While I was determined to make the holidays all about writing, I’ve done everything but! And I bet I’m not alone. So here are 10 New Year’s resolutions to get us back on track and writing up a storm.
#1 Make time to practice.
Just like any other skill or craft, you only get better at writing with practice Set aside some time (and space) each day to focus on honing your skills. It might seem like a chore in the beginning but soon it will become an enjoyable habit – and one that will help you become a better writer.
#2 Read. A lot. Read widely.
This doesn’t just count as research but also practice Your craft is based on smithing words so consume as many of them as you can, learning from those who went before you. Read everything – from poetry to YA, romance to essays, classics to blogs. You can learn so much from any piece of writing – even if it’s what not to do.
#3 Don’t be so hard on yourself.
One of the biggest struggles writers can have is dealing with their inner critic. This is the voice inside your head that tells you your writing’s not good enough, that you can’t write about certain topics, that asks why you’re even bothering.
As my one of my writing teachers would always tell us, this is where you need to separate the creative process and the editing process. Write whatever comes out. If you get caught up in censoring yourself you can become so afraid that you’ll never get started. Once you have the words on the page then you can begin thinking about making them shine.
Saying all that, if you still feel like you possess a dollop of self-hatred, funnel it into something positive, like getting you motivated to work. Instead of being harsh on yourself for what you write, channel your criticism into keeping you accountable for actually writing.
#4 Reject the idea of writer’s block.
You’ve probably seen all those gym junkies with their ‘no excuses’ tank tops and ‘don’t wish for it, work for it’ instagram posts. And while these annoy me to the point of nausea – it’s only because I’m secretly jealous. While they’re getting results I’m sloth like on the lounge, stewing over how I’ll never be fit enough whilst gnawing on a chocolate bar – or three.
The same is true for writing. Productive writers don’t reach for excuses when things get hard. They show up and write whether they want to or not.Productive writers don’t reach for excuses when things get hard. They show up and write. Click To Tweet
They give themselves a quota; whether it’s butt-in-chair time or a word count. If it doesn’t sound romantic, that’s because it’s not. A lot of the time writing is a job and you have to treat it as one. Productive writers work on deadlines whether they’re external or self-imposed.
#5 Write what comes from the heart.
This sounds a little sentimental and a lot cliché but it’s actually pretty important. You need to be passionate about what you’re writing otherwise you’re probably going to quit. Don’t start something based on what’s popular now but instead focus on something you’re interested in, something you won’t get bored of learning about and remember to tell the story you need to tell.
#6 Be honest.
One of my favourite writers is Margot Lanagan and the thing I love most about her work is her honesty. She’s not afraid to write about harrowing subject matter or worried about making us uncomfortable – and neither should you. Good writing challenges our ideas and makes us think about things in a different way. Not everyone is going to agree with you and not everyone is going to like what you write so there’s no point in telling anyone’s truths but your own.
#7 Edit your work until it hurts.
Not much comes out pretty on the first go. While sometimes you’ll write something that only needs a minor tweak, most often you’ll write something that needs a whole lot of rewriting. Everyone’s process is different but one thing’s for sure – skeleton drafts can not stand up alone in the harsh world!
#8 Try something new.
If you write fiction try blogging, if you write articles try poetry. Break some writing ‘rules’. Getting out of your comfort zone and experimenting with different voices or ideas can lead to something amazing.
#9 Know that a lot of important stuff happens while you’re not working and be prepared for it.
Productive writers are always prepared for ideas when they come, keeping a journal next to the bed, a notepad in their pocket or an Evernote account accessible at all times. Writing is a cyclical process. There will be times when you sit down at your computer and spill out words like water from an overfilled dam while other days getting to a 1000 words will be akin to extracting teeth. Sometimes it’s when you take a break, walk the dog or take a shower that you’ll solve a problem that’s stumped you for weeks.
This quote from Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair pretty much sums it up.
“I was trying to write a book that simply would not come. I did my daily 500 words, but the characters never began to live. So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one’s days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow, undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.”
#10 Don’t make resolutions without planning a way to achieve them.
Resolutions are just goals and goals are often abandoned if you don’t think of practical ways to see them become reality. By deciding how you’re actually going to achieve your goal, you automatically make it more realistic and thus achievable.
What are some of your writing resolutions for the New Year?