Reflection time. As year-in-review lists come flying at us, I hope you’re doing your own, aimed specifically at your journey as a writer.
I love looking back at the planning I do at the start of each year as a writer. Inevitably there are things I’d hoped to accomplish but didn’t. No worries: Those roll onto next year’s list, unless I’ve decided they’re not of interest any longer. I’m usually pleased to discover that I also got done a few things I hadn’t meant to.
I’ve been at this awhile. My first book came out through a Penguin/Putnam imprint in 1997, predating by fifteen years the Random Penguin merger. With books thirteen and fourteen coming out in 2014, I hope I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. The fun part? I’m still learning.
As you look ahead to a new year of inspired writing and publication, here are a few strategies worth considering:
- Apply the 80/20 rule to your writing life. Spend 80% of your writing time on creative efforts, and limit your production and promotion to 20%. When you engage with your fellow writers and potential readers, let 80% of what you say be about others, with no more than 20% about yourself.
- Quit putting off the writing you’d like to do. The busiest people tend to accomplish the most. Whatever time you have to write is enough to get started. If you have only ten minutes a day to write, write ten minutes a day.
- Set goals. Decide what success looks like to you. Don’t measure yourself against others, and don’t set your goals in terms you can’t control, like which agent will take you on or how much your advance will be for your book. Your goals should reflect a healthy balance in your life. In addition to the writing goals I set for myself last year, I included goals like these: listen better; be attentive; cultivate a generous spirit; show daily gratitude; enjoy poetry daily; study aspirational writers; wait.
- Keep it simple. Fancy apps and leather-bound journals and expensive pens and mahogany desks are nice, but they won’t make you a writer. I work each year from a set of college-ruled, spiral notebooks that I buy for ten cents each at back-to-school sales in August. They’ve served me beautifully.
- Keep your focus on craft. Who’ll buy and read your work is in many ways beyond your control. What you can control is the quality of your work, and your overt efforts to continually improve at your craft. Maybe you can’t afford workshops or conferences, but the masters are all free for the borrowing at your local library.