13 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers
If you’re in the habit of making New Year’s Resolutions, which I’m not particularly fond of — but if you must — then here are 13 potential changes to consider for the New Year, especially if you’re a writer:
1. Write what you’re called to write. Your job is not to pander or entertain. It’s to create, to share stuff from the soul as you are moved. If others are moved, well, then that is merely coincidental. Consider it “gravy.” Your job is to write. Leave the results to the readers.
2. Tell the truth. No matter what, regardless of what is at stake, we must write what is true — true to us and true to the world. Anything deviating from that standard is a farce.
3. Write from the heart. Nothing stirs up the emotions of a reader quite like writing that comes straight from the heart. So don’t hold back now. This is the year where you show all your scars.
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Good writing is funny. It makes the reader laugh. If all you’re writing is the facts without bits of fun thrown in, you’re acting like a reporter, not a writer. Which is fine, unless you’re called to create something that tests the boundaries of the status quo. In that case, you better start having fun.
5. Try a new genre. Are you a business advice writer? Try memoir. A novelist? Consider writing a journalism piece. Whatever you are comfortable with will ultimately cause your art to stagnate. So honor your calling as a creative and test the boundaries a little. Push yourself and see how you grow.
6. Write when you don’t feel like it. No excuses now. We’re counting on you to do the work. Don’t disappoint us or make excuses. Show up — at the keyboard, every day, without fail. If you do this, you’ll do what so few are able to do: turn your passion into a discipline. And then, who knows? We might actually start listening.
7. Do your research. Read a frickin’ book, for crying out loud. It won’t kill you. And God knows we could use a few more writers in this world who aren’t merely pontificating. Tell us something that doesn’t come straight from your idea closet. We all might actually learn something.
8. Rewrite until it hurts. Face it: you’re not that brilliant on the first draft. And the second one kinda sucks, too. That’s okay, because this is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t consider yourself done until you’ve put in at least several hours and a few drafts. At that point, you’re really writing; everything else is prologue.
9. Shut up. Take some time and listen: to what people are saying, to what you’re reading, to what you’re writing. It’s all trying to teach you something. Pay attention, shut that big mouth of yours, and open your ears. You might learn a thing or two from your surroundings.
10. Read widely. This isn’t just research, it’s practice. Honing your craft. Studying the masters who came before. Pick a book or two that didn’t just pop up on your Amazon referrals list; read a classic or something that has absolutely nothing to do with your chosen field. We base our careers on words, so the best thing you can do is absorb as many of them as possible from as many different sources as you can.
11. Focus on the writing. Get off Twitter or Instagram and spend a few hours a week writing. Not your platform or your growing contingent of Internet followers, but the the thing that really matters: the writing. No one will thank you for this, which is precisely why it’s important. You will feel better, and the work will improve (promise).
12. Break a rule. Maybe write in an unusual voice or depart from a norm you’re used to. Do something that causes others — and yourself — to feel uncomfortable. Because in the discomfort, we grow. So mess with the status quo, and see what happens. It could be good, really good.
13. Quit stalling and get writing already! Stop reading this post or rechecking your email for the umpteenth time. Turn the phone to silent and unplug from the world for an hour and just write. It’s the simplest, hardest, scariest thing for a writer to do. Not think about writing or talk about writing, but actually write. Imagine that.
Of course, resolutions aren’t what make a New Year new. They’re merely a formality. Writing down something rarely, if ever, accomplished anything. The real trick is having the resolve, the wherewithal, to do something about the dream.
And once you start moving in a direction, you don’t really have a plan or a goal. You have a habit, which is way more powerful than something as pitiful as a resolution. Food for thought, if you can stomach it.