A Writer’s New Year

The last candle on the Advent wreath has been lit. We’re half way through the Twelve Days of Christmas and coming face-to-face with the New Year.

There are so many bloggers posting about New Year’s resolutions that I hesitate to even mention the subject. Every year I tell you that I don’t make resolutions because I can’t face the idea of setting myself up for failure.

photo 3

But the year is almost over. This is my last post of 2014, and it feels like I should be sharing something of significance, especially since this is also my 965th post since I began here six years ago. 965!!! The trouble is, six years of blogging hasn’t necessarily been the valuable learning experience I expected.

It’s given me lots of practice, but amassing quantities of words doesn’t produce quality writing any more than long hours practising an incorrect tune on the piano produces the perfect song. Repetition simply reinforces a habit, bad or good.

During Sunday’s sermon it did my heart good to hear my son-in-law say he likes Mondays because no matter how badly he might have ‘screwed up’ the week before, Monday provides a clean slate, an opportunity for a fresh start.

You’ve heard me say many times how much I like Mondays, too, and I like the New Year for some of the same reasons. I don’t have to make a fresh start, but the opportunity is there. Of course, before the desire to do so takes hold, evaluating the status quo has to happen. That’s what the year end is for.

As writers, how do we evaluate the status quo?

  • Has our life changed for the better? Each of us will have various standards against which we measure our progress, improvement, or achievement. In each case, however, forward momentum is desirable. If we’re still in the same place we were at this time last year, still going through the same motions and offering the same explanations and excuses, we’re likely stagnating.
  • Are we satisfied/content with what we’re doing? Success can mean different things to different people. While some of us might daydream about a lucrative publishing contract, even if that were possible, the reality is that few are ambitious enough to put in the required effort. And that’s okay. Just because a person loves to write doesn’t mean being on a best sellers’ list has to be the destination. There are many outlets for creative writing, from composing letters of encouragement to shut-ins, to creating online devotionals or how-to articles. Discovering our niche and taking pleasure in it is a worthwhile achievement.
  • If a published book is our goal, are we taking appropriate steps to make it happen? Have we studied the craft of writing and what the constantly-changing publishing industry requires? Are we writing regularly, finishing what we start, getting our work critiqued and/or edited, researching and querying effectively, building a platform? Or are we only online, reading blogs, talking about writing and enjoying the social media experience? (Hey, I’m happy you’re here, but I know how easy it is to hop from one site to another and get nothing else done.) 

As writers, how should we move into the coming year?

  • Understand what’s needed to achieve desires and goals. If we’re already under contract, there are expectations and guidelines. Some will have specific edit deadlines. We need to have a realistic understanding of how many words we can produce or revise in a day or week, and the working conditions we require to meet those deadlines. Idealizing isn’t our friend. We need to know our abilities and limitations.
  • Stop procrastinating. A writer’s worst nightmare is procrastination. Yes, some of us work faster when we’re under pressure, but the resulting stress and long hours of work can make us crazy. (People think we’re a little crazy to begin with, but we don’t need to fuel their delusion.) If we’re waiting to finish a character sketch, or complete some research before we start writing, we may never get beyond that stage. We have to push out of the rut and get going… get the first draft done. There will be time later to revise and develop the story, but there’s nothing to edit on a blank page.
  • Become a list-maker. Don’t indulge in vague goals. Itemize specific plans on paper, put the list in a visible place, and check off tasks as they are accomplished. Seeing the results materialize will help boost our morale and fuel our drive to do more.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned ‘resolutions’? They don’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to move ahead with my writing goals. Desire and intent are great motivators as long as they’re combined with action. 

What’s one thing you want/plan to achieve in 2015?

~  ~  ~

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”

[Don Marquis]

~

“Turning pro is a mindset.
If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage,
procrastination, self-doubt, etc.,
the problem is,
we’re thinking like amateurs.
Amateurs don’t show up.
Amateurs crap out.
Amateurs let adversity defeat them.
The pro thinks differently.
He shows up, he does his work,
he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.”

[Steven Pressfield]

~  ~  ~

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10 thoughts on “A Writer’s New Year

  1. Carol, this the best blog post you’ve written for me yet! 🙂

    You’re talking right to me because I haven’t moved forward enough and fear I’m starting to stagnate; I’m not satisfied with where I am in my writing goal, and I’m not actively pursuing my dream but seem to have fallen into coasting mode.

    Perhaps I’m letting my commitments (in caregiving) be another thing that’s holding me back/be an excuse/allow me to perfect the art of procrastination. I appreciate the quotes you included, but, you can crawl out of my head now. 😉

    Thanks, Carol. Many blessings to you in 2015 as you continue to move forward in your writing.

    • Carol says:

      I was mostly talking to myself, Lynn, but I’m glad to hear my thoughts hit home for you. Being a caregiver is a special challenge, but I hope you’ll be able to find ways to fit some time for you and your writing into your daily schedule.

  2. Darlene says:

    Great post Carol!! Happy New Year and all the best in 2015. Sometimes we don´t need goals, just a desire to keep on trucking! I love that quote.

  3. S. Etole says:

    Blessings for the year ahead.

  4. elderfox says:

    Wow, apparently you are talking to a lot of us. I’ve been putting my writing out of mind for a year or more and now, of course, I’m not happy doing it so my resolutions will be written in big letters! & I will not procrastinate. & Shari, your book is wonderful!!! You certainly captured the realism of your characters. Congrats. And Carol thanks for the present!!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

    • Carol says:

      As I said to Lynn, I was mostly talking to myself in this post but I’m happy if others gleaned something useful from it, too. I hope 2015 is the year you achieve your goals. I’ll be rooting for you! 🙂 Happy New Year!

  5. I’m starting again. This time I’m going to try very very hard to be happy. I’m going to think good thoughts and I’m going to be extra kind to myself. I’m also, going to supervise my negative thoughts, and kick them to the curb as often as I can. My New Year’s resolution for 2015 is that everything’s going to be fine. Happy New Year, Carol. Blessings to you, Bob and the family. I’m very thankful I met you.

    • Carol says:

      Happy New Year to you and Ralph, Joylene! I hope your time in Mexico is refreshing for both of you, and you find much for which to be thankful in 2015.

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