Writing Secrets: The new year’s promise

 In Tips for Writers

I keep hearing people say they disapprove of new years’ resolutions. They believe it sets them up for failure and causes disillusion and self-hatred.

You know that gym membership…?

Only kidding, I won’t remind you. Happy new year, by the way. I hope it’s the best it can possibly be for you and your family.

So let’s not talk about resolutions. It’s probably healthier to talk of intentions. I can’t see that there’s anything wrong with setting intentions for ourselves.

They are the means to build discipline. They don’t need to become the albatross we dangle around our necks to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Among the intentions you do set yourself (be nicer to your aging aunt, lose a few pounds, make a small business work, compete in Masterchef … urhm, that gym membership?) make sure there’s one which involves growing your creativity.

They’re all important, even the gym. I’m not knocking them. But our lives are so busy that we need that other dimension for true happiness. We need time to day-dream, time to exercise our creative muscles.

I believe it’s essential to our mental and spiritual health.

We get any number of people attending our creative writing courses who simply want to find their lost ability to imagine. They’ve spent their lives in corporate or tearing themselves in half trying to please bosses and family. Suddenly they realise they’ve allowed something important to disappear from their lives.

When it comes to writing, make your resolution manageable. Perhaps even more than manageable. Then, when you exceed your expectations, you’ll feel really good about yourself. Writing is largely about discipline and if you can entrench that discipline in your life, it will start to become second nature.

What you don’t want to do is make a resolution like: Write War and Peace for the modern times. Or even, write that book you’ve been meaning to. It’s too large and threatening.

Why do people do that with writing? People are likely to say: this is the year I’m going to take piano lessons. They don’t say: this is the year I’m going to play at the Albert Hall.

Decide rather to develop your characters. Or, if you’re not at all sure where to start, take a writing course. Sign up for a workshop.  It’ll get you writing, entrench a discipline, and the ideas will flow from there.

If you’re busy on a project, but you’re feeling stuck, set yourself the task of writing three great sentences. Don’t scoff. Even one good sentence is better than none at all, and once you’ve written three, you may find that it starts to flow. It may be slow as treacle, but if you write four good sentences, you’ll feel great about yourself.

Can you realistically write from 4 to 6am every morning? Or can you squeeze three hours on Saturdays and four on Sundays?

Set yourself a manageable target that fits in with your lifestyle and obligations. Success is good for the soul.

 

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