly underestimates how long certain books can take to write. 

  • I can picture you at your dining room table with the stacks of stuff. That's similar to how I work. My goal for 2013 is to think in terms of what I can do this month and do it, whether that's completing a revision, sending out submissions, or drafting a new piece. I work in short forms (poetry, creative nonfiction), so to break down my goals into smaller, monthly chunks works better for me than looking at the entire year at once. I'd rather sit down at the end of the year and say, wow, look at all these things I did over the past 12 months. (Now, let's hope I get to do that in December!)

    I did manage to get my blog redesigned the first week of the new year and that felt great. That good feeling from completing something is the best inspiration to keep going.

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Hey Mercedes! You've got the right idea -- be realistic in your progress and don't beat yourself up if things don't go as planned.

  • Anne Zimmerman

    Wow, Daphne! I am SO impressed. Having already written one book in 2012 is huge. Way to go to aim for number two in 2013!