Are You Resolved?

As I’ve confessed here before, I’m in love with goals.  So you’d think I’d be all about the New Year’s Resolutions, right?  Not so much.  I’ve never put much stock in ‘em because the fact of the matter is they just don’t seem to last.  Those yearly Resolutions aren’t very resolute – more like flimsy wishes, unsupported by genuine dedication.  By mid-January real life has intruded and we’ve all forgotten about the frantic burst of New Year energy that had us going to the gym every day, eating right and writing three thousand words a day.

Instead of grandiose resolutions, what we really need to accomplish our writing goals in the new year is a firm sense of resolve.

re·solve /rɪˈzɒlv/ –verb (used with object) to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something)

I’ve been writing more or less constantly since I was thirteen.  By the time I was twenty, I’d pretty much figured out I wanted a career as a published author.  Now ask me when I resolved to make it happen.  It took seven more years.  During that time I wrote every day, I set deadlines for myself, I queried and researched, but I wasn’t firm.  No earnestness to my decision.  I wasn’t dedicated.  I was, to use a term that particularly resonated with me at an Allison Brennan workshop, a hobbyist.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a hobbyist.  Just because knitting is “only” a beloved hobby doesn’t mean you won’t produce gorgeous sweaters and possibly even profit richly from your talents.  But my ultimate desire wasn’t to be a brilliant hobbyist writer.  I wanted to be a pro, to make a living from my books.  And the first step toward that, for me, was resolve.

There are certain moments of resolve that stand out in my memory.  When I was seventeen my best friend and I talked often about backpacking through Europe after our senior year, but it wasn’t until one afternoon at a coffee house, with our textbooks scattered around us that we said, “Let’s do it.”  And resolved to make it happen.  There was work between the resolve and our amazing trip (after school jobs and logistics and arguments over whether or not we could squeeze in Ireland), but from that moment on we knew it was going to happen.  We would make sure of that.  (Even after I got mono a week before we were set to fly…)

You know Project Runway?  Where Tim Gunn is always saying “Make it work” – well I think the people who can rise up and make it work under those intense conditions are the ones with resolve.  The ones who have determined to achieve their dreams and if they don’t make it through Project Runway or Top Chef or Reality Show X then they will make it some other way, but we won’t hear that last of them.  I think resolve, as much as talent, dictates success.

I found my writing resolve one afternoon in May of 2007.  I have no idea what was different about that day.  (I would definitely tell you if I did.)  Driving up the hill to my house, I told myself that I was going to make it happen, and on that day, for the first time, I really meant it.  It wasn’t “gee wouldn’t it be nice to be published!”  It was fierce, unswerving determination.  Resolve firmed my goals, gave them shape and heft.  Getting published became a task, rather than a dream.

Nothing really had changed, but suddenly my writing was leaping forward.  I joined RWA, signed up for my first conference, bought books on the Biz and delved into research about how to get published – not just how to submit a book I’d written, but how to do it right.
At my very first pitch, when my resolve was still new, the editor asked me what I wanted from my writing.  I was so green I probably left grass stains on the chair, but I told her I was going to make a living from my books.  She sort of laughed and I could practically hear her thinking Don’t quit your day job, honey before she said, “That’s what everyone wants, isn’t it?”  And I just smiled, because I knew I had an advantage over “everyone” – my determination.  I was going to make it happen.

No one could give me that resolve.  I had to find it inside myself, but once I did, my resolutions shaped up and held on well past mid-January.  It’s still there, the knot of determination that drives me.

So what about you?  Are you resolved?  Do you remember the moment you found your resolve?  How are you putting that resolution into action?  Do you draw a distinction between hobbyists and the resolved?  Or do you find the attitude toward writing a far less important consideration on the path to publication than the skill of the writer?

46 Responses to “Are You Resolved?”

  1. Okay. You have me thinking, and what’s resonating is that you are 100% correct. I look back and see opportunities missed because other things came first. Were those things important? Yes. In fact, I don’t know that I’d make a different choice given the option now, but I DO know I’d approach things differently, be more prepared.

