As writers, there are always things we can do to get better. To write more productively, to follow a schedule, to make every word we pump out more compelling.
We also know the best of New Year’s Eve intentions are often scrapped by the end of January.
So here’s some advice. Forget that it’s a new year. Forget the idea of the new (clean) slate. Make resolutions that could be goals you set at any time of year. And make them relatively simple things that can become habits.
They should be specific – so you’re not just saying ‘I want to be more productive’. They should also be achievable. (There’s no use resolving to finally get your novel published this year if you haven’t even worked out the plot.)
Here are nine things I’m committing to – and you can too.
- Write when you don’t feel like it. The only way to get over writer’s block is to write. Not sure how to get started? Here are some ideas and here are some more.
- Read (widely and voraciously). Read for work and read lots for pleasure.
- Listen (to what others are saying). If your writing isn’t already subject to an editing process, maybe you could strike up a deal with another writer to both read each other’s work and give constructive criticism. Or just rope in a friend who can’t say no.
- Give yourself time for the overnight test. Stop leaving things till the last minute, and read over your work after a night’s sleep. You can spot all manner of sins you might have missed the day before – everything from minor typos to glaring inconsistencies to misguided overall arguments.
- Ditch the distractions. Lose the fancy software and apps if they’re not helping, and get back to basics.
- If writing is your job but was once your hobby, give yourself time to write for pleasure.
- Break rules. Grammar rules, structural rules, rules that dictate who can say what about a topic.
- Schedule your days. If you’re running a blog, get a content plan.
- Stop romanticising it. This is a favourite piece of advice from Zadie Smith. So you put words on a page? Good on you. Resolve to get better at it, and stop talking about the fact that you do it.
These resolutions are specific and achievable, and I can already feel the enormous impact they’ll have on my writing.
If all goes well, I’ll be a better, more productive, more creative writer by the end of 2016. And I’ll have finally made a dent in the mammoth pile of books on my bedside table.