It is that time of year! Everyone is starting off the New Year with renewed energy and optimism. It does seem to be the perfect time to reassess and set some new goals, decide on how we are going to reach those goals, and “make resolutions”. The problem is that some of us get those terms and concepts mixed up, and that impacts our ability to actually accomplish anything.
A goal is the end product. Exactly what we want to accomplish. A goal must also be measurable and have an end date. Losing weight is not a goal. Losing 10 pounds by June 1st is a goal.
Resolutions are the changes you want to make in your day-to-day life that will help you get closer to your goal. Getting to the gym at least three times a week, or drinking more water are resolutions. Sometimes they are specific, and sometimes more general, but they are the pathway to help you reach your goal.
And commandments are your non-negotiables. These are the shifts in your lifestyle that you realize MUST be in place for you to have the life you want. We all know that life is filled with the unexpected, and resolutions may be occasionally broken. But commandments are the things that you are so committed to, that they are carved in stone.
Personally, I think commandments are the most important of the three, and I have commandments for each of the major areas of my life.
My Writing Commandments are:
- Write Everyday
This is broad enough to encompass any kind of writing I may need to be doing at any point in time. It may be as unstructured as writing in my journal, or as structured as completing a chapter in a work in progress. It may involve revising or rewording a single passage. It may end up being pages some days, and others only a sentence or two. That is irrelevant, because as long as every day, I put down words and write, I am growing as a writer.
- Submit Regularly
This may mean to publishers, agents, contests, or critique groups. This is also broad enough to apply to a variety of projects at a variety of stages. It also is purposefully unspecific as to the amount of submissions because some times of year, publishers and agents are closed to submissions, and some contests cluster at certain times of year. As long as over the course of a month, I have submitted something for feedback or for consideration for something, I know I am growing as a writer.
- Use Feedback
This is one of the hardest commandments to follow because when feedback is negative or points out our weaknesses in writing, it is hard to not take it personally and get our feelings hurt. But feedback, especially negative feedback, can be a gift. Putting feelings aside and really considering what is being pointed out, can almost always help us grow as a writer.
- Have Patience With the Process
The wheels of the publishing world work slowly. And each step along the way requires that other people, (your critique group, your agent, the editor, the publisher, the book shop manager) do something. And your projects are not the only thing on their plate. This is why publishers take months to review a manuscript and make a decision on whether or not they want to offer you a publishing contract. This is why when you submit the revisions your editor requested, it may take weeks to hear back. This is why, even after signing a contract with a publisher, it may take a year or more before your book is out. But each of these delays can allows you time to continue to grow as a writer.
In addition to Writing Commandments, I also have Commandments for my life as a teacher, and health and fitness commandments. Commandments should be kept to just a few, and should encompass only what is critically important to success and fulfillment of critical areas of your life.
So as 2023 gets underway, in addition to setting some goals and making some resolutions, be sure to consider what your Commandments should be.