A writer, in my experience, is very good at looking to the future. We plan the course of our novels and look to a time when our works in progress will be complete and make us piles of money. Or at least I do.
As Michael Kanin once said, “I don’t like to write, but I love to have written.”
And it’s so easy to fantasise at what our writing might bring us, such as a future of prosperity where we might leave our day jobs to write full time. My personal dream involves a well-stocked personal library with a view of the Wrekin where I will spend my days writing in comfort.
New Year, New Goals
It’s important, though, to consider the future in a more practical way. New Year being, traditionally, a time to look forward and make plans and goals, this is the perfect time for this. New Years resolutions are, for me, often rather too ambitious and somewhat repetitive – exercise more, work harder, appreciate life more, learn a language (German, this year). But with writing I make plans and fail in them often enough that I think it is time to make more realistic, achievable goals, which are less vague than the usual.
Before we look forward, it is often necessary to look back: back at what we once believed, back at what we’ve achieved, and how and where we’ve failed, and why. A goal is only as good as it is achievable, and lofty hopes and dreams of building our own Wrekin-view libraries do nothing to help us write.
I’ve spent much of 2013 looking backward at past failures and forward at hoped-for future successes, and not nearly as much time writing as I wanted to – being as it is far more enjoyable to have written than it is to actually write. And I’ve spent much of December considering my next step.
Every writer is at a different stage in her development. Perhaps you are new to it, and your goal is merely to put words on paper, get feedback, and make progress. Maybe you’re at a more advanced stage and want to submit short stories to magazines or finalise your novel. Or perhaps you’re already published and want to conclude your trilogy or keep your momentum going with a fresh story.
What Does Your Writing Journey Need?
The art of writing is a complex one, and involves a great many skills we can perfect – from sentence structure, syntax and spelling, to descriptions of characters and settings; from creating natural dialogue to developing complex interlocking plotlines. Every writer has a weakness that they can work on and improve in 2014, so perhaps this year will be one in which you identify your writing weaknesses and practice.
Or perhaps there’s a story you’ve been trying to tell for some time, but it never quite came out right or you weren’t previously good enough to tell it. Maybe 2014 will be the year for that story, the year that you finally get it all out and make something of it – even if imperfect at first.
In activities and hobbies which are longstanding it is often all to easy to become too comfortable, repeating the same familiar actions over and over again without leaving our comfort zone. In 2014, consider taking yourself outside your comfort zone by trying something new – a new type of character, a new perspective, a new genre, a new challenge.
Maybe in 2014 you’d rather focus on taking your writing from a private endeavour to a public, money-making one by submitting short stories or taking your completed novel to publication. Or maybe you’re not making money off it yet, but you want to take a more professional approach – with daily word goals and building habits.
Now is the time to make that decision, if ever there was a time for it. The year has just begun. Whether last year was a good one or a bad one for you, this year can be full of promise, if you let it be and if you work for it.
For my part, I’ve got a story to tell and I’m going to get it written by the time this year comes to a close. I make no resolution to its quality, or the amount of editing it will have undergone, only that the entire story will be down on paper (or, more accurately, in a Word file) and not get distracted by other ideas.
We have here a chance to turn a new page, start afresh and put past failures behind us. Seize that opportunity: move ever forward to better things.
So what are you going to achieve this year? What are your writing resolutions?
For articles on fantasy, ancient history and writing fiction, visit Alice Leiper’s website, Ally’s Desk.