    Skill is a wonderful thing, something I’ve taken for granted because writing comes so naturally on many levels, but skill alone isn’t enough. Skill can get the book written, but what good is it on your hard-drive or printed in a box? It takes resolve to risk rejection, to put the work out there, to do the research required to make knowledgeable choices–let’s fact it; sending your masterpiece of intrique and suspense to a house known for hearts and flowers isn’t going to do anything but waste time and postage–to quit thinking about it and DO it.

    “No field ever got plowed turning it over in your mind!”

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      True, Gwyn. I also think a sense of resolve can make rejection more palatable. To me it feels less personal and more like another part of your path, if that makes sense. Sort of a “that didn’t work, try again” attitude.

      • Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again. Great attitude.

        Regrets are a waste of time, but I could kick myself for not doing just that back in the day. However, had I done so, I might have missed all “my” Rubies. So good things can come from bad choices. ;-)

  2. You’ve got me thinking, too, Vivi (even at 4 in the morning with the baby crawling around wreaking havoc in the living room because he doesn’t want to sleep)…

    Resolve, persistence, whatever you call it is SO important. For me, it was some time in 2005, just after the birth of my second child, that I knew I had to commit to my dream. I made a conscious decision to write daily (even if only 20 minutes a day), join a local RWA chapter as soon as I could research them, and sign up for a conference. When I look back, it’s amazing how far I’ve come since that moment of resolve…

    And even with an infant who, at nearly one year old, wakes 2-3 times a night, and with two other kids and a husband, etc., etc. who require large chunks of my time, I am resolved to make a career out of writing. Determination is a powerful thing!

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      It is powerful! Our attitude toward our writing can really have a strong impact on it. Congratulations on managing your juggling act, Anne Marie! (And on your sale! Squee!)

      • Thanks, VIvi! I’m so excited about the sale. 2011’s going to be a blur – which is why that attitude thing you speak of will be so important on a daily basis! ;)

        And the resolve/attitude issue is SO important in every arena of life. The older I get, the more I realize that.

  3. Kim Law says:

    Love this, Vivi! And it’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately trying to get myself back on track. I had resolved to making a career out of writing. I knew it deep down in my soul that nothing was going to stand in my way. I was getting in regular writing time, researching, learning, and basically charging forward one step at a time. And then this last year I’v slowed to a crawl.

    Basically I let too many other things get in the way, and got a little frustrated with trying to figure out how to juggle writing and my life (which I don’t do well at all). I’ve tried to convince myself I can manage all these things, but the fact is, I’m no longer getting in the writing time I need if I’m really resolved to being a full-time writer. And honestly, I’ve wondered the last few months if I could ever make it happen. (It’s embarassing to even admit that since I once had such strong resolve :() But the big question is, as you’ve made me realize…where the heck did my resolve go????

    So that’s my current goal. (No, not a resolution, because I don’t intend for it to disappear next week!) I’m been trying to push everything else aside and just get back in the habit of writing daily. I’m still struggling, but I can finally feel it coming back. My resolve. And now I realize how much I’ve missed it.

    So thanks so much for pointing out the key ingredient to making this happen. I had it for a long time, but hadn’t even realized that it had gone on an extended vacation. I WILL GO FIND THAT SUCKER AND BRING HIM BACK!!!! I must, because failure simply isn’t an option. Thanks!!!

  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    Looking back on it, I think a couple of character traits that I’d come to think of as quite unattractive helped me get my first book written once I had the idea (which is no small thing – gotta have inspiration, or a catalyst, esp. for that first book). I am positively anal about the clock, and suffer from a complete inability to be spontaneous, so once I set a goal, particularly a timebound goal, it’s tough to shake it. Knowing this about myself, as I mentioned yesterday, the only goal I set for my writing was and is a BICHOK goal: write new pages or deep-revise those pages for at least two hours a day, at least six days a week. No wordcount or page count goals. Everything else writing-oriented gets done outside that time.

    To do this, I had to create a new habit: set the alarm two hours earlier than usual, and get up and write. The ‘how’ took some refining (I discovered I’m more productive away from the distractions of home, and write at a coffeeshop), but I think a lot of my ability to get my book finished was establishing a new habit and sticking with it. Morning writing is now firmly integrated into my routine, and something pretty exceptional has to happen to shake me off-task.

