Helloooo fellow writers, and welcome to my first post of the new year. This should be a momentous occasion; new year, new me, that’s what the ticking of the clock towards midnight on December 31st means, right? I’ll admit, I’m all about New Year’s resolutions. In years passed I’ve made lists of what I want to accomplish throughout the year. My goals. My dreams. My hopes for a better future. Each year, I’m left disappointed, because the only step I’d taken towards bringing those resolutions into reality was writing the list.
So this year, I didn’t make a list of resolutions. Instead, I’m making plans. With a planner in hand (a Christmas gift, but more on that later this week), I’ve mapped out my writing schedule for the month. It’s important to note that I’ve never been the best at keeping a planner. All through school, I relied on scribbled notes in the margins of my notebooks for test dates and papers and projects. It’s really a miracle I got anything done.
That’s where I’m at right now: holding a planner with all these reminders scheduled for the month of January, and already my life feels a little bit more secure. But even before that New Year’s Eve I spent penciling in blog posting time and novel writing time, I was setting up plans for the year, because this is the year that I will make my writing life more than something I squeeze between the hours of my full time job.
Before Christmas, I sat down to make, yes, a list. But a productive list! I wrote down everything – and I mean everything – I’ve ever written. Short stories, essays, novels. I took a look at it all, where each project was in terms of development, whether it was something I wanted to further pursue. I wrote down the ideas I’d scribbled down and typed quickly in random Word documents, and as I did, a picture began to form of what my writing career could look like, if I focussed my attentions where my ideas seemed to be guiding me.
It was a full day’s process, but it was definitely worth it to be able to get a clear idea of what kind of author I wanted to be, and in so doing start to lay out a path to reach her. If you’d like to reach that same clarity, here’s my process:
- Take stock. If you have completed works, write them down. Divide them up by type of work, genre, etc. If you have incomplete work, write those down too, and list what stage they are in, and your likelihood of finishing them. Got an idea book? Flesh out some of your best starts and prompts. When I did this, I divided all of my ideas into type of work – short story, novel – and by genre.
- Analyze. Do you see patterns forming? Ideas or drafts that belong in a specific genre, one genre dominating the other? This is where I learned I wanted to write mysteries. Most of my ideas leaned towards the eerie and suspenseful nature of crime novels. If you see your ideas gearing towards a certain genre, don’t ignore that. Most writers make a name for themselves in one genre and may find it difficult branching out to others. I am by no means saying to just write in one genre your whole career, but it would be better to get your start in one in which you have a vast number of ideas and work for.
- Get to work. Have you picked out your genre? The type of writing you want to do? Now it’s time to create. Check out that list of ideas, or pick a complete or incomplete work to polish and improve. Create something, and send it out. Get your work in front of publishing eyes, and start to make a name for yourself in the writing lives of others.
And that’s it! Three simple steps, and I’m still working on the third. Since making my plans, I’ve been filled with so much purpose. My writing time is so much more productive, and I have a better sense of where I’m going, rather than just… going. In creative careers like the ones we want to embark on, there’s a lot of horizon watching, and often we’re too busy dreaming to see the path that takes us there. This year, I will pay attention to the path. Every rock in the road, every sunlit stroll, I will be there to take it on. I invite you to do the same.