It would be easy for me to begin this new year with a pessimistic attitude. After all, I did not hit my annual word count goal for last year, I lost NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, and there were many week-long (sometimes month-long) stretches in which I wrote no words at all. It’s unfortunate, sure. It’s a failure, absolutely. But if I look at those losses and focus only on my lack of success, I might fail to look beyond and get to the real root of the problem.
What caused me to fail to meet my expectations for myself? Were my goals too lofty to accomplish in the time I allotted myself? Did circumstances beyond my control keep me from ticking these items off my to-do list? These are certainly possibilities–2020 was a real shit show of a year. I don’t think that explains everything though. No, I suspect the largest part of what’s holding me back is something more subtle and (as dramatic as it may sound) more sinister.
What’s holding me back? After some reflection on the previous year, I believe it comes down to two things.
Guilt. Many days when I spend several hours writing, I feel guilty. Writing doesn’t provide any of my income at this point, so when I’m taking precious time out of my day to write, I am always questioning myself. Shouldn’t I be using this time to fit more hours into my day job? I need to stop doing this, especially because I don’t need those extra hours. Life is short; I want to be a writer. I have said it before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time, but it’s time for me to stop thinking of writing as a hobby.
Fear. Feelings of inadequacy abound, as I try to pull my current work-in-progress from my imagination onto the paper. Impostor syndrome, that boogeyman of the writing world, rears its ugly head. It’s an awful feeling to labor over a story that your heart needs to tell and, ultimately, to feel that you’ve not done it justice. For those separate from this process, it may be easy to offer the obvious advice: “Writing a book is hard, but keep at it. You’ll get it–it just takes time and hard work.” For those of us wrapped up in that process, it’s hard not to judge ourselves too harshly. Ultimately, we can lose our confidence and our resolve to finish.
A new year is meant to be a fresh start, so I thought it was important to be honest with myself (and all of you!) before I set any writing goals for 2021. Guilt and fear are incredibly powerful emotions, and I don’t expect I’ll be able to change my feelings so easily. However, if I’m aware that these are obstacles I deal with, maybe I can more readily recognize that they’re in my way, and I can begin to overcome them.
So, jumping on the New Year’s resolutions train for 2021, here are three straightforward (but nonetheless important) goals I have set for myself as a writer this year:
- Write every day (starting today!)
- Read 3 writing craft books
- Finish writing this damn book
So tell me, friends, what’s standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals? What are your goals for the new year?