4 Life-Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers

4 Life-Changing New Year's Lessons for WritersIt’s weird, but I actually don’t like goals. Why does someone like me, who has always thrived on productivity, schedules, and forward momentum, not like goals? This morning, I realized it’s because the word “goal,” is associated with ideas of “yikes, that’ll be hard,” “probably won’t happen,” “doesn’t sound fun,” and “this isn’t really something I have much control over anyway.”

Sure, I have plans for every new year. But I’ve never considered them “goals.” Write 50-100 blog posts, record 50+ podcasts, write a book, publish a book, work out five days a week. I don’t look at any of these things as goals. They’re more like… future realities. Insofar as they are in my power and barring unforeseen events, they will happen.

Goals, on the other hand, have always been things like “be happy,” “don’t gain any weight,” “stay healthy,” “be nicer.” They’re things that are a little harder to control—and therefore always seem like setups for failure.

Instead of goals, this year I’d like to focus your attention on something else. Instead of good, but vague, wishes for the future—or even quantifiable plans for things you want to get done—what I want to focus on is the lessons of the past year, and how we can move forward in building upon their foundation.

What Did You Learn Last Year?

The major problem with most New Year’s goals is that they have no foundation. We’d all like to be smarter, healthier, prettier, kinder, and richer this year. But without some of kind of meaningful foundation of life experience and understanding, these are just birthday wishes—gone in the puff of a pink candle.

As Mater says in Pixar’s Cars,

Can’t know where you’re going until you’ve seen where you’ve been.

Focusing on the lessons you learned in the last year will show you the obvious next step for the new year.

For me, the last year and a half has been a watershed period of personal epiphanies and life changes. So many things I’ve always taken for granted about life, the world, and myself were challenged. Some mistaken ideas were shattered in painful but liberating ways. Others were reaffirmed.

None of this was even on my radar as a goal. It just happened. But it now gives me the opportunity to step forward into the new year, not with more goals, but with my life pack full of new ideas and experiences.

In a minute, I’m going to share some of my specific lessons from the last year, but for now, take a moment to consider what the last year taught you. Instead of looking back and judging the goals you might or might not have accomplished, consider what gifts you’ve picked up along the way during your adventures this year.

  • How are you different this January 1st from who you were last January 1st?
  • How is your life different?
  • What have you lost?
  • What have you gained?
  • What would you never want to trade from this past year’s experiences—whether it’s something beautiful or painful, or both?
  • What mindsets have served you particularly well this year?
  • What mindsets have failed you?
  • What answers do you feel you have found?
  • What questions are you still left with?

Plans for the future are great, but I’d venture that the answers you’ll glean from these questions will serve you far more valuably in shaping a fruitful new year.

4 Life Lessons That Should Be New Year’s Goals for Writers

As you’ve probably gathered by this point, this is not going to be one of those posts that tells you to commit yourself to writing two hours a day every day, or finishing at least one first draft this year, or putting aside four hours every week for social media, or trying to get at least one reviewer for your book every week. Or, or, or—that list could go on and on.

What I’m talking about here are life lessons more than writing lessons. But can you really have one without the other? Productive, centered writing habits grow out of productive, centered lifestyles. But, even more than that, the lessons of our lives are the very stuff of fiction. We can have nothing of worth to share with readers unless we are, first and foremost, focused on living the lives of seekers.

As writers, we must be people who are committed to seeking understanding in our own lives, being honest about the good and the bad, and embracing the little truths so we can move forward toward the larger Truths.

To that end, I want to share the four major “lessons” I feel I’ve learned this year. None of them are revolutionary. We’ve all heard them before, time and again. We all nod at them sagely: “Yeah, yeah, carpe diem, man!” But I’m here to tell you there’s a vast difference between agreeing with these ideas and getting them. This is the first year I feel I’ve gotten them. Every single one of them is beautiful, liberating, and empowering—all the more so because I’ve spent so many years unconsciously (and stubbornly) fighting them. Now, I can’t wait to see where they lead in the next year.

