Writing Secrets: No resolutions, please. Here’s what to do instead.

 In All About Writing

Resolutions just make us all feel bad.

Let’s rather fix our writing intentions for the year. Intentions are slightly different. They’re not as strict. Resolutions are the bullies on the playground.

Intentions aren’t bossy – they’re our guides. We do need them, though, if this is to be a writing year.

That’s the thing about writing: it’s too easy for our practice, and our creativity, to slip beneath the mountain of busy-work we fill our lives with. And we do need a creative existence – if only for our mental and emotional health.

We need to squeeze that other dimension into our lives if we are to achieve true happiness. We need time to day-dream, a chance to exercise our creative muscles.

Many people attend our creative writing courses, not because they necessarily want to write the next Man Booker winner. They simply want to find their lost ability to imagine. They’ve spent their lives in corporate jobs or tearing themselves in half trying to please bosses and family. In the process, they’ve allowed something important to disappear from their lives.

So, yes, let’s set our writing intentions for the year. But please, please, I beg of you, let them be realistic, lest they make you feel as bad about yourself as last year’s gym membership.

Let’s be honest: will you seriously manage to write between 4 and 5.30 each morning?

For a start, make them 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 art lessons. They don’t say: this is the year I’m going to have a solo exhibition.

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 feel stuck, set yourself the task of writing three great sentences. Don’t snort. 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.

Perhaps, realistically, you’re not going to rise at 4am. But could you squeeze in a couple of hours on Saturdays and Sundays?

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

Read Richard’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: Give yourself a flamboyant writerly festive season gift

Featured courses:

Online Creative Writing Course: Start 11 February

Johannesburg and Cape Town Creative Writing Course: Start 11 February

Power of Writing introductory writing course: Start 7 January

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