My husband mumbled something the other day about needing to figure out his New Year's resolutions. I laughed and said, "You make New Year's resolutions?"
I mean, I guess I can see it. He's a process engineer, spends most of every day figuring out how to make things run better for his company. Gets frustrated when things don't work the way they're "supposed to" around the house (a.k.a. "those kids"). I'm just not sure I ever realized he made concrete resolutions. He hasn't really mentioned them out loud. Or I'm just getting old and don't remember.
He also makes black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.
I fall into the camp of not making New Year's resolutions so much as setting goals. Could this be the same thing? I suppose. But it's somehow not as painful -- as failure-loaded -- to not reach a goal as it is to see I failed to keep a New Year's resolution when the next New Year rolls around.
Goals are good. I'm deadline-oriented. And although I often fail miserably at certain goals, mostly having to do with weight loss or fitness (ugh!), I typically make my writing goals or come pretty darn close. (Note: I haven't presumed to set goals like: Get agent this year. Or Get book contract this year for publication next year. Hmm. Maybe I should!)
But there's something else I find myself doing to prepare for a new year that can as good as setting goals and maybe better than making resolutions, and it's just that:
I caught myself doing some of that tonight, and the activity inspired this post, which is a good thing because I had no idea what I was going to write about.
As writers, we can do many things to prepare for a new year. Here are just a few I find helpful.
You know that old saying, "Out with the old, in with the new?" It doesn't just apply to the events of the old year, or the pile of outgrown or out-of-style clothing we cart off to Goodwill to make room for the new duds we bought or received over the holidays.
As a writer, what can you clear away to help you prepare for a productive and healthy new year?
Perhaps, like I did tonight, you need to take a look at your RSS feeds or email subscriptions and ruthlessly clear out the ones you no longer really need to read every single time something new is posted.
I've been reading industry news on blogs for about four years now. I've seen the same subjects dissected over and over again. Sure I need a little line on what's going on in the world of publishing, but do I really need to hear about it from twenty different bloggers? Probably not. I deleted without mercy.
I'm still at twenty subscriptions or so. But I bet I had close to a hundred. What remains are mostly friends. Friends who are authors. Friends who are aspiring authors. Friends who aren't "writers" at all -- except they like to blog. And a few selected agents and industry experts who give me the news I really need to know in a nutshell or just make me laugh out loud on a regular basis (Hello, Betsy Lerner). Because that's important, too.
Funny how most of these are the first blogs I ever subscribed to. I'm still reading them after all these years.
Take a Time Out
The discipline of choice for most parents these days since corporal punishment went out of fashion is a discipline we writers should also employ.
Maybe, like I've done during the last few weeks of this year, you need to simply step away from the writing for a time. Give it a few weeks or days to simmer in the pot. Not to mention, it gives you more time to spend with your family! Everyone else is on vacation, why shouldn't you be?
I haven't opened the document for my newest manuscript since the end of November, when I completed my forty thousand words during NaNoWriMo. The last few days, I've started getting itchy, wanting to open it up and take a peek at what I wrote so hastily during that month. But I've forced myself to let it be. I'm looking forward to seeing it with fresh eyes next week when the kids are back at school and my husband has returned to work. Will I love it or hate it? Will I keep at it or set it aside for the something new I've been pondering lately?
Though I began to query my previous manuscript in December again after completing an extensive revision, I've been able to leave that document mostly alone, too, in the last few weeks. I've opened it for a few seconds here or there to fix a typo noticed when sending sample pages, but otherwise, I'm considering it "done" for now. It's officially on hiatus until someone else is asking me for revisions -- i.e., an agent or editor.
My time out has given me time to read a stack of fiction I've looked forward to for months.
It's also created a new hunger in me to get back to the page. I've shored up a supply of new enthusiasm for my work.
This goes hand-in-hand with the last two. Clearing away the chaff and stepping away from routine gives us the opportunity to consider if what we're writing is the right thing.
It seems some writers are born knowing what it is they are to write. The subject matter and material flows from them effortlessly. At least it looks that way from the outside.
I'll crawl out on a limb here and say I bet most of us really haven't got a clue. It takes a great deal of trial and error to figure out who we really are to be as writers. For those of us who would like to be published one day -- and maybe even make a living doing it -- there's a fine balance between who we are and what is commercially viable.
It seems I'm at that crossroads again, having felt sure the last few years I was writing the kind of book I was supposed to be writing, and now being somewhat uncertain again. I'm a big believer in Timing (with a capital T) and so I have to wonder if the process of querying and rejection is simply telling me, "Be patient," or whether it might mean, "Are you sure about this?"
Who knows? Maybe I'm being given some extra time to truly find my voice. Maybe my voice isn't showing just yet with the stories I've been writing.
It's something I've been thinking about in preparation for the New Year, and something I'll certainly explore when it arrives. I'll write on some clean pages in a new journal or open some brand new documents on my computer and spend some time in free writing and see what happens.
What about you?
What are some things you've been doing to prepare for your New Year, whether you're a writer or not? We'd love to hear about them.
(photo by Optical Illusion / creative commons license)