    • Kim Law says:

      I wish I could do the morning thing because after work I’m often so tired I just want to veg out, but I struggle so much with being able to be creative enough early in the morning (I generally just want to go back to bed for the first couple of hours). Do you have any tricks to waking your brain up so it can be fresh and creative? Or maybe it’s just a morning/not morning person thing…

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I think it helps that I’m a morning person. I wake up fully alert. I’m amazed by the Rubies who can do evening writing sprints. My brain is ooze by then!

      • Diana Layne says:

        Kim, I have to get up early to have any quiet time. I’m a morning person, but only for physical stuff, my writing time had always been best in the early afternoon. But, if you can find some trick to get you out of bed–OR not, when I first started writing in the morning, I huddled under the covers and wrote by hand. I told myself if I could write “x” number of pages really fast, I could get 15 more minutes of sleep. Eventually it became a habit.

      • Kim, I used to be a morning person, until I had kids. (See post above… sigh). Now I treasure my sleep. Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in a day, so I have to make myself get up (boo!). However, the two things I’ve found that really help me get going in the morning (because I DO write better when I can make this happen) are: a morning routine (coffee, check email within 15 mins, then get to work) and something physical to get the blood flowing – working out, cleaning the house for a few minutes, a walk – anything to get the blood to the brain! Good luck!

      • Kim Law says:

        Thanks, all! I really would rather write in the morning. Would make me feel awesome because I’ve already met my writing goal, and leave me less to stress about after work, but I just can’t quite find the balance yet. Getting the blood flowing might work…hmmm…lots to think about here. I’m determined to figure this out because when I come home from work, I’d so much rather just be done with the day, you know? Thanks for all the suggestions!

  5. Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

    I’m not a resolutions fan either. I’ve never met anyone who stuck to one. And goals are not my strong suit. I’ve gone back to writing down little monthly goals (more of a to-do list) in my planner. I think I need to write a few bigger goals in the December 2011 spot and work towards them with the little goals and some resolve. For me it was never “if I get published” it was always “when I get published”.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I have a goals spreadsheet – which okay, yeah, is a little obsessive, but I love it. And can I just say, I’m so freakin’ proud that you’re writing down goals in your planner. My obsessiveness rubbing off. *dabs tear from eye*

      Dude, you should see how crowded my gym is lately with what my gym buddy and I call “resolution memberships”.

  6. I had that resolved feeling, too, and don’t know what happened to get me there. I’m still working out the plan, though, but the biggest thing on there is finish another freakin’ book already!

  7. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I had resolve for the first eight years after I started writing. Little by little repeated rejection chiseled away at it. Now that determination is a distant memory that I ache to renew. Thanks for the inspiration, Vivi.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Here’s to the new spark of resolve! Determination reborn! (Sorry if I’m over cheerleader-ish this morning, I just love the idea of you gettin’ fired up again about your writing goals.)

  8. Diana Layne says:

    I once had resolve, and oh, I was so close, but those around me resolved I would not succeed. Yes, it happens. The fallout from the ensuing battle was devastating and I’ve only gotten brave enough to resolve again. I set goals last year, met them. Setting goals this year, plan to meet them.

    Thanks, Vivi, for the pep talk.

  9. liz talley says:

    Oh, Vivi, girl I love you. You are a girl after my own heart. :)

    I can’t say that I was resolved to get published. More like “I can do anything even get my books on the shelf.” That could be resolve. Ignorance. Or too much self-worth. My momma raised me that way. Want to be a doctor, Amy? You can. Want to be a supermodel? Professional tennis player? Figure skater? You can. I’m brimming with “I can do that.”

    But I’m also very, very, VERY competitive. And that drives me like no other thing. I want to be the best. And I am goal-oriented much like Tammy. I can’t rest till I get something accomplished.

    So maybe I am resolved, after all. Or extremely hard-headed. Either way, I’m not content to just sit and wait for things to happen. It’s a good trait, but also a bad one. Our strengths are also our weaknesses.

    Great post…off to get those words in. I’m resolved to making my deadline :)

    • Our mommas would get along well, Liz!

    • Diana Layne says:

      I try to be that kind of momma, especially with my girls. My life was filled with “You can’t do that!” It’s working well, even though some of the things my older daughter does makes me cringe. But she is her own person and goes after what she wants, and for that I’m happy. The younger one seems to be following in her footsteps.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Good luck nailing that word count, Liz. I’m pretty competitive too – why do anything if you aren’t gonna be the best at it, right? That’s why writing sprints work for me.

