I’m not sure how to say this without sounding obnoxious, but I really don’t need to make New Year’s resolutions about practicing good habits. I’m already pretty compulsive about exercise. I eat a healthy diet (chocolate is a health food, right?) I take daily showers. I keep my mind sharp with crossword puzzles and Sudoku. I recycle paper, plastic and glass, shut off the lights when I leave a room, and set the thermostat five degrees colder than I’d like in the winter and five degrees warmer than I’d like in the summer. I stay informed about the world around me by reading two newspapers every day. I look after my mother and help my neighbors. I’m a loyal wife and a proud mom. I’ve got my weaknesses, of course. (Chocolate is not a weakness! It’s a health food!) I don’t lose my temper very often, but I’m prone to sulking. I can be impatient, lazy, and inattentive. While the rest of my house is reasonably neat, my office looks as if a hurricane tore through it. And—all right—I should probably eat less chocolate.
But when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, the standard ones just aren’t relevant to me. What I do need are some writing resolutions, guidelines that will help me be a more productive and happier writer. So this year, I resolve to:
1. Sweat the small stuff. In life, the small stuff usually doesn’t matter. In writing, it does. As a writer, I resolve to care about every word choice, every punctuation mark, and every rule of grammar—even if I ultimately decide I need to break that rule. Craft counts, and I want my books not just to tell a great story but to be well crafted.
2. Keep up with the business. Now that I’m independently publishing some of my books, I’ve grown reasonably knowledgeable about the business side of writing, but I have so much more to learn. Even if I don’t feel like reading blogs about analytics, algorithms, and keywords, I resolve to study them until they make sense to me. In the brave new world of publishing, I don’t have the luxury of being a delicate artiste who can’t be bothered with the business side of things.
3. Stop measuring my career against anyone else’s. No matter how successful I am, someone will always be more successful than me. So what? I resolve to measure success by my own personal standards. Am I writing the kinds of books I want and need to write? Am I writing them well? Am I getting them into readers’ hands? If the answers to those questions are yes, yes, and yes, I’m successful.
4. Be true to my muse. Writing is hard enough without entering into battle with the creative energy that fuels my inspiration. If everyone is writing erotica but my muse doesn’t want me to write erotica, I resolve to spare myself a great deal of frustration and torment by ignoring the trends and writing what my muse is telling me to write.
5. Take my time. I don’t have to do everything today. If a book is taking longer to write than I’d planned, there’s probably a good reason for that. You can’t rush a soufflé without the risk of having it collapse. The same goes for books. I resolve to remind myself that whatever doesn’t get done today can get done tomorrow.
6. Read lots of books. (Nobody ever said New Year’s resolutions couldn’t be fun!) I resolve to read books by authors I’ve never heard of, in genres I don’t usually read.
7. Exercise, eat nutritious food, and exercise kindness and compassion. Yes, those are the lifestyle resolutions I swore I didn’t need. And I don’t need them for my lifestyle. I do need them for my writing, and I resolve to pursue healthy habits. They will help to keep my life in balance, and that’s essential for a writer.
And finally, I resolve to keep on eating and enjoying chocolate. Just because.
Dead Ball, the first book in Judith Arnold’s humorous mystery series about a suburban schoolteacher and recreational soccer player suspected of murdering her teammate’s husband with a nail gun, will be released by Bell Bridge Books in the next few weeks. Until then, check out her Daddy School romance series (Father Found, the first book in the series, is free!) and her other independently published romances. For more information about her upcoming titles, please sign up for her newsletter.