1. Stop Equating Productivity With Success

A few Christmases ago, while watching Scrooge fling his window open upon a bright new Christmas morning, I found myself asking: But was his life still a failure since his revelation didn’t come until the end?

I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has ever read or watched this classic tale of redemption would respond with an adamant no. Indeed, the whole point of Scrooge’s story is that it’s never too late.

And yet, we are obsessed with the idea of earning success (in essence, buying salvation through works). I’ve talked before about how the revelation that equating productivity with success is an utterly wrongheaded, soul-sucking, ultimately self-defeating idea.

For me, this idea was probably the most life-changing in a life-changing year. It has changed everything about how I look at my life: from work to art to relationships. Instead of chasing after ideas of success that were largely self-imposed (and usually impossibly vague and ever-changing), I am now focusing on stepping back from the chronic diseases of over-achievement, perfectionism, and workaholicism—and their inherent symptoms of fear (what if I’m not good enough?) and guilt (I’m not good enough).

Takeaway: Instead of focusing on goals (and feeling like a failure when you don’t achieve them), focus on staying centered in each day and each moment. Life is not made up of checkmarks on your to-do list. It’s not even made up of landmark events, such as book releases. It’s made up of moments. Successful moments create successful lives.

2. Say “No”

My journey to saying “no” was kind of backwards. I started out as a bossy, blunt, aggressive oldest child. I had to work at being nice. I had to learn to be generous. I had to practice being patient, choosing the right words, avoiding hurting people’s feelings. And, honestly, I got pretty good at it. But it also got to a point where I was constantly overcompensating. In my 20s, I forgot how to say “no”—or, when I did, I felt terrible about it, like I was an incredibly selfish person.

The result was, inevitably, that I took on too much, said “yes” inauthentically, and started to go into pain-reflexed flinches whenever I could sense requests coming on. (But, hey, at least I was nice, right?)

Partly as an outgrowth of my new view of productivity (I don’t have to take advantage of every opportunity that passes in front of me) and partly as a result of a better understanding of boundaries (thanks in no small part to this fantastic book), I have slowly been saying “no” more and more often this year.

And I have never felt freer. It’s as if a huge burden has lifted off my shoulders. Now when I say “yes,” I’m doing it from a place of joy rather than guilt.

Takeaway: What saying “no” really means is saying “no” to yourself. You can’t protect your personal boundaries from the demands of others until you’re first willing to protect them from yourself. Evaluate the reasons you feel compelled to say “yes” even when your heart isn’t in it. What you find may not be pretty, but addressing it is the first step to a freer, happier, more empowered life.

3. Follow Your Bliss

I think, deep down, I’ve always embraced this masochistic idea that if something wasn’t hurting, just a little bit, then I was doing it wrong. If I wasn’t giving it 110%, then I was a weakling or a coward who was wimping out.

The result of that pretty little idea was that by the time I hit 30, I was basically a mess of repressed emotions, frazzled nerves, and just general befuddlement about what I was doing and why I was doing it. But then life did what it does best—it knocked some sense into me.

Why on earth would I think it was a good idea to spend my life doing stuff that made me miserable? I went through a couple months last year where I just didn’t have the energy—mentally or physically—to do much more than lie in a hammock and read. And by the time I got my legs back under me, I found myself looking around and going: “Hey, this is actually really nice. The world didn’t implode just because I wasn’t working like a maniac—and, would you look at that, there’s actually life beyond the desk.”

For a while now, I’ve been interested in the 80-20 rule (the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort), but I was never brave enough to really start implementing (what if, after all, I stop doing the wrong 80%?). But relinquishing my death grip on the importance of “success” has given me the courage to step back and start figuring out which things in my life are really important to me.

Takeaway: Turns out all the 80-20 rule really means is “following your bliss.” Yep, who knew, right? Basically, if you like doing it—if it makes you happy—do it. If you don’t like doing it—if it’s a burden on your soul—then that’s a sign you need to step back and figure out what it would really mean if you just stopped doing it. Chances are good not much would happen. If, however, there are sizable consequences, then it’s time to stretch that writer’s imagination of yours and start looking for alternative solutions.

