Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Writing Resolutions? Just Do It.

Calvin & Hobbes on Resolutions
I have a confession to make: I am a huge fan of New Year's Eve, Resolutions, Goal Setting, and Planning in general. 

In fact, I can generally be found preparing for the New Year when I'm only halfway through the year before. I have an ongoing obsession with planners, a marginally-disturbing menagerie of time management and achievement books, and a compulsive need to create "To-Do" lists. 

But as 2012 clocks in at Day 3, I sit down at my desk and find myself drifting away from all of my carefully constructed color-coded charts, logical lists, actionable action plans and meticulously-honed mantras and instead staring at a blank screen with a wildly unexpected thought bubbling in my mind: "Just Do It." This is both terrifying and strangely liberating.

Why? Because for the first time in my writing career, I actually can just do it.

In 2011 I learned that my young adult novel, Maid of Secrets, would be published in 2013. Up to that point, I'd been a part-time fiction writer and full-time something else. Well, in 2012, after months of (you guessed it!) planning, I'm finally committed to being a full-time fiction writer and part-time something else (in my case, freelance writer). And now that the New Year is here, it's time to "Just Do It".

My Writing Resolutions therefore are pretty straightforward, and come down to these four cornerstones:

1. Be a Fiction Writer First

In my freelance work, I do a lot of marketing and advertising writing -- and I am a member of multiple blogs, loops, forums and other random internet groups that can often be colossally distracting from the real work of the writer... which is actually writing FICTION. But to be a professional fiction writer, the fiction writing has to come first. This for me means writing (or editing) every day, working on developing new ideas, and hitting deadlines (both real and self-imposed).  Yes, I'm hopeful to have lots of fun promo for Maid of Secrets to do eventually... but for long term success, I will always need to put the fiction writing first!

2. Read Good Books (and watch Good Movies) 

There are plenty of books and movies out there we take in for sheer entertainment value, curiosity, or to stay current with the latest market trends. But there are also many extraordinary books and movies that can stretch us as writers, open us up to true excellence in the craft, and flat out make us better at what we do. My goal is to seek those out and welcome the lessons they bring. 

3.  Commit to being a Healthy Writer

"Healthy" means different things to different people, and balance is one of those ephemeral states that doesn't really match up with my often-extremist lifestyle. But if I can't achieve balance, then at least I will strive for harmony - going all out in one area, then refilling the well with equal enthusiasm. Being healthy to me also means I will regain my former levels of fitness (which I most definitely lost in the back-to-back writing blitzes of 2011!) and will take better care of my health. I've got a lot I want to do in this life!

4.  Develop and Maintain Positive Connections

Writing can be an isolating existence, even in today's highly-wired world. Making positive, meaningful connections and building on real relationships in person and online (vs. just racking up followers and living on the fringes of social media) can help us all navigate both the good and the more-challenging experiences that life brings. I tend to be more of a loner, but in 2012, I hope to venture a bit further out to make new friendships - and deepen others.

What about you? What are your New Year's Writing Resolutions for 2012?

Jennifer McGowan has been writing fiction since well before she knew any better. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and 2011 Golden Heart finalist, Jenn is represented by agent extraordinaire Alexandra Machinist, of Janklow & Nesbit.

Jenn's debut novel, MAID OF SECRETS, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in Spring, 2013. You can find Jenn online and on twitter.


  1. All of my goals/resolutions this year center around writing (and selling) as many books as quickly as possible. I probably should have focused on achieving balance. :-P

  2. Melissa, ha! That's why "balance" is beyond my skillset at this point. Here's to an amazing 2012!


  3. Oh, I completely agree with all of these. Since publishing over the past year, I've come across some really negative people. It's hard for me to say no and to really push those people aside. Your number 4 is great! My resolution is the one I always make. . .get an agent! Don't get me wrong, I've had GREAT success in self-publishing, but it was never my dream. Another resolution is to write, write, write!

  4. Jenn,
    I’m a goal-motivated individual as well. What gets me into trouble is when my goals are superseded by my ‘real’ life. It makes me evil. So, my resolution this year (besides selling my YA ms ;) is to find better balance, or harmony as you so eloquently described it, through efficiency and focus. Working smarter during my designated writing times, not harder.
    BTW – I love the Calvin & Hobbs comic! I'm a huge fan. ;D

  5. Tonya, I think 2012 is going to be your year! And I hear you, it's tough to slog through the Negative folks out there, but if anyone can do it--YOU can!

    Lorie, here's to keeping the evil administrivia out of our way and to keeping the focus on writing!
    (and C&H rock!)

    Thank you both for posting!

  6. Great post, Jenn! All of these are on my list of goals for the year, too, along with "edit one book and write another one," which is less of a resolution and more of a contract requirement... I'm feeling exhausted (but excited) just thinking about 2012!

  7. Hi Jenn! I don't really make resolutions. But I do take the time to reassess my life and shift my mindset. This year, I've determined to go into my office five days a week and shut the door. Mentally. I need to shut out all the drama and angst and everything that blocks the creative process and just immerse myself in story. All the drama will still be there when I come out of my office, but I need to set all the emotional stuff aside and be fully engaged in the writing for a minimum of 4 hours a day. Let's come back in a few months and see if we've all kept to our goals!

  8. All of your resolutions resonated with me, particularly #1 and #2. It's so easy to become distracted by social media, email, and websites that sometimes we forget that *actually writing* is the most important thing.

    Huge congrats on becoming a full-time fiction writer and part-time freelancer. That's a wonderful accomplishment!

  9. Love these, Jenn! Not surprisingly, mine are pretty similar. We do not obsessively email each other about planner goodies for nothing, sister. :-) My guiding premise for 2012 is happiness and harmony. I'm restructuring my days to focus wholeheartedly on certain aspects of my life at certain times. I will be so much more at peace avoiding the trap of feeling like I should be doing something else (no matter what I'm doing, there's always the guilt of what I'm *not* doing in that moment) that leads to never really being present in the moment of what I'm actually doing. 2012 is the year I am happily stepping off that crazy train. :-)

  10. Hey, everyone, thank you for posting! :)

    Caroline, your editing/writing goals are SO exciting... I know you can do it, but I will still happy dance in your general direction once you've accomplished it!

    Writer, you make a great point about "shutting out" the crazy. I have a "Detach from Drama" card I sometimes pull, and it always makes me sit back and thing "wow... we all have a LOT of drama in our lives!" Go, you on finding sanity in the chaos.

    Sarah, thank you!! And I have a feeling you will also be spending a lot of required time *actually writing* so we can shoo each other off of the social media rotation. :)

    And Kay, hello! Yes, I am currently loving my planner system, though it is not without kinks (ah, to have a perfect planner...) I LOVE your plan of "right-pathing" your work and being fully present. We can leave the crazy train in the station!

    Thanks again you guys, and here's to a wonderful 2012!