Friday, January 4, 2013

Writing Goals

 By Susan

For years, I hid my fiction: password protected documents still litter my files—their passwords long forgotten—yet I can’t bear the idea of hitting delete. I’d scribble poetry on paper, then would toss it away, embarrassed at my own audacity. I’d write a short story about love, or about loss, or about longing, and would embarrass myself at my own transparency. I hid my work.

Over the past few years, I’ve become less—well, less
weird about my words. I’ve read aloud in critique groups. I’ve applied to and attended workshops, calling myself a writer without shame. And we’ve been blogging here now for almost four years! As the old Virginia Slims ad used to say, “You’ve come a long way, baby."

This year, I’m even up for sharing my writing goals with you, my writing friends. Instead of the end goals (completion of the novel, publication, poetry and essays) this list is about how I plan to get there. 

This year, it’s all about the journey.

1.     Write with a heart full of gratitude. This is by far the number one goal this year. I am incredibly thankful for the gift and desire to write. Thankful for the time and space to write. Thankful, overall, for the joy it brings me, and hopefully, brings to others. I need to remind myself to be thankful, even when things don't go the way I want.
I hiked to this spot to write and think
 in Tennessee this October.
2.     Write without complaint. Okay, sometimes it’s difficult, this getting-words-on-paper-thing. As Zadie Smith says about the life of a writer, ”Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.” My goal this year is to minimize the grumblings, frustrations, and fears that come with my chosen vocation.
3.     Read more, read better. Short stories, poetry, fiction, biography. This year, I want to read writers I’ve never heard of, and read writers who intimidate me, like Tolstoy or David Foster Wallace. This year, I’m going to read the best works I can find.
4.     Support bookstores, libraries, and charities. For Christmas this year, I ordered book gifts from Powell's in Portland, Joseph Beth in Lexington, and Malaprops in Asheville. My daughters and I frequent our library. My charity of choice is the International Book Project, and I raised the funds for the delivery of enough books to stock two libraries in Ghana, West Africa this year. I support what I love. I encourage you to, as well.
5.     Remember to move. I find my words and my heart when I exercise and spend time outdoors. I plan to continue twice weekly yoga, hike whenever/wherever I can, and to continue running the bleachers at my local high school. Scenes fix themselves, characters find their voices, and plots make sense when I move (Not always, but it sure doesn't hurt!) Sometimes it’s hard to remember that, when pounding the keyboard seems like the logical answer. It’s not, always. Sometimes you’ve just got to move.
Beach Retreat: Cannon Beach, Oregon
6.     Surround myself with writing friends, but remember to write alone. I love having and supporting friends who write. Sharing ideas, plots, retreats, business talk, and coffee breaks are all part of the writing life, and it helps keep me sane, knowing I am not alone. But I’ve got to remember that books don’t write themselves. Protecting writing time, editing hours, and solitude is a big priority for me this year.
7.     Never apologize for retreating. In 2012, I took advantage of workshops, retreats, friends’ offers of beach houses, the holy solitude of a silent monastery, and a mountain retreat to find my words. It felt a little decadent, in a way. But my writing became stronger, my voices clearer, and my heart fuller from taking advantages of solitude.
Sunset at The Abbey of Gethsemani
8.     Remember that I am a student. There is no one way to write a story. There is no right way or wrong way—there is just the story. Just make sure to write it and remind myself to always learn from my own mistakes.
9.     Be kinder to myself, and to others. Back in October, while on a five-day retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, this struck me almost as an epiphany. I’d spent a full day in solitude, attempting to “fix” my new draft, as though somehow the abbey itself would function as a magic wand. Then I beat myself up heartily for failing to “fix” it. The idea of forgiving myself for my many writing failures is a tough one, somehow. But I am working on it. A huge part of 2013 will be choosing love and kindness over fear and self-loathing. Admitting that out loud is a good start.
10. Reach. By this I only mean that I promise to try. Apply. Enter. Submit. Push fear aside and continue to put myself out there. In 2012 I vowed to take my writing seriously. For 2013, I’m ready to share it. 


  1. Good reminders for all of us. Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks, dear Jules. Happy New Year to you as well :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...