4. Live in the Moment

You’re probably beginning to realize all these lessons are directly connected. Certainly, the whole carpe-diem thing is directly tied into the idea of following your bliss.

For me, I wasn’t able to fully understand or inhabit the concept of living in the moment until I had integrated the previous three lessons. But, really, what they were all about was getting to the place where I could grasp what it meant to live in the moment.

There are so many aspects to this—from just being aware of your body to coming to peace with past bitternesses to rejecting unreasonable fears of the future. But the aspect that has been most meaningful and powerful for me has been the realization that I needed to stop putting my life on hold.

That sounds like a huge statement—like what I really mean is “sell everything you own and go on a backpacking trip around the world.” Honestly, that’s what I always thought that meant, which is probably one of the reasons it took me so long to embrace it.

What I’ve found,  however, is that this idea of “living my life now” is really all about the little things. It’s about being the person you want to be now instead of tomorrow. For me, this took on some external manifestations. I don’t think it’s any kind of coincidence that this was the year I remodeled half the house, donated truckload after truckload of stuff to Goodwill, and, for literally the first time in my life, paid more than passing attention to the style of clothes I was wearing.

Takeaway: If something you’re doing is making you miserable now, then why are you doing it? If the person you look at in the mirror seems like a stranger, then ask yourself why there’s this disconnect between how you feel and who you are. Finding the “center of life” will be different for all of us. Some of us need to stop doing the wrong things. Some of need to start doing the right things. Or both. Neither are easy, but they will lead us onto the path of a regret-free life.


This year, I encourage you to step back from the all the New Year’s goals for writers. By all means, make plans. Create schedules and outlines that will generate the future realities you desire. But instead of focusing on the intangible “should-dos,” focus instead on what the last year has taught you, as both a writer and a person, and how those lessons can become stepping stones to even more lessons next year.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What was your greatest takeaway from 2017? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Some really healthy perspectives there Katie. Ive learnt to embrace how much I want to write, and thats its ok to pursue in amongst work and family life. Life can get so busy, with lots of busyness goals, especially with young children, which can often lead to many incomplete goals, short or long term. This can lead to guilty feelings or a sense of failure, which then acts as a demotivator. This can be aggravated by difficult circumstances out of our control.
    While we can’t always achieve goals, we can develop character which can grow through learning from our past to better go forward, living and going through our own ‘character arcs’ which can better our writing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Priorities are important–and being realistic about priorities is important too. Something I’m still learning to do is to stop beating myself up for inconsequential things–like staying up late when I have the urge. I’m learning to let life happen more, while still staying focused on my top priorities.

      • No point beating ourselves up over anything really (although im well practiced). Sometimes when life happens, that’s when the most beautiful, and challenging, moments can happen. These can, if we let them, build experience, character, creativity and much more.

  2. Saying NO is important for sure. Otherwise unless you’re an hermit, you’re never going to write anything at all.

    Also the ability to live in the moment is essential. If before writing down a single word I stopped and thought about the whole novel I want to write I would panic and freeze. =/

    By the way, Happy New Year =)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m the opposite, in that I actually find it comforting to think about and work through the entire story before writing it, but I agree with what you’re saying: we can only eat the elephant one bite at a time.

  3. First of all, Happy New Year to you! This is an excellent post. Lots of food for thought.

  4. Suzan Robertson says

    This is a really great post. Very thought-provoking. I guess my takeaway from last year into this year is to train my mind and heart not to be disappointed and discouraged by goals that haven’t yet been realized. We’ve been looking forward to relocating, but we’ve had to put that on hold for a while. Living in the moment, enjoying what God brings me today, and “blooming where I’m planted,” is something I must do in 2018, for my own peace of mind and as a catalyst to remain motivated to do the things I love (like write!)

    Happy New Year and God bless.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s also something I’ve been learning. It can be so easy to focus so completely on the future that we totally miss out on the present.

