Resolutions for Writers

Since it’s the first day of the New Year today, it would hardly be right of me to begin by saying anything other than HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you and since it is a New Year, I’m willing to bet there’s a few would-be writers like me out there who are planning on giving themselves a shake today and are saying to themselves, ‘Right, this year I’m going to write more’. They might even call it their resolution.

Very commendable, you should definitely write more. I, too, have resolved to write more. After all, anyone who has ever tried to write will tell you that it takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes it can be difficult to fit around your daily life. A resolution can be a helpful little boost to any writer but if you feel that your writing routine could use a shot in the arm (and presumably you do, if you’re making resolutions about it), might I suggest making a more specific resolution than writing more often. Take a moment or two to really think about what it is that is causing you so much difficulties in writing and then try to deal with it.

For instance, if you are just struggling to find the time to write then a sensible thing to do would be to try and work out regular times to write. Treat it like a job, with specific office hours. You can take holidays of course (don’t listen to people who say you can’t) but try to be as strict with your writing hours as any real boss would be in real life. Make sure you have specific days and times established in your mind where you must write and do nothing but write. Also, it is of equal importance to make sure your time off is not used for writing. Do anything but write in those hours. They say writers must always either be writing or thinking about writing, but personally, I also have a house, a wife, a day job, other hobbies and a baby due in the summer. Maybe it makes me a bad writer that I care about these things too, but I don’t think so. I think it just makes me human. When it’s time to write, immerse yourself in writing. When it’s your time off, immerse yourself in the rest of your life; otherwise, you will only grow to resent your writing (or worse, you will grow to resent the rest of your life).

Of course, it may be that timing is not your problem at all. If you don’t have any problems making the time to write, then you might want to make a slightly different resolution. For example, if you’re like me, you might find your problem isn’t that you don’t have time to write, but that you tend to get stuck working indefinitely on a large project with no deadline (in my case, it’s my novel; since I have neither agent nor publisher, I am free to spend the next forty years agonising over this same novel). The solution? Get deadlines. Fill your life with deadlines and meet them. You can set deadlines for yourself, but personally I find a more effective approach is to enter as many short story competitions as I can. This forces you not only to write, but to finish what you’re writing and get it sent to someone. Usually there will be some kind of prize for the winners of these competitions and, more often than not, there’s a good chance winning entries will be published on some website or anthology of some kind. Most writers’ magazines also have plenty of competitions and other opportunities for you to have your shorter work published and read (Scribble and The Writers’ Forum are my personal favourites).

I’m not saying you should abandon your novel, of course. But deadlines tend to produce a richer crop far quicker than not having deadlines, and the incentive of prizes and publishing opportunities ought to be more than enough to motivate any serious writer. It’s also a good way to build up a portfolio if you do happen to win any of these competitions, but even if you don’t, don’t let that discourage you. Treat every rejection slip as a victory and every competition win as the jackpot. Just get stuff written and get it sent to someone (that’s my writing resolution for this year, anyway).

Maybe neither of these are your problem. Maybe your problem is that you are struggling to grasp the basic conventions of writing, in which case you might benefit from taking a writing course or simply reading more widely. Maybe you have got too many projects on the go at once, in which case you could resolve to work on a more manageable number per year. Maybe you’ve spent the last ten years trying to get through the first chapter of your novel and now it’s time to try your hand at writing your story as a play or poem instead.

I don’t know. Your problems are probably unique to you, but I agree that New Year is a great time to start afresh with a brand new resolute attitude. I salute you if that’s what you’re doing. Don’t waste it by making an impossibly vague resolution that you won’t ever be able to keep. Ask yourself honestly what it is about your writing that you need to improve, and make up a practical and specific resolution which really will solve your problem.

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