Thursday, January 1, 2015

From Resolutions to Actions by Nola Passmore



Have you made some New Year’s resolutions?  “This year I’ll lose weight, get more exercise, write that novel, marry Prince Harry.”  Sadly, only about 8% of people actually keep the promises they make to themselves.  One of my goals for 2014 was to finish the first draft of my novel, but I fell way short of that mark.  It’s easy to beat ourselves up when we don’t meet our expectations, but that doesn’t mean we give up.  Perhaps we need to set more achievable goals or come up with a better plan for achieving them.

In my former life as a social psychologist, I came across a theory that might explain why our resolutions don't always lead to actions.   According to the Theory of Planned Behaviour, there’s a correlation between our intention to perform a behaviour and what we actually do.  No surprises there.  However, our intentions are affected by three things: attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control.  Okay don’t panic!  Let me give some examples to show what each of these mean and how they apply to our writing goals.   

Attitudes 

If you feel there are more positives than negatives associated with a particular behavior, you’re more likely to do it.  As you’re reading a blog from a writer’s group, I’ll go out on a limb and assume that you’re already favourable towards writing.  Creating something fresh gives you a buzz.  You like the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a manuscript or receiving positive feedback from a reader. However, it’s not always fun.  It can be hard slogging your way through the middle section of your novel without any guarantee that you’ll find a publisher. 

While it’s important to be realistic, we need to recognise that the negatives are not always the barriers we perceive them to be.  Yes, it is harder to get published these days.  Yes, most writers don’t make a lot of money.  Yes, cleaning the oven would be more fun than editing the mess you wrote yesterday.  However, don’t use the negatives as excuses to give up.  If God has given you a desire to write, He’ll enable you to do it.

Subjective Norms 

Subjective norms are based on what significant people in our lives think and also the values that society places on a goal.  For example, if writing is seen as something worthwhile and our family and friends encourage us, we’ll be more likely to write. 

If you’re already feeling discouraged because the people around you aren’t as supportive as you’d like, your dreams don’t have to stop there.  You can surround yourself with like-minded peers who do value writing.  Groups like Christian Writers Downunder, Omega Writers, FaithWriters and Australasian Christian Writers can provide the support and encouragement you need to pursue your writing goals.  There are also many genre-specific groups that will adopt you as part of the tribe, whether it’s romance, science fiction, creative nonfiction or Amish steampunk. In the cyber world, you never have to swim against the tide alone.

Perceived Behavioural Control 

Perceived behavioural control refers to our beliefs about whether or not we can perform a particular behaviour.  Can we actually write that novel, screenplay, magazine article or biography?  It’s important to note the word “perceived” here.  Our intention to pursue a particular writing goal doesn’t depend so much on our actual ability, but on whether or not we think we can perform the behavior and whether we have the resources and opportunities to do so.  Perhaps spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points or a significant person was critical of something you’d written.   Maybe you have seven unfinished novels in your drawer and have lost confidence. 

The good news is that we can always learn and improve.  Try subscribing to a writing magazine or joining a critique group.  Go to workshops in your area or enrol in one online.  However, as Christian writers we also have a huge advantage. We have God on our side.  Nothing used in His service is ever wasted.  If you have a desire to write and you step out in faith, the Holy Spirit can nurture your gifts and guide you in your journey.

Be Specific

Although attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control can all affect our intention to write, intentions are more likely to translate into actions if we’re specific.  If your New Year’s Resolution is to write a book, try breaking it down into manageable steps.  For example: “I will attend the workshop on ‘plot and structure’ being offered by my local writers’ centre (or enrol online).”  “I will buy some index cards and use them to jot down ideas for different scenes.”  “I will write X words per day or per week.”  You’re more likely to do it if it’s something concrete and manageable.

Don’t be dismayed if your plans for 2014 didn’t quite work out.  It’s a brand new year with a whole new set of possibilities. Let’s stand alongside each other in prayer and cheer each other on towards our writing goals for 2015.


What are your hopes for the new year?


Nola Passmore has had over 140 short pieces published, including poetry, devotions, true stories, short fiction and magazine articles.  She's currently writing her debut novel and loves encouraging others to develop their God-given talents.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog on their website


16 comments:

  1. Great blog Nola. Loved your insights as a Doctor of Psychology. (Ahem!) :) Thanks for the inspiring little push towards achieving our writing goals in 2015. I usually don't make resolutions. Instead I write down specific goals I'd like to accomplish and that works much better. I haven't had time on my own to muse on them so far in 2015 - but I plan to do that next week when I shall have more time on my own to reflect and ponder. Top of the list would be writing a book for my son, perhaps pursuing the writing of my first novel, my usual blog writing.... and more.