  5. Eric Troyer says

    Thanks Katie. Good thoughts to chew on for the new year.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Katie. I’ve found myself learning similar things. Happy New Year!

  7. Usvaldo de Leon says

    Happy New Year, Kaya!

    My biggest takeaway from the year was a post you wrote in 2016 (I think), about basically letting go and not beating oneself up so bad. Forgiving yourself. This was a profound post I am still putting into use. Instead of beating myself up for staying up late and messing up half a day’s plans, I just let it be.

    I would prefer to be a dense outlining plotter who writes 3000 words a day and cranks out 10 scripts a year. Having an unrealistic mental standard is unhealthy and I now understand this, thanks to your post. So now I would prefer to be Paul Newman.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hear, hear. Life is so much bigger when we let go of our fears and our guilts about what we’re *supposed* to be.

  8. Great food for thought. I actually very often feel guilty when I do things I enjoy – like “why on earth should I be allowed to be happily writing when everyone else is in the office hating their job?” I guess we have all been brought up to believe that work is hard and you need to feel stressed out to be a productive member of society. So if you are happy, you are basically lazy…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m very interested in child psychology, and I believe that, inevitably, children are given the impression they have to be “good” to be worthy. We carry this into our adult lives in harmful ways. Often, we inflict on ourselves ideas that if we’re too happy or too lucky or having too much fun that we’re doing something wrong–we’re cheating, we’re being bad, and therefore trigger the old guilt warning that tells us we’re not worthy. It’s a very self-destructive cycle that usually has no grounding in reality.

    • There is a lot of depression and hardship in the world, if you have some happiness in your writing, make the most of it when you have the opportunity.
      Work can be hard, and a lot of people are unhappy at work for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean you have to be at all, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
      Yet how much enjoyment is there from reading a good book, good writing can bring joy, entertainment, even change lives for good. How many great movies are based on books? Guilt can limit your creativity. Any successful writer knows, writing is actually a lot of work, but if its work you enjoy, then that’s fantastic.

      • Writing sometimes is a lot of work, and there is self-doubt and head-scratching and wondering if anyone at all will ever be interested in this story of mine. But it still is the one thing I wanted to do as long as I can remember (ok, as long as I a was able to write). When I am weaving my story-patterns I feel truly alive. And I am glad and grateful that I have the opportunity to do it.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Hear, hear! I am feeling very centered in my writing right now and am being reminded of this very fact every day.

  9. Val Harbolovic says

    Thank you for this insightful and wise commentary. I needed to hear it.

    On another note, thank you so much for your marvelous books and blog. I needed to get stuck into the re-write of my first novel, but I knew I wasn’t ready! Thank you for the quotation from Margaret Attwood. After reading your outlining and structuring your novel books and accompanying workbooks, I AM ready.

    Your blog and books have been a real blessing for me. Actually, they’ve changed my writing life. THANK YOU!

    I wish you a happy and productive 2018.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Margaret Atwood quotes are the best! 🙂 So glad you’re headed for a good writing year. Happy 2018!

  10. I’ve been thinking about the Puritan work ethic and how it affects my outlook with just about everything, including writing. It’s that “grit your teeth and work hard” approach to achieve success (and therefore happiness) just like you mention in your first goal. I ran into a good counter-argument in Tara Mohr’s book, “Playing Big”, where she devotes a chapter to “Let it be easy.” So when faced with one of my ‘things to do’, I keep asking myself, “how can I let this be easy?” It makes things more fun, less constricted. Quite a new approach for me – I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution.

  11. Louis Wilberger says

    I read Of Mice and Men and the foreshadowing with Candy’s dog and Lenny was brilliant. Especially when “Candy says I should have shot my own dog.” The best to you

  12. Krista Adams says

    I learned the greatest phrase this year! “That doesn’t work for me.” Try it! It’s all purpose. Need to avoid yet another volunteering request? Need to block out time for your writing instead of taking morning meetings? Need to put your foot down with someone who won’t take no for an answer (telemarketers)? Need to redirect a coworker?