      You & Tammy have me thinking – Funny that the characteristics we think of as unflattering are the things that can help us succeed.

  10. Elise Hayes says:

    You’ve really gotten me thinking, Vivi. I think my resolve to publish has developed over the years. I started out just assuming I would get published–writing has always been something I was good at. And then, to my surprise, I started getting rejections. I paid attention to those rejections–the specific critiques they made–and began to realize how much I had to learn. Yes, I’m a good writer, but I hadn’t yet figured out how to write *books*–and specifically, romance.

    So over the years I’ve shifted from just assuming I would get published one day to resolving that I will–and with that shift, I’ve become a lot more proactive about seeking out the tools I need.

    I don’t know if I would ever want to quit my day job–I love teaching and the intellectual community that I’m part of–but I do think about it at times. It’s nowhere near a resolve yet, but it may become one someday…

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I’ve never been a gradual person – sharp, quick decisions, that’s me – but you make a good point about coming to your resolve bit by bit. Thanks, Elise, and good luck achieving your goals!

  11. Resolve? Ah, right. That thing I feel at night! Sadly, I work during the day. Like right now. Probably shouldn’t be cruising the RSS blog, then…

    I do better when someone else is waiting on me, but obviously that’s a silly thing to require as a writer. I’M waiting on me, now.

    SO: I resolve to finish editing Loving Abandon by the end of today. Yes, today. I’ll start with that! I’m thinking about resolving to write a whole book during our RWWF, but I don’t want to do it just to do it.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Good luck knocking out Loving Abandon, Jamie!

      I’m curious – what did you mean by “do it just to do it”? Like writing a book you don’t really like just because you want to have words on the page?

      • Exactly, Vivi. Sometimes, I set myself up for production goals that don’t benefit the final product. If it’s useful for me to write very quickly, then I should, internal editor be damned. But if it’s more productive in the long run for me to spend the week researching and brainstorming, than that needs to be my focus.

        I think that there has to be some sort of balance between the two. We have to work steadily and hit production goals, but we also have to output novels that we’re proud of. I think that’s part of the professionalism that you’re talking about — finding balance between quality and quantity. Or deadlines and redlines (AKA, what you screw up/gloss over in the first draft comes back to bite you in revisions!).

  12. This post is wonderful, Julie! Er, um, Vivi.

    I know the exact moment that I actually resolved to get published. I’ve been writing FOREVER. Really, there were dinosaurs in the distance when I wrote my first story. Herbivores. I’d always WANTED to be a published writer, but never had the confidence.

    Then one day after I’d graduated college and had a real-live career, I read an article that said, “If you just write one page a day, you’ll have a book in a year.” And bizarrely, this light went off in my head. What if I wrote two a day? Three?

    I wrote my first manuscript and the rest is history. It’s weird how it just takes one statement, one word for things to click. That was it for me.

    I’m not sure why I needed to hear that, what about that particular statement made it click in my head, but it worked. I guess I felt like it was attainable, whereas before, I didn’t think I could ever do it. ?

  13. I do think there is a difference when resolve enters the picture. My moment came when I told myself I had to finish by my birthday, or stop wasting time and give up entirely. Oh, you’d better believe I finished – 23 hours ahead of schedule! I hear from people who have multiple completed books and haven’t sent out a query letter, and I wonder about their resolve. Obviously they’ve got imagination and drive, but this business is so self-propelled that the final piece – resolve – is supremely important.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Exactly, Christi! Such a good point about the business being self-propelled. Thank you! No one is going to submit your stuff for you (until you get an agent), so you have to have your OWN dedication.

  14. Hope Ramsay says:

    I knew I wanted to write from an early age, but I never really had the confidence to think I could make writing fiction a career. My jobs always had a lot of writing associated with them, though. My first job after college was as a professional letter writer for a member of Congress. I did that for a number of years, while I moonlighted as a member of a small acoustic folk/rock band.

    For me, the big moment came in 1981, when my band broke up. That dissolution of a partnership was like a failed marriage. I put the guitar under the bed, sold the sound system, and resolved never again to get that obsessed about achieving a goal. A month later I started writing a book. (So much for my resolutions, huh?)

