With the New Year fast approaching (and with some of you already on the other side of the dateline), many of us are finalising our list of resolutions for 2012. Those of you who dabble with words will probably have a writing-related resolution on your list, whether it’s to get those drabbles out there or to finally finish that manuscript. My own list contains some pretty daunting projects and even scarier numbers. So with these resolutions in mind, here are five tips to stay motivated and keep writing throughout the year.

1. Don’t set ridiculous goals
I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of setting epically crazy goals. Making statements like “I’m going to write 50,000 words in November” and “I’m going to finish my Master’s dissertation in a week” might work during times of great need, but they also account for quite a number of sleep-deprived hermits scrolling through Tumblr. As it’s considered unhealthy to be permanently dazed in a state of my-brain-needs-to-stop-but-I-need-three-thousand-more-words, make sure you set yourself goals you can manage. That way, you’ll spend less time stressing over the looming deadline 366 days away (that’s right, we’re in for a leap year!), but you’ll also get to delight in those fantastic moments of awesomeness when you reach your milestones. You want a challenge to challenge you, not kill you.

2. Contextualise your productivity
The human brain (i.e. your brain) is smarter than you think, and remembers all the little details of a productive environment—even if you don’t. Psychologists (including pseudo-falsies like me) call this “context-dependent memory”, and we can apply this theory to our writing. When you have a productive writing session, take note of all the external details involving that session: where you were, what your writing instrument was, what you were eating/drinking, what time of the day it was, what music you were listening to, which shirt you were wearing, etc. If you can reproduce the same environment in later writing sessions, your brain will be more likely to switch on its invisible little productivity button. Also, don’t forget about your internal environment: what you were feeling, how much sleep you’d had (or not had), how happy or sad you were. That way, even if you can’t take your grandmother’s desk with you when you write, you can still maintain your productivity through your internal state-of-mind.

3. Write about something different
Too often, writers stick to what they know and need a whole drawer of research before venturing into the realms of what they don’t. This can become a hurdle when you’re writing all year long, and start to get bored with describing all the things and situations you do know. When that happens, it’s worthwhile to stop thinking and start writing, about all sorts of crazy and wonderful and exotic places and things and people about which you really have no clue. It doesn’t matter if you’re completely off the mark with the geography of China or the difficulty of Dutch diphthongs—all those facts can be corrected later. But imagination can never be corrected, not should it be contained; it is your job as a writer to create. So stop worrying about the details, and launch yourself into the unknown!

4. Set aside time for writing
To achieve any long-term goal, you need two things: time, and actually using that time. You’ll get both by setting aside specific time for writing, on a daily or weekly basis, or somewhere in between. It can be difficult to maintain your productivity consistently over a long period of time, but you can counteract that difficulty by scheduling your writing in either many small chunks or a few huge blocks. Find out what works for you, and stick to it. Adhering to some sort of schedule will also consolidate your actions as a habit, which is exactly what we need here to write all year long.

5. Write with friends (or against them)
Writing is a strange little activity that can be lonely at times. At the end of the day, you’re spending hours of your life tapping away on a keyboard or scribbling in a notebook while the world goes on around you. This is wonderful when you’re on a roll and churning out massive amounts of awesomeness, but for the times when you’re a bit stuck and on the lower end of your word count, you need to find yourself a writing buddy (and latch onto them like nothing else). You can motivate each other by holding a word war or updating each other with your respective word counts. If you don’t know anyone who could be your writing buddy (or if you’re just uncomfortable with the idea of sharing your writing-ness with folks you know), then you can always tell a relative you’ll be emailing them regularly with your word counts. Parents are good at nagging, and always love to receive emails from their kiddos. And if all else fails, I’ll be here as your last resort, and will be more than happy to word war with you. (Be warned: I can be competitive at times!)

Do you have any writing tips to share? How have you kept your writing resolutions in the past? Want to let me know your 2012 writing goal so I can keep you to your word (count)? Leave a comment below!