    It’s a “nice” way to say no that can leave your friends placated and maybe even apologetic while your enemies will sputter in frustration. It’s honest. It’s direct. It’s polite. Sometimes you don’t even need to follow up! Use with care, of course. Many things in life need a yes but this phrase allows you, at a minimum, time to choose.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good one! It’s important to set boundaries, but there’s no reason it can’t be done with kindness and tact.

  13. Happy New Year, Katie! I love this post —I can definitely relate to pretty much everything you’ve said. Personally, 2017 was a terrible year for my writing, though your lessons have helped me realize I shouldn’t be myself up about it. I had a lot going on last year… here’s to hoping 2018 is better!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, from a productivity point of view, 2017 was one of my worst. But the irony is that, overall, I think it was one of my most successful years!

  14. A most thoughtful post. I had to retire from my first career (42 years teaching high school kids) before I relaxed. Now I write when I feel like it (most of the time) and when I don’t I do whatever it is I feel like. But, I have done enough to complete nine books. Hope you have a terrific 2018, full of writing, and doing whatever you feel like. Now back to my not writing day, It’s a watching football day.

  15. Kelsey Carnes says

    My goodness, this speaks to my soul! These are some of the exact same conclusions I’ve been coming to this year. I’m also a very driven perfectionist with a somewhat distorted view of boundaries between work and life, responsibility and grace… The Boundaries book helped me a lot as well.

    If you get a chance, you might consider reading another book by Cloud and Townshend called 12 ‘Christian’ Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy. It’s on topics entirely different than Boundaries, but it is similarly saturated with biblical truth that clarifies wrong assumptions about faith and life. It’s well worth reading.

    God bless you this upcoming year!

  16. Here, here to saying “no”! That was one of my takeaways for the year as well. But for me, it’s saying “no” to work sometimes so I can take a moment for myself. Being on the blog, or Facebook, or beta reading, or editing something every free moment of the day is not the way to live. Yay for being productive, but with room to breathe. I somewhat disagree with the idea of prioritizing “productivity” over “success” though. I think you can be very productive without really doing anything. You need goals to ensure your work is meaningful and success is the way you can measure whether you followed your goals. I think better advice would be to ensure your goals are reasonable and attainable. That might be another of my problems. Great post again. Happy New Year! 😀

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Definitely don’t disagree with the idea of “seductive busywork.” But I think, for me, I was too focused on the end goal. I was missing the roses and all that. 🙂

  17. Wish you a very Happy New Year! I discovered your blog recently and have been enjoying your series ‘Most Common Writing Mistakes’ while currently editing one of my books. It’s been an immense help. It’s non-fiction but I’d really like to know if you have some tips for writers who’d like to dabble in narrative or long-form journalism.


    Thought I’d answer the other questions you posed.

    How are you different this January 1st from who you were last January 1st?
    This time last January I was still mourning my mother’s death by cancer.

    How is your life different?
    I’ve lost both parents now. So, learning to live without both parents, my mother specially, and wondering when my day will come. That sounds morbid, but … life is short for some. I’m also living in a different place; I moved to a new apartment in early 2017.

    What have you lost?
    I lost my shit … oh, pardon me, ah, my composure with my neighbour, and in doing so I lost my credibility as a meek and mild-mannered Clark Kent.

    What have you gained?
    Space. I also gained one useful insight about writing, which made me wondered why it took me so long to figure it out. It was so useful it changed many things about my writing.

    What would you never want to trade from this past year’s experiences—whether it’s something beautiful or painful, or both?
    The serenity I’ve cultivated around me in the new apartment.

    What mindsets have served you particularly well this year?
    Stickability. To stick with a project and see it through to the end, despite the fact this may be my undoing. Claiming my dignity as a human being, and not letting others try to take it from.

    What mindsets have failed you?
    Thinking I don’t need to be a life-long learner. There were occasions when I got grumpy about having to learn something else after thinking I’d learned what I needed to – this resulted in an embarrassing moment with someone I respected. It doesn’t matter what age you are, there’s still something to learn.

