New Year’s is just around the corner and for many of us, one of our resolutions will be to write more. But what are we actually seeking to achieve or experience in 2017? Better quality, or just more quantity? A paycheck or becoming part of a community?
You might say ‘All of the above.’ But Jim Collins said, ‘If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any.’ With that profound thought in mind, let’s explore some options so you can pick the most important places to put your time and attention in the new year.
- Devote more hours to writing-related activities. For a lot of writers our ‘day jobs’, family, and other commitments push our hobby, our passion, out past the margins of our lives. We can even feel guilty calling ourselves writers when days, weeks (or even months) slip by without us producing anything new. Be assured you are writers but you also have to prioritize your life to allow more time for classes, writing groups, and especially the butt-in-chair work.
- Finish ‘The Thing’. For some writers next year (and almost all of us at one time), the most important goal is to cross over to the other side of a big project and declare it ‘done’. This could be a final draft, a first draft, or self publishing a piece. Whatever it is, if your project has started to take on epic proportions in your writing life, please consider making 2017 the year you complete it. You’ll feel empowered and amazing on the other side, I promise.
- Make money at writing. This one is tricky because most of us would love to ‘go pro’ or see our efforts pay off. That said, if you really want to make a meaningful amount of cash from writing in the next 365 days, be aware that you’re probably talking about a lot of job hunting, networking, resume polishing, and submitting offers online. Most of us hope to make it one day when the writing’s good enough, the wind’s at our back, and luck at our side — but if you want money now, then you have to realize that next year’s writing time may look more like an office job than creative bliss. Nothing wrong with that — just be ready to get to work.
- Start the scary thing. For a portion of us, our priority is doing what’s never been done — by us, at least. If you are starting a blog (email me!), beginning a novel, or teaching your first class, just be aware that perfection, accolades, and cash aren’t your goals. You are doing something incredibly brave, and you should just have as much fun as you can while patting yourself on the back for attempting something new. Perfection will come in time; you are here now for the experience.
- Get freakin’ amazing —quality-wise. Maybe you have come a long way in terms of your writing but you’re not quite there yet. Whether you want to improve enough to get published, get a job offer, or just create work you’re really proud of, 2017 is a great time to ‘take it up a notch’. But be aware that it’s work. The same as with a fitness program, becoming a better writer is a long journey with few shortcuts. That said, if you are already producing good work, you may just need to hone that last 5% of your process — polish more, take a class, improve your weak spots, and let your true passions come out more often.
- Be part of a community. For a lot of writers, joining a group is an important way to feel encouraged, inspired, and even ‘real’. You can engage in a critique group to improve your writing, read your work out loud on stage or at a table to experience being a true storyteller, ask questions about everything from plot to formatting, and meet others who are also on this crazy journey. You may even find yourself teaching a class, organizing meetings, or putting on an event.
- Get your dream job. If you know exactly what you want to be doing as a writer, then learn everything you can about the people who are already there. Meet these people, ask questions online, read blogs, follow them on Twitter. It also helps to imagine your success story: you’re being interviewed about how you ‘made it’ and you talk about the insane work ethic and bold choices that launched you into the life of your dreams. And if you need to go write 20 scripts, then go write 20 scripts.
- Find your joy, your voice, and your passion. On the flip side of money and job offers, there’s using 2017 as a way to discover who you as a person and who you are as a writer. Learn about yourself — who are you since the divorce? Since turning sixty? Since graduating college? And what is your passion and potential as a writer? Could you write a blog post that would save a life? Is it time to return to the poetry of your youth? Could you write the funniest graphic novel ever? This can be the year you can find out.
- Get serious. For some, the writing’s easy, but the rest of it is hard. Are your files straight, your work submitted on time, your office at least clean enough to find something when you need it? And especially, can you tell people you’re a writer when they ask what you do? This is real, this is happening. Own your talent, respect it, and don’t get in your own way.
- Learn how to write. I’m a big believer in learning to write by writing but there are also many wonderful books and teachers out there. It’s very true that we don’t know what we don’t know. If you really want to become a great writer, then invest in yourself and buy some books or take a class. There’s also a ton of free blogs, youtube videos, and groups online that can help you for free. And don’t forget to read a lot too!
- Find your fans. Austin Kleon’s great book ‘Show Your Work!’ says ‘Do good work and put it where people can see it.’ Maybe you want 200 people following your blog, or 15 Amazon reviews, or just to get a letter from someone who ‘absolutely adored’ your novel (I got one of those this year!). Maybe the writing’s going well and you’re ready to find your tribe. It will take time and dedication but if you love your work, others will too.
- Put your work out in the world. One of the tremendous things about being a writer is the giving and receiving of inspiration. You learn and are inspired by great writing of the past and you write the next chapter in our ongoing, collective, creative story. You spend time alone — months or years — crafting a book and then you let it out into the world. To me, releasing is important. Whether you self publish, traditionally publish, blog, or submit to contests, magazines, and websites, it’s a good feeling to let your work go and see what happens. The point isn’t to make it big, but it make it small — find one fan here and there, a kind word, a touched heart. Your writing can make another person say ‘Oh wow, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.’
So which three of these twelve are your priorities? Or are yours not even of this list? For myself, devoting more hours, improving myself quality-wise, and finding my voice and joy are my resolutions. That last one I didn’t even know was a priority until I starting writing this piece.
And in the end that’s what I hope for you all in 2017 — may your writing lead you to revelations you never expected and to the wonderful destinations you’ve always dreamed about.