Thursday, January 01, 2009


I did not read much about New Year’s resolutions as we approached 2009. That’s probably because the reporter who resolved to write an article about New Year’s resolutions could not follow through on his resolution! The truth is, by the time I posted this note, 6:00 p.m. on January 1, most of us have already broken our resolutions. What was it this time? To stop smoking? No more cold cuts? Exercise every day? Walking the dog an extra block regardless of the weather? Sure.

I raise this issue not to depress you about your failures but to suggest how you can redeem yourself for any broken resolution: Resolve to write—every day.

It’s easier than you’d think. I’m not asking you to write a novel. Not even a letter or e-mail to Mom. All I’m recommending is a “writing watch,” so to speak. Start to think about writing whenever you’re writing. If you’re the sort who thinks of yourself as the world’s worst writer, think again. When you’re writing a note to your significant other or to your child’s teacher or to the UPS delivery person and they follow through on your message, you have written clearly enough. What’s happened here? Sufficient understanding of the context? A thorough attention to detail? On the other hand, when you jot a note to yourself and return to it three days later only to wonder what you had meant when you wrote it, you have dropped the ball. So what’s happening now? Failure to attend to what was most important to remember at the point of composition? Insufficient detail? The same thought has to go into those school papers, business reports, and team presentation you write.

If you can’t imagine anyone writing slower than you, think again. Count words, for everything you write. You’d be amazed at how much those 20-word reminders, 40-word blurbs, 80-word messages, and 160-word e-mail announcements accumulate in sheer word volume. You’re probably writing thousands of words a week, tens of thousands a month, and hundreds of thousands a year—enough to create novels! Keep going. You’re already faster than you think and getting faster the more you work at it.

Resolved: to write every day and to think like a producer of words. Without even resolving to become a better writer, you will become one.