    What answers do you feel you have found?
    I didn’t find any answers to 2017’s questions. Just more questions.

    What questions are you still left with?
    Why I essentially can’t change who I am. I can change certain things about me, e.g. learn a new skill, improve my circle of friends, dream more. But these things are add-ons to the real me, much like perspective. You know, like the expression does the suit make the man or does the man make the suit? I’ll let you ponder that one. Another question I’m still left with is my identity as a hetero man, given 2017’s the #MeToo movement. Don’t get me wrong, I support it. I think it was the right thing to do, to publicly denounce misogyny in all its horrid manifestations. But I’m thoroughly disturbed by it. That may seem like I have a fragile identity, but that’s not what I mean. The #MeToo movement affects relationships. This has made me also wonder how and what the effect will be on writing; especially about how relationships between men and women are described. The fact that Romance writing still produces larger sales than other genres, seems oxymoronic. Perhaps my experiments in writing female characters, particularly LGBTQI people, will be seen as managing misogynist notions about male/female relationships. But then, I don’t write using a female pseudonym. Perhaps I should?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think all answers are really just questions in disguise–from our finite perspective anyway. 🙂 Certainly, that provides much grist to the writer’s mill!

      Very sorry to hear about your mom, BTW.

  19. I’ve been trying to come up with a new word to use instead of resolutions or goals (which do create the feeling of “I’ll do it in January and forget by March”) — I like plans much better!
    The first lesson is something I struggle with a lot. It’s easy for me to forget that the joy is in the journey, not being super productive and getting things done faster than everyone else.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Joy is something I want to consciously pursue this year, in all do. I think it’s the secret ingredient, no what what you’re doing or why.

  20. Great life lessons in this post, Katie. You have reminded me that I started reading Boundaries about a year ago, but only got partway through it before being distracted by other time commitments and setting it down. Now I need to dig it out again and read the whole thing.

    Something that I allowed to happen to myself last year was to be sucked into working as a temporary part-time Technical Writer at a company where I early-retired a few years back. The income was helpful, but the ~20 hours per week that I initially planned to spend on the job slowly crept up to 30 and finally 40 hours per week – in addition to the part time job that I already had.

    The business was short-handed, and they NEEDED me, so it was very hard to say “no” to my manager, who I respected and trusted. Still, if I’m asked to come back on a new contract in 2018, I may just say no, so I can concentrate on personal priorities that have been on my back burner for too many decades (including music as well as writing).

    Coincidentally, I discovered an inspirational book on writing about a week ago. I have finished reading it, and am now re-reading it from the beginning, taking notes and doing the writing exercises. This book is The Art & Craft of the Short Story, by Rick DeMarinis. He is a hard-core Pantser, but he shares a lot of ideas that really resonate with me. IMHO, Pantsing and Plotting are not mutually exclusive, although they are sometimes treated that way. At least for me, I can see the value of moving back and forth between opposite ends of the spectrum as appropriate, and taking sort of a hybrid approach to my writing in 2018.

    cheers & blessings

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Speaking of good inspirational books, I just finished the essay anthology Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process–which I highly recommend. I ran out of bookmarks for passages I liked. 😉

  21. Very good perspectives. Thanks for the post.

  22. My takeaway from last year, shit happens. Gotta laugh or cry sometimes and laughing is more fun. Sounds like you’ve got 2018 by the tail.

  23. Hi Katie,

    For over five years I have been working on childhood memoir. It’s embarrassing that it is taking me so long, people ask are you still writing that? I have felt shame and sometimes guilt for not finishing sooner, but then part of the reason was so many childhood memoirs are sad,, sobby, mommy dearest tales and I didn’t want mine to be a rant but I wanted to show the beauty and truth as well as the resilience it required to grow up in my family of origin.

    Well this year I discovered your podcasts and I have listened to them while I fold laundry and do dishes and walk and drive and I have three of your books. I have listened to the podcasts so much I have almost memorized what you will say word for word.

