Readers, I’m in a panic! I haven’t written anything in three months and I’m scared to death I’ll never write anything again. I keep looking at old material that hasn’t been published, groping around, trying to find appropriate lit mags for my unpublished work. But … I … have … not …written … a … single … word … of … something … new!
So it’s definitely time for a change of habit, and this is the time of year to make that change.
Trouble is, every year writers promise to do better in too many ways. The usual New Year’s listicles soon become tiresomely repetitive and the sheer number or resolutions unrealistic.
Here are some of the most common promises we make to ourselves:
We resolve to—
- Set a time and place for writing.
- Write every day for at least an hour.
- Set specific goals.
- Ignore perfection when writing a first draft.
- Delete first paragraphs.
- Revise, revise, revise.
- Back up all work.
- Carry a notebook.
- Join a writers’ group or find a writing buddy (to keep us toeing the line).
- Regard critiques as opportunities to improve, not as personal affronts (but decide which are valid in light of what you’re trying to accomplish).
- Regard reviews objectively as one person’s opinion.
- Submit our work when it’s the best we can make it.
- Call ourselves writers because that’s what we are if we write.
- Read more and widely.
- Limit Internet surfing.
Is your brain spinning? No wonder New Year’s resolutions are short-lived! We ask too much of ourselves. While each of these resolutions constitutes good advice, success depends on taking aim at one or two and following through, rather than taking a scattershot approach and missing our mark.
My humble advice: Choose a single resolution and stick with it. I’ve resolved to schedule a time for writing and try for a daily sit-down. But, again, you know best which of the above (or another) goal you need to focus on.
From carpe diem and gather ye rosebuds, much has been written about making good use of fleeting time. One sentence has stuck with me, but I can’t remember who said it or the exact words. Here’s the gist: The torment of having done nothing is worse that the torment of struggling to write something.
A caveat: Whatever you may resolve, remember always to be kind to yourself. Given the vicissitudes of life, it makes sense to save your sanity and STAY FLEXIBLE.
Happy 2017, sister and fellow writers! I leave you with a recipe for a fulfilling year by an anonymous author:
Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.
Cut each of these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way), but prepare one day at a time.
Into each day put equal parts of patience, courage, work (some people omit these ingredients and so spoil the flavor), fidelity, kindness, rest (leaving these out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it); add reflection, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. [Emphasis is mine.]
Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor. Then savor the goodness of the blend.