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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Bad for Writers

broken promise canstockphoto3091066 (2)Question: What’s the difference between a New Year’s resolution and a broken promise?

Answer: About three to six weeks.

Research shows that 78%  to 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

Resolutions are destined to fail in part because they rely on will power, which cannot last.

Applying will power is repeatedly making a decision to do or not do something. But you have a limited cognitive capacity for making decisions. When you deplete this capacity, you experience “decision fatigue.”

Just like you can’t hold even a small weight without eventually exhausting your arm muscles, you can’t keep making decisions without exhausting your prefrontal cortex.

If you haven’t created a habit by the time your will power is drained, your resolution will fail and your writing resistance will actually increase.

I believe that a New Year’s resolution is code for “This is something I should do, so I’ll be virtuous for a few weeks/days/hours, but we all know it won’t last. I don’t really expect this to continue, I don’t want you to expect this to continue, and I certainly don’t want you to hold me accountable. If you don’t call me on my failed promises, I won’t call you on yours.”

If you want to acquire new writing habits or change anything else in your life, for goodness sake don’t call it a New Year’s resolution!

Making a New Year’s resolution is a set-up for failure. Repeatedly telling yourself you’ll do something and then not doing it is teaching yourself not to trust yourself. Eroding trust in yourself increases writing resistance and makes it more difficult to take action that will serve you.

Therefore, resolve to make no more resolutions! Instead, I recommend you make commitments, set targets and build effective writing habits, which we’ll talk about in upcoming posts.

If you’d like more information and support, check out my upcoming Effective Habits for Your Writing class starting in March. Or come to the free workshop at Common Good Books on January 10 from 7 to 8 pm. Feel free to bring friends, especially if they are tempted to make New Year’s resolutions.

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2 Comments on “Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Bad for Writers”

  1. Sammi Soutar December 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    What I’ve found helpful is creating something along the order of a “writer’s strategic plan.” I go through a process come each December of reassessing the year, deleting, updating and adding to get ready for another productive 12 months. It helps me stay on track, although course corrections are allowed.


    • rosannebane January 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Great idea Sammi! I do something similar and so do some of my clients.


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