    The truth is you are a great teacher and I have been able to find my way in my memoir using your podcasts to fit it all together. I wanted to be done in 2017, but I am not sad that I am not done yet, I am glad that I can express myself better for listening to you and then taking the time to do it right to communicate my story in the best way possible.

    When I read your New Year’s blogs, I can relate in so many ways! I too, felt like slumping for a couple of months and did and yes, the world is not damaged by my taking a slower route. I am learning to do self-care and maintain boundaries (love Cloud and Townsend) and live my life by allowing my yeses, to lead me instead of running from my nos.

    Thank you for your books and blogs and honesty. You are a beautiful person and many are blessed by your work and authentic example of how to find balance. I wish you much success, joy and peace in this new year!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So glad you enjoyed the post! And, for the record, I don’t feel like 5 years is, in any way, too long a time to spend on a project. For one thing, there’s no time limit. There have been authors who have spent twice that or more on successful books. But also, a span of about 6 years per book, from outline to final edit, is very common for me.

  24. Ahh Katie, great advice as always. And kicking this year off with another excellent post!

    I’m reminded of a quote from Baby Wise, a child-rearing book, “begin as you mean to go.” I think that applies to much of what you’ve said and I hope to make it my aim (not goal, hah) as well.
    Rather than doing things that make me miserable now in hopes of a brighter future, I should do the right and healthy things now so as to continue in that direction.

    Thanks again for all your insight, it means the world to me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Begin as you mean to go.” Excellent advice for novelists! But also so hard to do. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we’re journey we’re on until we’ve started–much less where we want it to end up. :p

      • Very true. Much of it (most, I suspect) we learn as we go and there’s no way around that, mistakes guaranteed!
        But I look at the phrase more as an encouragement to start today at being the person I want to become-to not sacrifice my standards or adopt habits and methods which can’t be sustained in the long term.

  25. Kate Johnston says

    Happy New Year! Great post. I have a lot of takeaways from 2017. One is that I am in more control of my time than I thought I was. As a mom, it is hard for me to say “No” especially when it comes to helping with homework, listening to the day’s events, shuffling kids back and forth to wherever it is they need to be, making extra trips to the grocery store, etc. These are all important for motherhood but truly suck time from writerhood!

    However, it got to the point where I saw ways to streamline some of these interruptions so that I can have more writing time. Doesn’t always make the other person happy, but it’s for a good cause, right? 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I am in more control of my time than I thought I was.” I think this is a profound realization that applies to almost all of us.

  26. Joseph Merboth says

    Last year I scared myself by realizing I love thinking about writing but hate the actual act of it. I’m one of those writers. And that makes it complicated to try following my bliss, because 70% of the time when I’m sitting down to pound out my book, it feels like uncertainty or this achy feeling in my chest. I’d rather be doing anything else.

    But maybe that’s just my beginner’s blood, or perfectionism, or not enough outlining. There are plenty of things I can try to fix it. And I want to, because there is no moment more blissful than getting caught up in a good book or a good movie and letting it spin thoughts and emotions through me. I love storytelling (like many of you), and that’s not something I will give up without a fight.

    2017 did teach me: 1) my current book isn’t a silver bullet. If it doesn’t turn out, my hopes haven’t been dashed because I can always write another. 2) I don’t need to keep up NaNoWriMo’s pace all year. The book will get done if I work at it regularly, even slowly. 3) I can finish. I can do it. My 2017 novel testifies for itself.

    I can’t guarantee I’ll keep writing forever, but in the meantime I want to find joy in it. I may currently revile typing out words, but there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing the finished product before you and sharing it with those who have been waiting.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ll be honest with you: writing the book isn’t my favorite part either. It’s hard. Sometimes it’s heart-rendingly hard. I’m often tempted to quit and just go do something more fun… like outline the next one. But I keep at it because, for me, I think everything else in my life would lose color if I quit. So even though it’s sometimes painful in the moment, it’s worth it in the long run.