    As for other goals - my goal last year of losing kilos was inverted and I gained some more. Tut tut Anusha. Here's hoping that 2015 will have me more disciplined.

    All the best to The Write Flourish, Nola for 2015 - and may the New year bring many wonderful writing successes your way. 140 shorts published is very impressive! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your encouragement Anusha. I really appreciate it. And I should point out that those 140 published shorts do include about 60 poems and 35 devotions, so they're all quite short. My big goal for this year is to complete last year's goal (LOL) and finish the draft of the novel, but there'll be some other sub-goals along the way. I too need some more time to pray and reflect.

      Looking forward to cheering you on as you write your novel and that book for your son. What type of book do you have in mind?

      Take care Anusha and may God bless your socks off this year. xx

      Delete
  2. Excellent post, Nola, with some very sensible tips. I'm aiming to get stuck into the sort of writing project I've never tackled before, based on family history. I've also made a couple of other resolutions to do with fitness and health. I hope you'll go well with finishing a good novel draft this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Paula. Your family history project sounds intriguing. Will it be something for the general market or just for your family? Always interesting when real flesh and bones are put on those historical facts. Good luck with the fitness and health. That was my big goal a couple of years ago and it's made such a difference. Fell off the wagon a bit at Christmas, but getting back on. Hope your projects go really well.

      Delete
  3. "Perceived" ... Such an important word, isn't it? How willingly we pick up, put on and peer through distorted lenses when we gaze into the distance - whether it be past or future. I have been challenged of late to stop focusing on the 'failure' of goals that I have not yet achieved and rejoice, instead, over what has been achieved. Your post has confirmed that it is time to dress myself in a more positive attitude and outlook - accessorize with a new pair of 'designer specs' as it were, through which I can focus on the road ahead with more clarity, accuracy and efficacy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad it resonated with you Cathie. You've had a huge year and sometimes life just happens. I'm good at beating myself up too, but we're so much tougher on ourselves than God is. He's there cheering each little step on the way. I like your dressing analogy. Be kind to yourself and let's encourage each other with those novel drafts this year. Take care

      Delete
  4. Thanks Nola, a very accurate and helpful analysis. I do find there are natural ebbs and flows in the writing process, which also influences our productivity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jennifer. That's so true. I guess the important thing is not to get hung up on the resolutions, but to use them as guidelines.

      Delete
  5. Great post Nola :) I think too that sometimes we don't achieve our New Year's resolutions (or goals we set through out the year) because of conflicting desires - e.g. my desire to look slim (or better still to be healthy) conflicts with my enjoyment of certain foods. You can guess which usually wins out :) And then also, another thing that stops me is fear which I guess is tied in with your third point - I think I often procrastinate because of an subconsious (and unfounded) fear of failure. If I don't start, I can't mess it up. Which is crazy really - because if I don't start then I've failed by default. Funny the way the mind works. So I love your point that nothing we do in God's economy is every wasted :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jenny. You've brought in some good points there. I think fear can be a big part of it. I was just reading that in Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way". It's amazing how we can know something rationally, but our emotions take over. Thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  6. Social Psychologist, huh? I'd like to come and sit on your couch sometime :)
    In the meantime, my goal is to finish the 6th Heart of Green Valley Novel by the end of next week. I only have about another 15,000 words to go, I think it's doable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nola was my lecturer many, many years ago, and no one knows their 'stuff' more than she does. But if you sat on her couch, I fear her 'naughty' side might present itself...and she'd tell you you need to eat more jellybeans. :) Said with much affection.

      Delete
  7. Some great hints here. Thanks for sharing them.

    I made a list of goals for this year (with estimated due dates) and I started a timesheet so I can put down what time I spend (or fail to spend) working toward the goals. I'm finding this keeps me more accountable as I can see how much time I am investing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Adam - I know your comment was from the original post, but just realised I didn't answer it back then. Not sure if you're reading this now, but how did that plan work out for you? Sounds like a good idea. All the best for your writing goals in 2017.

      Delete
  8. There are some great tips for writers here, Nola. Breaking it down like that is a great way to make it more manageable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lynne. Yes I find the smaller goals work for me. 'Edit the novel' is too daunting at the moment, but 'Work on Chapter 1 this week' is more doable. I'd better get cracking on those small goals. Really hoping to have the novel submitted this year. And good luck with your goals for 2017.

      Delete