5 writing tips for the new year
Happy 2014, writers!
If you’re like me, you may be looking back at a year of unfinished projects — and perhaps a few success stories as well, whether a finished story or chapter or even a new publication. For me, there’s never enough time for all the writing I’d like to do. But while 2013 began with very little writing, thanks to a 10-day residency in November and a lot of discipline afterward, I got so much done that I feel as though I was able to make up for lost time.
As I do at the end of every year, I took a look at my 2013 List of Works. (For those of you who don’t have one yet, create one; it’ll do wonders for your writing life.) I discovered, to my dismay, that I still have a great many half-baked stories and abandoned projects. I went through them all and decided which stories to jump-start and which to leave on the back burner for a little while longer. And the fun part of updating my list: Two stories that had been circulating finally got published. In all, going through my list of projects was galvanizing on many levels.
Now that we’ve got a whole new year of writing ahead, here are 5 tips to help you get started…
2. Try on a new genre. By this I don’t mean rethinking your entire writing career — I just mean to try experimenting with something new to see where it takes you. If you write nonfiction, try writing a poem — it may be great, or it may suck, but either way, it will allow you to look at language in a new way and will enhance whatever your current project may be. If you’re a fiction writer, write a one-act play; you may not take it any further than the exercise, but it’ll sharpen your dialogue skills. Remember that writing as practice is just as important as writing to create a finished work.
3. Find new time. I’d been so busy before my writing residency that I’d almost completely neglected my writing — but after I returned, I was inspired to shift my priorities, and I began getting up two hours earlier every morning to write. After a bit of sleep deprivation, I adjusted and now can’t imagine not doing it; I even get up early on weekends (sometimes). Another thing to keep in mind, if you feel especially pressed for time, is that even a few minutes of writing are better than none. No matter how busy you are, set aside 5 minutes a day to devote to your writing — whether or not you actually sit down at your desk (see Everyday Writing for what I mean about writing when you’re not actually writing). You’ll find 5 minutes totally doable — and soon, you may find a way to stretch this time out into an hour or even more.
4. Write down your goals. Consider sharing these goals with friends or fellow writers, and check your list every month to assess where you are. It’s hard to stay motivated if you don’t have specific goals in mind — and being accountable to others keeps the pressure on, in a good way. Even if you don’t have a project in mind, vow to write for thirty minutes a day, or to do two writing prompts every afternoon.
5. Remember that it’s fun. Unless your paycheck depends on what you produce, writing is optional. Remember the reasons you write. It’s not that creative writing isn’t serious work — it is — but sometimes we need to remember that we choose to do it, and that it shouldn’t be torture or a source of guilt. Sometimes other things must come first; let them. Often a little time away from our writing gives us the distance we need to come back to it with renewed energy. Earlier this year, when life was too busy to write, I let go of my projects — not happily but knowing it would be temporary, and it was. When I finally got back to work, the writing went more smoothly than I could have imagined, and it was because I came back to it when I was in the right frame of mind, newly inspired, and not distracted by too many other things.
Here’s wishing you a fun and fruitful new year of writing!
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