December 30, 2018
by Kathryn Mockler
I'm going to the gym every day!
No I'm not.
I'm going to write every day!
No, I'm definitely not!
Although the new year can feel like a new start for some, I'm not particularly interested in New Year's resolutions.
There's something daunting about promising myself I'm going to become a completely different person living a perfect, idealized version of myself in my career or my personal life.
For me, it's a set up for failure.
For my writing life to work, I learned early on that my writing process has to cater to my personality (including my shortcomings) rather than me expecting my personality to change to achieve some idealized writing process.
For instance, I'm not someone who can do the same thing every day. I get really bored and distracted.
So that's why I need to work on multiple projects at once. The downside is that it takes me longer to complete many different projects, but the upside is that if one project doesn't work out, it's not the only thing I've invested in.
But more importantly this is a way I can write that keeps in line with my personality and supports who I am as person.
Likewise, I can't write every single day. It's just not who I am. It used to make me feel like a failure to not write write every day until I realized that the writing process isn't always about writing.
When I'm not writing, I'm doing things that contribute to writing like reading, observing, thinking.
So for me to make a "resolution" about writing every day is pointless.
A few years ago, I found out about "Morning Pages" which is a free-writing concept developed by Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist's Way. Cameron describes the Morning Pages on her website:
"Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages—they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind—and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not overthink Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page ... and then do three more pages tomorrow."
This is a writing process I can get behind because it doesn't involve pressure or expectation. And I find doing the Morning Pages clears my mind for other tasks I need to do and makes me more productive overall. Often I get ideas for my works in progress when I'm doing Morning Pages.
I still can't do the Morning Pages every day, but instead I do them as often as a I can. I try to have a goal of three days a week, and I make sure to do them on a day when I know I'm going to work on a longer project.
This is how it works for me. It's a change but is still in keeping with who I am.
On Goal Setting
While I don't like the term resolution, I don't mind setting achievable goals and doing realistic planning for the future. I'm also a big fan of to-do lists.
Living the life of a writer is about having a goal and taking a series of actions to achieve that goal no matter the situation that you are in.
For most writers, there are no ideal circumstances.
If you work a full time job, you need to find achievable writing goals that will fit into your life. Most of us are not able to quit our jobs so that we can write.
For example, I teach during the school year, and I can't expect myself to complete big projects during that time. So instead of having an unrealistic goal of finishing a novel or a feature film script, I assign myself smaller goals when I know I won't be able to write as much.
Sometimes I'll decide to work only on poetry or short fiction during the school year.
Or I'll take a screenwriting or comedy writing course to keep me on track.
Or I'll find a contest that I want to apply to and write for that deadline.
Often I'll revise or edit larger projects.
Sometimes all I do is send work out.
I even count showing up at readings and launches as part of the writing process.
These are the things I know I can achieve during this time when I'm distracted and focusing on the writing of others.
Instead of imagining the kind of writer you want to be or the kind of process you want to have, ask yourself who you are as person and what writing processes can support you rather than you conforming to someone else's ideal.
What do you like? What don't you like? When do you work best? When don't you work best? Do you write every day? Do you work better with or without structure or deadlines?
Write a paragraph about what you know about yourself and your habits and then come up with an individual process that caters to your personality.
List the three main projects that you want to work on or one if you're the type of writer who needs to work on one thing at time.
Next list three or more actions for each goal that you need to take in order to achieve this goal. These actions can be related to any part of the process: research, outlining, drafting, submissions, networking, publishing, etc.
For example, one of my goals is work on a collection of short stories.
Here are some actions I can take to achieve this goal.
If I have this list handy, then I use it when I'm feeling stuck or blocked or don't feel like writing. I can add to it. I can change it.
I use a free platform called Trello for making lists and brainstorming ideas. I can use it on my phone, so instead of scrolling mindlessly on social media when I'm waiting in line at a store or for the bus, I go on Trello and work on my projects.
I wish you all the best with your writing in 2019, and I hope you have a wonderful and productive year!
Mockler's writing workshop
Here are some courses I'm offering in the new year!
There are a couple spots left in my Short Fiction Workshop which starts January 20, 2019.
And I'm offering two self-paced online fiction courses:
5 Days of Short Fiction and Introduction to Short Fiction work for writers of all experience levels.
Consider checking out my new mentorship program with or without feedback.
For more tips and resources, sign up for the Mockler's Writing Workshop Newsletter or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or join my Facebook Group Mockler's Workshop Hub.
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