January is often set aside for the ubiquitous New Year’s resolution. I gave resolutions up for Lent. Or something. But looking a whole new calendar smack in the face is somehow compelling, right? It’s kind of like staring at a blank page, full of promise. Or something.
That got me to thinking.
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Ah, January! Twelve freshly-scrubbed new months brimming with potential. So writer, what are you going to do with 2016?
Don’t wait till July moseys across the calendar to start getting serious about sharpening your writing skills and exercising those writing muscles. Start now! (As one husband who shall remain nameless has learned, even when yours truly is looking out the window, she is working. )
Here are seven brilliant ideas to help you work smart, make better use of your time, and do more with your writing this year:
- Cut back on social media usage. Now, before you have a heart attack or go into social media withdrawals, hear me out. I didn’t say dump social media altogether. Just cut back. Social media has a place for connecting with your readers and marketing your work, et al. But it can also be a huge time waster – and an excuse to delay or avoid doing the work of real writing. I set a timer before jumping on Facebook. When that puppy dings, I bail. Period. Otherwise, social media can gobble truckloads of time and energy away from real writing. And while tweeting has its place, it’s no substitute for sustained, thoughtful, deliberate writing designed to engage. You’re a writer, not a tweeter or a status-up-dater. Savvy?
- Set your writing goals. I know, I know. We creative types hate setting goals. They’re just so…. goal-ish. But believe you me, setting a goal(s) and writing it down will help keep your writing life focused and on track. And save time by avoiding The Dreaded Bunny Trails. Example: I plan to write ____ words per day/week. Or, I will finish ___ chapters by ___ (date). How ’bout: This year I’ll crank out ____ blog posts per week?
- Make a plan and take consistent action to meet it. Related to #2. Jot down what you want to accomplish this week as a writer. Next month. Next year. Do you want to publish more ebooks? How many? When? On what topics or stories? Do you want to be published in more magazines? Which markets? Sell more books? How? Each person is unique and your plan of action will be, too. The point is, be consistent. Writing down how you plan to move from Point A to Point B will help you crystallize that plan and take concrete steps toward meeting your goal. It’s a way to make good use of limited time, instead of doing the pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by bunny trail thing.
- Take small steps. That War and Peace rewrite? Good luck with that puppy. Ditto cracking the New York Times Bestseller List when you have yet to write a single coherent paragraph. Start small and build. Look for classes, contacts, and coursework to help you learn and grow as a writer. This may seem time-consuming at first, but it’ll pay off later as you learn what to dive in to and how. Ditto what time-wasting pitfalls to avoid.
- Rest. Yep. You read that right. Rest. Overwork or a stressed-out mind often manifests itself in The Dreaded Writer’s Block. So listen up. Hitting the block wall may be your mind’s way of saying, “Give it a rest already. Take a break. Recharge. Disconnect. Let the creative juices have a chance to rejuvenate.” They will return if you resist the urge to run them ragged. Promise. Adjust #3 as needed.
- Be consistent, but don’t be a slave. There’s a difference.
- Most important: Have fun. This may seem self-evident. But it’s easy to forget. If you’re not having fun in your writing, what’s the point? (Tip: Banana split with extra hot fudge. If you’re weight-conscious, hold the banana. Just sayin’.)
Bottom line: You got this. Now. What are you going to do to jump-start your writing this year?