So, the holiday decorations have been put away, diets have been started, and work has regained its rhythm, but what about your resolution to write every day? (And no, email doesn’t count.) How’s that going? If it’s not going exactly as planned, don’t despair. Keep trying anyway. You stand in a long line of famous writers who have resolved to write more and better in the new year, every year.
It’s the resolution that counts, the desire to continue and to improve. The guilt of imperfectly adhering to your plan may bother you, but don’t let it sidetrack you. As long as you write something for the sheer pleasure of writing in 2017, as long as you periodically get back to the page and make an effort to fill it with something reasonably intelligible, you will get in the habit of writing and you will progress, at least a little. Take heart from those who have been in your shoes.
Here are some resolutions from writers who might appear to have no need of them, courtesy of Chloe Laversuch, a BuzzFeed community user, writing, fittingly, on December 30, 2015:
“On the first of January, 1852, poet and playwright Robert Browning made a New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day. Browning’s biographers point out that he did not keep the resolution – in fact, he managed to break it by the 4th January. The resolution was born, Browning later wrote, out of a reaction to his own laziness: ‘One year in Florence I had been rather lazy; I resolved that I would write something every day.'”
“Joyce Carol Oates shared her 2013 New Year’s resolution with her Twitter followers: ‘My New Year’s resolution is to consult Twitter only at the end of the day. (Except today which is, after all, a special day.)’ . . . Now we can understand how she finds the time to be such a prolific author, who has penned over 40 novels and won countless awards.”
“John Cheever had a troubled relationship with his craft that is played out in his journals and letters. Cheever’s biographer, Blake Bailey, explains that in January 1960, Cheever wrote: ‘My one New Year resolution is that I will not write any more short stories, so help me God.’ . . . On another New Year’s Day he prayed that he would have finished the novel he was working on by the spring.”
“C. S. Forester was the extremely successful author of the Horatio Hornblower series and also wrote The African Queen, which was made into the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Forester, who wrote his first novel in just two weeks, said: ‘I formed the resolution (to which I have clung ever since) never to write a word I did not want to write; to think only of my own tastes and ideals, without a thought of those of editors or publishers.'”
“After critics slammed several of Stephen King‘s longer novels, namely It (1,138 pages) and The Dead Zone (428 pages), King made a New Year’s resolution. In 1986 he wrote that he made his ‘first New Year’s resolution in some ten years that night: Never write anything bigger than your own head.'”
“A little late for New Year, in February 1977 Susan Sontag recorded the following resolutions in her diary: ‘Starting tomorrow — if not today:
I will get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)
I will have lunch only with Roger [Straus]. (No, I don’t go out for lunch. Can break this rule once every two weeks.)
I will write in the Notebook every day.
I will tell people not to call in the morning, or not answer the phone.
I will try to confine my reading to the evening. (I read too much — as an escape from writing.)
I will answer letters once a week. (Friday? — I have to go to the hospital anyway.)'”
“In December, 1919, after a difficult year with his wife, Vivienne, and multiple rejections from publishers, T. S. Eliot wrote to his mother outlining his New Year’s resolution: ‘To write a long poem I have had on my mind for a long time.’ This poem would became his most famous, The Waste Land.”
Keep pushing forward, dear writers. Keep resolving to do more, to do better. Just don’t write anything bigger than your head.