Writing Secrets: The art of setting creative intentions

 In How to write a book, Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions at the best of times.

If you made any last year, they were no doubt thrown into disarray. We’ve never experienced a time quite like that. So, it feels a little like tempting fate, this year, doesn’t it?

Even in normal times, though, resolutions serve mainly to hang over your head and fill you with guilt. There’s nothing more likely to create inner resistance and resentment.

Let’s speak rather of intentions. They can help us build discipline without becoming the albatross we dangle around our necks to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Whether you intend to begin a substantial writing project or not, don’t neglect your creativity this year. This is the part of yourself that is so easy to ignore, or put aside to concentrate on more urgent duties.

And then one day, you look back and years have gone by without giving attention to that essential part of yourself. A year like 2020 will have brought this into stark relief.

If you’re creatively out of shape, it can be as hard as going back to the gym after giving birth to triplets. You may need a personal trainer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Attend a writing class.

If you have some experience, you’ll learn more skills – as writers, we never stop learning – and it’ll help you get back into it. If you’re a beginner, it’s essential, unless you have the time and space to spend the next 20 years learning the craft through trial and error.

When it comes to writing, make your resolution manageable. Perhaps even more than manageable. Then, when you exceed your expectations, you’ll feel good about yourself. If you can develop a writing discipline without pain, it will start to become second nature.

Don’t set your sights on creating a great work of towering genius for the modern times. Even deciding you’ll “write that book I’ve been meaning to”, can loom over you in a threatening way.

Why do people do that with writing? They’re likely to say: this is the year I’m going to take painting lessons. They don’t say: this is the year I’m going to exhibit at the Venice Biennale.

If you’re busy on a project, but you’re feeling stuck, set yourself the task of writing three great sentences. Even one is better than none at all, and once you’ve written three, you may find that it starts to flow. 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 two on Sundays?

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

Jo-Anne Richards is an internationally published novelist with a PhD in Creative Writing from Wits University. Jo-Anne has published five novelsThe Imagined Child, The Innocence of Roast ChickenMy Brother’s Book,  Touching the Lighthouse and Sad at the Edges.

Her first novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken has been rereleased, as part of the Picador Africa Classics collection. When it first appeared, in 1996, it was nominated for the Impac International Dublin Literary Award and chosen as an “outstanding debut novel” by a British book chain.

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