Monday, February 7, 2011

Why I Always Announce My Intentions

by Ernessa T. Carter

When it comes to writing resolutions, I like to go big or go home. I'd rather announce my intentions loudly and fail in front of everybody, rather than making a feeble attempt at writing a novel in the background of life. At least this is how I spin it when I explain my need to not only announce my New Year's resolutions in blog form, but also to announce every little writing-related plan big and small. The truth is that I wouldn't get anything done if I didn't make a large announcement about doing it first. I know this, because I spent my first year and a half in Los Angeles not getting anything done.

About 18 months into my Los Angeles adventure, I had first drafts galore lying around. But they all needed work, and I was too busy dating and having fun to give them the attention they needed.

But then, as often happens, I got sick of dating, and perhaps more so of not achieving, so I hunkered down and decided to date my career. I didn't have a blog at that time, so I announced this to everyone in my social circle as my new year's resolution. "I'm going to give up boys for at least three months," I said. "It's time to start dating my career."

Then I met a strange and funny guy at a New Year's eve party and started dating him.

"Um, what happened to not dating?" all my friends asked me. It got a little embarrassing. I hadn't realized that I had announced my "Dating my Career" plan to so many people.

"I'm totally going to do it after it's over with this guy," I told them. The relationship was fun, but I could already see the writing on the wall. And I was strangely feeling pressured to stop stalling, dump this guy and get on with my real life.

So when we broke up, I recommitted to my resolution and wrote three one-acts on commission to a scrappy theatre production company run by a couple I had met at a garden party the previous Fall.

The show went fantastically, and the couple and I agreed to co-produce a full night of my one-acts for a theatre festival the following October. So after a completely stagnant time in Los Angeles, I ended up having two productions go up in 2005, all because I announced my intentions ... and you know, worked really, really hard -- but I was steadily becoming a true blue Californian, so of course I gave most of the credit to announcing my intentions. We're just new agey like that.

There was no turning back. I've been announcing my intentions ever since. I told EVERYONE I was working on a first novel, and look how that turned out. And when it came time to write my second novel, THE AWESOME GIRL'S GUIDE TO DATING EXTRAORDINARY MEN, I made yet another big to do, telling everyone that I was going to write it and that I was going to go to Scotland to do a bit of research for it. Well, that picture is of me in Scotland, drinking a glass of 20yo scotch in a 13th century castle outside of Edinburgh -- so yes, I'm all about my writers resolutions.

This year I plan to write a truly fantastic third novel, my best book ever ... and open a gelato shop. What??? It totally makes sense.

But now I'm wondering, how do the rest of you get stuff done? Do you just decide to do it and just do it? Or do you, like me, need outside motivation? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I put things down in my datebook and then I have to do those things before I can go to sleep. They always get done because I tell myself I'll *die* if they don't.

  2. First book was nonfiction and I came home and announced to my then-boyfriend that I was writing a book. He didn't believe me. He is no longer my boyfriend. That book was published a year later. With my first novel, I did the same thing. Told everybody everywhere I was writing it. Took the draft with me everywhere like it was my child. Now, there's no need to tell people. They ask me. I have a (former) friend who told everyone she was writing a novel about 5 years ago and still hasn't done it. And I suspect has given up. I think it works either way. Keep if quiet if you like. Blab it if you like. New Agey or not, the bottom line, which Ernessa proves, is you have to do the work. You have to stick with it when the going gets rough, and it WILL get rough.

  3. Love it, love it, love it! The "getting stuff done" used to be so easy. Now I find it a bit more of a challenge. Announcing it certainly helps. So does therapy ;)

  4. Yep, being backed into a corner can work. I know I have to set a goal and a deadline - that usually works. So I'd better get to writing this p.m. and meet my day's writing goal. Great post - thanks for sharing!

  5. I was just going to write, "I love the way you write!" But then I got to your question. I am a procrastinator. I've been putting off the rewrite of a ms for about six months now. I'm no good with goals or intentions b/c there's always an excuse. Eventually, I exhaust the distractions and just get to work.

    ps-I still love the way you write!

  6. I spent a long time just dreaming, then talking about my goals in general terms. Not surprisingly, I didn't get very far. Last year I started to write my goals down and give them a timeline. I shared those goals with the people I knew would support me in reaching them. Finally things began to move forward. At the end of last year I decided to announce my specific goals on my blog. However, it is now February and I have yet to post those goals. Maybe that should be my post for tomorrow. :-)

  7. Honestly,

    I just wanted to say that I can't wait for books numbers two and three and the gelato shoppe. Yummy to both!