    • Joseph, I’m right there with you. I’ve often heard and agreed with the quote, “I love having written, I hate writing.”
      I can tell you it does get better over time as you get better at writing. I enjoy writing more now than ever before. I think one of the key lessons, as you’re discovering, is to learn how to let go.

    • Joseph Merboth says

      Thanks for the sympathy and the encouragement! Katie, you make it look easy. But being good at something will do that. It’s comforting to hear that even for a practiced author it’s not. And like you said, there’s something about the endurance it requires of us that makes the art and the artist. Each hard-earned milestone means so much more.

  27. Wonderful post Katie. Enjoyed what you said about learning life lessons in 2017. I’ve had some similar experiences myself last year. Bit off more than I could chew without having the physical or mental energy for most of it.

    I’m very happy for you! You’ve had some key realizations. Let’s see what happens this year 🙂

  28. Thank you so much for your posts. It’s great that you’re writing about enjoying life rather than chasing accomplishments. I’ve met many writers who have made themselves miserable because they beat themselves up for perceived failures, and its really sad. I myself have had to stop feeling bad about myself for not writing as fast as others. As a young writer who is just now beginning my career in self-publishing, I’ve been trying to find a balance between dreaming big and having realistic expectations.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds like you’re right at the start of the journey–and already with your head on straight and your expectations realistic. Good for you! 🙂

  29. Ms. Albina says

    Good post. I plan on cutting my on my sugar intake and also do smaller portions to eat. I am currently writing a journal about my mermaid princess who lives on a fictional planet.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good for you! I believe health is important to creativity.

      • Ms. Albina says

        Thank you. My current WIP is a journal written in the first person by the mermaid princess who is one of the main characters in the story which is about her adventures and when she becomes a mermaid goddess and has children of her own.

  30. Wow…I think you captured MY takeaways from last year too. I hated to prune the things in my life I thought God wanted me to be doing. The result? I’m finally following my bliss instead of what others thought my bliss was. I used to lead a praise band, choose the music, of course keep up with my writing and teaching job, focus on my family and grandsons etc. It was all great stuff, but some of it had to go. I didn’t truly enjoy learning music, researching new songs, and singing, especially when there were constant complaints or conflicts around it. Now I am free to become the writer I want to become, a stronger grandfather, brother, husband, and ultimately a person. Thanks for sharing a piece of your heart. Keep following your bliss!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Glad to hear it! I think, too, there’s a time and a season for certain things. Things we loved and found fruitful at one time in our lives won’t always bear the same fruit in later seasons.

  31. One thing I learned this year is that I can write every day and still have a life. I was afraid I’d have to sacrifice too much, but somehow all the things that fell away were things I guess I didn’t really care about anyway. The other take away for me this year was making writing a priority for me. Because it’s never been a money-maker for me, I’ve never felt like I can say no to other things for the sake of my writing. It’s always felt selfish. But the stage of life that I’m in has prompted me to change my thinking about it. If I want to go ahead and call myself a writer and make space for it in my life, then I’m darn well gonna do it! 🙂 Thanks for all your resources and Happy New Year!

  32. I just wanted to comment and say that I’m new to your books but in the last few months have read Story Structure, Outlining Your Novel, and Character Arc and absolutely was blown away with the wealth of information I found. I’ve read several books on writing including Stephen King’s and Dean Koontz’s but I found your books to be the most detailed and organized. Who knew structure could be such a tool of freedom and help me not to feel so overwhelmed when I sit down to write? I have a long way to go, but your books have given me hope that I can do it. I’ll not only be re-reading all of these but recently ordered Behold the Dawn which I’m looking forward to. My daily habit during lunch has been to read your blog posts and I’m never disappointed. Thank you for all the information you share!! The Lord has truly blessed you with a gift to educate and encourage writers.

  33. Katie Briggs says

    Awesome! Thank you :).


  1. […] Four Life Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers […]

  2. […] Jami Gold says to celebrate the New Year by leaving guilt behind, K.M. Weiland shares 4 life-changing New Year’s lessons for writers, and Grant Faulkner has writing tips to fortify your writing […]

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