    I wrote fiction semi-seriously for decades while raising my kids, but I didn’t resolve to get published until about 1999, when my kids were heading out the door for lives of their own. It took 11 years and mountains of rejection to make my first sale.

    Now, I’m finding that juggling my career and my professional writing deadlines is making me crazy. I feel that I may be on the cusp of a new resolve in 2011 that has something to do with making writing a full-time career. But it’s too early for that, I think. I need to see how the books sell, first.

    I’m so methodical…No wild-ass leaps of faith here.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      If you ever decide to take a wild-ass leap of faith, Hope, I’ll hold your hand as you jump. They’re my specialty. ;)

      But in the mean time, good luck juggling everything. My one “resolution” last year was to stress less about the limits of my time and abilities. You’re only human, chica. Remember to take it easy on yourself.

  15. Elisa Beatty says:

    I absolutely know what you mean by resolve, Vivi–though Lord knows I’ve been up and down with it over the course of the last couple of years.

    My life’s a total juggling act: insanely demanding job, young and needy kids, messy house, long commute, aging parents with medical problems–always something genuinely important calling at me.

    It’s one thing to have resolve for myself, but writing time means time away from other responsibilities. Resolve and guilt are a tricky combo. (That’s part of why I love NaNo so much–I don’t feel guilty telling my loved ones “I’m not available for 90 minutes a day” when it’s just for a month.) I’m also really looking forward to the Ruby Winter Writing Festival!!

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I was just talking to a friend last night about Mommy Guilt taking away from her writing time. She knows her kid is totally fine when she takes time to write, but she still feels guilty for doing it.

      But even with all the obstacles in your life, you’re still pushing forward, Elisa, and that’s definitely a sign of resolve shining through. Good luck with the juggling act. :)

    • Hope Ramsay says:

      If it’s any consolation, my kids turned out ok even though I took time out for writing. One of them is even a grad student in Creative Writing at Columbia College and working on a collection of short stories. So I figure maybe I was a role model.

      I had two iron-clad rules: 1) I never missed a ball game or theatrical production that my kids were involved in, and 2) I found a space to myself and hung a sign on the door that said “Do not disturb — mommy is writing.” No one honored this sign, of course, but having it provided the opportunity to point to it and ask the eternal question “Can’t you read?” Perhaps this is how my children developed a fondness for reading and writing. Who knows?

      As for mommy guilt–it can’t hold a candle to the client guilt I’m constantly feeling these days. Clients are like little children, only five times more demanding. And of course, clients actually PAY me to pay attention to them. I feel a duty to them. But making them happy and also writing on deadline is proving difficult. I feel so guilty every time I make the writing my highest priority.

      Even though I’ve sold several books, I still have a problem regarding my writing as being of equal importance to the client work I do day-to-day. I’m working on this. It’s hard.

    • I can so identify with this, Elisa. I see so much of who I used to be in the things you do–like pick up trailing reins of the blog because SOMEBODY has to. Nobody could advise me, so I won’t try to advise you. Taking responsibility, fixing things, nurturing to our own detriment come very naturally (or are programmed into) some of us.

      I will say, I hope you find your breaking point long before I found mine. You are worth the time you need for yourself and your dreams, doll. When the kids are gone, the house is clean, the folks better, the job has drained you, you’ll need them.


  16. Rita Henuber says:

    I see a huge distinction between the hobbyists and resolved as you call them. They all say I’m going to be published. The resolved have a plan, goals and a clear idea how they will meet those goals. Hobbyists have no clear steps on how they are going to achieve this. Like-“I’ve been writing for 15 years and have 20 completed MS’s but no one has ASKED ME to publish one.”
    I think attitude and skill are equally important. I see people with excellent skills that don’t care to do all the work and are going no place. It’s the attitude that keeps us developing and honing our skills. You can have all the skill in the world and without the resolve pushing you through the hard and scary parts what good is it?

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Exactly, Rita! It’s like the exception vs. the rule. (Anyone else seen He’s Just Not That Into You?) We hear these stories about that mythical writer who achieved freakish success without any effort expended and want to be that person, but the truth is that (if that person even exists) they are the exception. The rule is hard work and dedication. Sure, daydream about the exception, but PLAN for the rule.

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