Edit Your Resolutions!

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore. But for years I used to. And oh how grandiose they were, without me even realising it.

“This year I will get published.”

“This year I’ll stop drinking.”

Over the years I’ve pledged to reach career heights or sort out all my mental health issues within the space of twelve months.

And every time I’ve failed to reach my set goal. Is it any wonder?

I’d advise you to look carefully at any resolution you make and give it a good edit. Pare it down to the minimum – otherwise you are going to end up disheartened and disappointed.

Let’s take my example of pledging to get published. For a number of years I vowed I would accomplish this but it’s impossible. It didn’t matter how hard I worked, so much of achieving that target is out of an author’s control. Your manuscript has to fall into the hands of the right agent and publisher, and for commercial fiction it has to be suited to the market and your writing needs to be at the top of your game…

So, in time, I learned to make my writing resolutions more realistic. For example “This year I will polish my manuscript and send it out to ten agents” or “This year I will enter some writing competitions and if I can save enough money pay have an editorial report done on my current work-in-progress.” There are many steps to getting published and it is far more satisfying, as time passes, to tick off each one as you accomplish it. Appreciating the journey and looking at it as a series of smaller parts will make it far more likely you’ll reach that ultimate destination.

And this applies once you have signed your first publishing contract. Hands up, secretly I still covet that film deal and stroll down the red carpet. But if I made that my New Year’s resolution, the likelihood is I’m going to feel like a massive failure by the end of the year when I haven’t cast Jason Momoa in the lead of my latest novel or been interviewed on Graham Norton’s sofa!

My resolutions to stop drinking were also unrealistic. Like publishing, the journey to sobriety is made up of many steps. But I’d try in one giant leap and just stop point blank without changing any other aspect of my life. Of course, I would fall off the wagon by the end of January (or often its first week) and feel like a complete loser. Addiction services and AA helped me to refine and edit my goals.

For example, I had quirky routines around my drinking and one was that I’d never allow myself to start before 6.40pm. So a first step – a first resolution, a first small change – was to break this habit by going for a coffee, having a bath, cooking or taking up a hobby at that specific time each day, instead. And doing this was the first step to stopping drinking all together. Each day I managed this, it inspired me to continue my journey.

So go and edit your resolution. Step back from the bigger picture. Analyse exactly what it is you really need to do, to reach your ultimate target. For example to you need to lose two stone? Perhaps resolve to cut out snacks and get off the bus one stop early to walk, as a starting point, instead of embarking on a crash diet.

The photo below is of a writer who’s had highs and lows but has learnt to appreciate ALL the special moments along the way, big or small, such as great reader feedback, foreign rights sales or simply an editor’s enthusiasm. It’s also of a woman who this week turned two years sober. Oh I slipped after three months, and picked up again – that taught me a lot. And I still have days where I want to drown my problems in a bottle of wine. But I don’t. I continue to pursue my goal, one day and one task at a time, relishing the smaller milestones and victories that keep pushing me forwards to living my dream.

And – most importantly of all –  I don’t beat myself if I fail at the target I’ve set myself.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

“I never lose. I either win or learn.”



  1. Carol says:

    Fabulous post with such sound advice.
    Congratulations on your two years of sobriety – and on your success as a writer.
    I used to write a motivational word rather than a list although last year, I reverted to a series of goals… I’d been incredibly ill in 2016 with spinal problems and once again bed bound for many months on medication (my spine is rotting!) and still couldn’t walk or move much in 2017 – although I managed to cut down the medication. Top of my list for 2018 was to be able to walk over a mile and come off the medication little by little. It took almost 11 months but I made it and can now walk on a daily basis, even if I do have to rest up for the remainder of the day.
    Small steps will get people to where they need to be and I take my hat off to you for achieving what you have. Here’s to 2019! (And that film deal!)

    • Sam Tonge says:

      Thanks Carol!
      And my goodness, that is amazing and so inspirational. Well done you. I can’t imagine how tough it must have been. You prove what I have recently learnt – just taking life one day at a time can often lead to great achievements. Bit by bit we can get there. Wishing you a healthy 2019 and continued great success. Sam x

  2. Sue Blackburn says:

    Wise, inspirational words as ever Sam. And life, of course, when it all boils down to it is made up of making the most of the little things, little steps along the way, little achievements each day, a hug, a smile, and all those lead to a happy life – and ultimately those bigger goals we want to achieve. A happy, happy, 2019 lovely lady and thank you for all your inspiration along what must have been a tough road. xxxxx

    • Sam Tonge says:

      Thanks so much, lovely Sue, and wishing you a brilliant 2019 too.
      Yes, you are so right and it’s something I lost sight of when drinking – all my mind could focus on was the negatives. Learning about gratitude and appreciating the small, so-called ordinary things, was one of the mainstays of me getting better. Sam xxx

  3. Linn Halton says:

    Such wise advice, Sam and so very true. It’s fine to have a dream but true happiness comes from enjoying each and every day as best you can. Doing something positive – however small – is the key to feeling good about ourselves. Like building blocks – one brick may seem insignificant but many bricks together are a creation. There will be bad days and Nelson Mandela was right – there’s good in even those times if we choose to learn something from it. Happy New Year lovely lady – you’ve inspired so many people on their own journeys. Wishing you all the best for a fabulous 2019! xxx

    • Sam Tonge says:

      Thanks so much, Linn, and wishing you a happy 2019 filled with the amazing success you have already enjoyed.
      Yes, all those bricks individually really can build something amazing. Sometimes we just need that pointing out to us – I did – and then it’s possible to start seeing the positives in everything, even situations that some might label failures… Sam xxx

  4. Lindsay Bamfield says:

    Such good advice about how to best achieve goals. Congratulations on all that you have achieved in the last two years.

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