Thursday, January 17, 2008

She Researched Keeping Resolutions

(My fantasy author posted a version of this article at Today the Dragon Wins yesterday. I'm posting it here today to give more readers the opportunity to get value from it.)

You Can Do It: Keep Your 2008 Resolutions on Track
By Sandy Lender

Mid-January seemed an appropriate time to assess the progress of New Year's resolutions. Adhering to a new exercise regimen to attain a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a new budget to save up for a vacation, or sticking to a regular writing schedule to realize your publishing dreams, etc., can all be doomed if you give in to the rest of society's penchant for instant gratification. Like the three-toed box turtle in the smoking-cessation ads, slow and steady toward an achievable goal wins the day.

Experts at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) suggest a variety of exercises for staying on course with New Year's resolutions and personal goals, but the best was "make a plan and write it down."

For those of you familiar with The Secret, you can probably see an element of visualization in this method. By writing down your goal and the steps you need to take to realize that goal, you set yourself up for success. Getting derailed, which University of Maryland Medical Center researchers warn happens within the first few weeks of "good intentions," is more difficult if you can spell out your plan of action.

What I like to do is a tried and true practice from a job-hunting resource. I take a large sheet of paper and write my goal in the center with an action verb. For instance, about four months before I moved from Missouri to Florida, I wrote "move to Florida" in the center of a huge sheet of drawing paper. Then I began to randomly write down steps I needed to take to make that move a reality, without worrying about what order to write them in. At that stage in the planning, there's no point in limiting yourself with editing. I wrote down things such as "find new job," "give notice at work," "sell house," "replace carpet," "hire moving van," "find apartment," etc. Once all the thoughts were down on paper, I could organize them into categories and a logical order. That same process can take place with any personal goal. Once you're finished, your goal is that much easier to visualize and attain.

Another aspect to planning the success of your resolution is making it realistic. When I wished to get my fantasy novel published, my only bylines were in trade publications and association newsletters. I had no hope. So my resolution back in 2004 couldn't be, "I'll get Choices Meant for Gods published with TOR this year." My goal had to be more realistic. A researcher at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Jill RachBeisel, M.D. and director of community psychiatry, advises that the trick to keeping resolutions is to keep everything "in perspective. Focus on realistic goals with measurable results. You need to break things down into small steps that you can manage."

When I finished writing Choices Meant for Gods, I'd taken the first step toward the goal. Contacting agents to represent me in the publishing industry was the logical second step. Setting an appointment to meet with a small- to mid-size publisher in Florida was the logical (and best) third step. Getting a contract with that publisher was the fourth step, and so on. I didn't limit myself to going after a large publishing house within a certain set number of months.

This exemplifies what researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center advise people do when setting their New Year's resolutions: "Don't make absolute resolutions. Keep them realistic."

That also means keeping them flexible. If your goal is to finish a research-based novel by the end of NaNo this Nov. 30, and you've performed the mapping and visualizing exercise above, you probably have to start looking up information prior to Nov. 1. Visits to sites associated with your text, Internet research, interviews with primary sources, etc., all take time that you want to build into your goal. If some aspect of your research isn't complete by a certain date, don't let that sabotage your entire project. Your resolution doesn't have to fail because one aspect has fallen through or because you miss a week of preparatory writing, etc.

APA lists "forgiving yourself" as one of the important aspects of success. A small setback is just that: small. With an achievable, realistic goal that you've taken the time to map out and visualize, it's just a matter of time before you're back on track. By maintaining a steady pace and watching yourself take each step toward your goal, your chances of meeting your resolution increase each day.

(Additional information for succeeding with your New Year's resolutions can be found at The American Academy of Pediatrics offers suggestions for resolutions for preschoolers through teens at

Sidenote: During my research, I found that the top resolutions people make are to be healthy, lose weight or exercise more; to quit smoking and/or drinking; to save money, get a better job or make more money; to manage or reduce stress; or to spend more time with family. At, researchers broke it down by percentages. They surveyed 10,883 people and found their top resolution, at 32.6 percent, was to lose weight and get fit. I didn’t weigh in, but my category of "I didn't make a New Year's resolution" came in with 21.6 percent of the votes, which I thought was high. (Interestingly, 3.2 percent of their respondents want to write a book.)

Sandy Lender is a magazine editor living in sunny Southwest Florida and a fantasy author. Her first novel, Choices Meant for Gods is available from ArcheBooks Publishing or on

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites