How Are Those New Year’s Resolutions Going?


Here we are, more than halfway through the first month of the new year…so how are the resolutions holding up in the face of the real world? With ~88% of all resolutions ending in failure (according to a 2007 study by Robert Wiseman), don’t be surprised if you’re hitting a few bumps in the road.

I just read a great Wall Street Journal online article “Blame it on the Brain,” by Jonah Lehrer, that discusses the reasons behind “willpower failures”—and some strategies for improving your likelihood of success.  Here are some of the take-homes from the article, but I highly recommend reading the entire piece yourself:

  1. Willpower is a limited resource—like a muscle, it can only handle a certain amount of challenge.
  2. The part of the brain responsible for willpower, the prefrontal cortex, is also responsible “keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems”. That means that if you have to remember something or focus on another subject, you will have less available “willpower muscle.” (Check out the article for the effects of remembering 2 digits versus 7 digits on willpower…pretty cool stuff!)
  3. Since willpower is limited, the classic “New Year’s Resolutions” method of self-improvement is doomed to fail. Rather than choosing five aspects of your life to improve simultaneously, if you focus on one you’re more likely to succeed.
  4. Willpower uses actual energy—decreases the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. That means that exerting willpower requires a well-fed brain.
  5. Practicing self-discipline in one area—such as incorporating a daily writing or exercise regimen—makes it easier to practice willpower elsewhere. In other words, it looks like your willpower muscle, like your bicep, can be strengthened through exercise.

How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions? If you’re having trouble, you may be trying to do too much at once. Changing a habit or routine requires a lot of willpower—so pick one battle at a time and recognize that willpower is limited—and try again.

As for me—this article feels like an explanation of why my resolutions to eat better and exercise more are more successful this year than ever before. I’d already established the habit of tracking what I eat, one habit in my quest for a healthier lifestyle; and I’d already established a habit of intermittent exercise (if a habit can be intermittent!) This January, I really only added one habit to my life: getting up earlier for a daily walk or run. And I’m sticking with it.

That makes me happy :). Good luck with whatever changes you want to make in 2010!

:) Cheryl

The Week’s Tweets on how to dodge subconscious blocks and WRITE THE STORY


WTS=Write the Story!

WTS #44: Learn to recognize procrastination! When you feel called away from the page, ask yourself why; you may need to keep on writing.

WTS45 What project do you procrastinate? Does it need a rest? The best writing comes from the heart. Find your heart=beat procrastination!

Speaking of procrastination, here’s my current distraction… "Getting organized" can waste more time than it saves!

RT ElizabethSCraig: Is your writing flat and wooden? How to enliven it:

WTS 46: Sometimes if the words don’t come quickly, you’re trying to write the wrong thing. Step back. Approach the scene from a new angle.

RT CynLeitichSmith: "Is it clear what characters want? don’t want? what’s in the way?" — great revision q’s via #yalit author Brian Yansky

WTS 47: Feeling stuck? Check out GETTING UNSTUCK WITHOUT COMING UNGLUED…by Susan O’Doherty (review:

WTS 48: What would you write about if no one else could see? (inspired by GETTING UNSTUCK)

WTS 49: What voices from your past or present deflate your dreams? (inspired by GETTING UNSTUCK)

WTS 50: What story from your family or childhood can you never tell? (inspired by GETTING UNSTUCK)

Surround yourself with the positive to reach your goals:

Write The Story 51: A story is like an iceberg; 85% of the work is invisible. Trust the process; story groundwork isn’t always visible.

If you’re interested, come join me at @CherylRWrites for Tweets to help you overcome creative blocks and thrive on the writer’s road!

:) Cheryl

Still Rewriting…


…and I’m finding that rewriting is turning out to be a lot like my NaNoWriMo 2009 experience—that is, one portion of the rewrite will take SOOOO long that I’m convinced that I’ll never make my deadline (January 15th, to my critique group), and then the next five chapters will whiz forth as quickly as I can pen them. Which rekindles my hope that somehow, miraculously, I might finish rewriting and polishing the nearly-200 pages remaining.


But that brings me to my point (one you’ve probably heard before, but one that’s good enough to bear repeating):


I think that when you write a story, you’re crafting an iceberg of ideas. The bulk of the story hides beneath the surface; the actual words and chapters form only a small portion the writing work.

Put another way, sometimes when it seems like you’re not getting anywhere, you’re actually building a solid-but-unseen foundation for the rest of the story.

So: will I finish the rewrite in time to hand it out to my crit group on Friday? Only time will tell. But I know enough to know that it’s impossible to predict, because at any point the story may take off and write itself.

:-) Cheryl

PS: If you know how to make that story-taking-off-and-writing-itself thing happen, please let me know ASAP!!!

Show-Don’t-Tell Practice

As I crank through the rewrite of my current WIP, I’m finding an awfully lot of “telling” that I need to replace with some better writing. In the spirit of show-don’t-tell, I attempted to come up with five ways to show that it’s cold without saying “it’s cold.”

1. Let the character experience the cold: Gooseflesh prickles up my bare arms as soon as I push off the covers.

2. Let her observe the cold: Ice filmed the inside of the cabin windows. I started shivering even before my feet touched the frozen floorboards.

3. Let her think about the cold: I didn’t expect the day’s chill, not in June. If I’d bothered to check the weather, I might have brought along a sweatshirt or jacket. Instead, I’m here in shorts and a tank top, resisting the urge to curl into a ball or warmth.

4. Let her worry about the cold: As the sun drops beyond the mountains, shadows lengthen, bringing with them the sharp-edged chill of the coming night. It pierces through my thin sweater and I wonder how long it will take before I turn into a human icicle. I have to find the cabin. Quickly.

5. Let her discuss the cold: Brrr!” I tuck my hands into the sleeves of my rain slicker, drawing deeper into the sheltering overhang. “My fingers won’t bend, they’re so frozen.”

Not masterful prose, perhaps, but the exercise helped to get my brain moving in the right direction.

Do you have a technique you’re trying to master? A bit of concentrated practice can help you learn incorporate a new technique smoothly into your writing, the way a batter might practice hitting a hundred balls before the actual game. Pretty soon, the technique becomes second nature. Give it a try!

:-) Cheryl