It’s Time for Mid-Year Resolutions!


The midpoint of the year is a great time to pause and take the pulse of your creativity over the last few months.

Many people devote a day or two of each December to looking back, assessing the state of their creative lives, and setting goals for the year ahead. That’s a fabulous exercise: It’s important to take a cold, hard look at how you’ve spent your time and decide if you want to stay on that path. But once a year isn’t enough.

A lot can happen in 365 days. Life circumstances change. Interests evolve. Platforms rise and fall. If you allow 12 months to pass between check-ins, you might find yourself staring at a bunch of outdated resolutions that feel like snapshots from another world. (They’re actually messages from your younger self. If you could collect a few of these documents together, it would serve as a sort of photo album, tracking your creative dreams over time. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Who is this exercise for?

It really is for everyone who cares about their creative output, but I admit there is a subsection of the population who might find it particularly useful: Have you ever taken an action just so you’d have something to cross off your to-do list? Have you ever written a story just to meet a productivity target? Have you ever spent the hour you had to write perfecting your tracking system instead? If so, you may well have a productivity tracking problem. But there’s also a very good chance you’ll enjoy this exercise!

OK, I’m convinced. What do I need to do?

First, block off some time to really focus on the process. Don’t try to squeeze it in after you’ve done your daily writing and your chores and balanced your checkbook and figured out the week’s meal plan. If you’re going to take it seriously, it’s worth devoting at least one day of your prime productivity hours to it.

1. Decode your intentions.

If you created a set of resolutions, goals, or commitments for the year, spend some time studying them. Really interrogate them and the version of yourself who created them. What did you mean when you said you were going to spend more time writing this year? Was it really about hours in the chair, or were you trying to tell yourself that you wanted to take your writing goals more seriously? Was it about making money? Was it about reaching more readers? Was it about writing more frequently? Was it about publishing more frequently? Be as honest with yourself as possible.

2. Make a list of your achievements.

A lot of this will be driven by your stated intentions. Did you achieve your productivity goals? Your earning goals? Did you meet whatever targets you set around followers, fans, and interaction? Here at least, try to leave emotion out of it. Be as cold and analytic as you can possibly be. How would an IRS auditor rate your performance against goals?

3. Explore your feelings.

With that done, banish your inner auditor. How did the last few months feel? Did you enjoy your creative practice? Were you excited to sit down at your desk each morning? Break down the constituent parts. What part of the process do you enjoy the most? Idea generation? Building up a content calendar? Research? Writing? Marketing your work? Networking? Did any of these tasks make you miserable? Get as granular as you possibly can.

4. Examine the calendar.

Next, look back over the last few months and note down any changes that you went through. Did anything change in your “day job”? Does your family life look any different today than it did six months ago? Do you socialize the same way? With the same people? Did you change the time when you sit down to create? The place? The computer hardware or software? Then try to connect these transformations to your output.

Did moving your desk help you write more? Did reading the paper every day spark more story ideas? Did a loss or a ruptured friendship change the kind of material you were comfortable exploring? Some of the things this exercise might teach you are not “fixable” — but clarity is soothing. If you’ve been beating yourself up about publishing fewer stories, remembering that the dip coincided with a messy breakup or being distracted by a disturbing news event should reassure you that the decline is likely to be temporary.

5. Take action.

Once you’ve gone through these exercises, it’s time to set your intentions for the rest of the year.

Go through the classic feedback questions. First: Is there anything I should stop doing? If something isn’t leading to the results you’d hoped for, or if it’s something you realize you hate doing, it’s time to assess whether it’s really necessary. Note: That last bit is important. You can’t necessarily give up on every task you dislike. If you want to get more writing published, you can’t just give up on spelling and grammar, no matter how much you hate bending to the whims of the grammar police. But maybe you have a friend who loves to proofread but hates to do your favorite thing — buddy up and swap. Or perhaps you can hire someone to copy edit your creative work?

Next: Is there something I need to start doing? For my book project, I realized I needed to speak with more people who had worked in the places I was writing about. That’s a new goal for the rest of the year.

Finally: What should I carry on doing? It’s not all about change. Celebrate the good habits you’ve established and the creative successes you’ve achieved.

And if you’ve enjoyed this exercise, don’t wait so long next time around!

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