I no longer “do” New Year’s Resolutions, because the swinging ball of Fate tends to demolish them all during the very first week of the new year. Maybe even the very first day!
But, since I am a writer, or at least fancy myself to be so, I’ve realized that in one area of my life I follow a plan somewhat similar to New Year’s resolutions.
Writing is a demanding boss and, unlike the Muse so eagerly sought after by many writers, the boss is there every day, 24/7. There’s no escape, not to the restroom, in sleep, or on a bar stool.
So what’s a writer to do, once the commitment is made to write seriously and not just on weekends? Or when the Muse taps a shoulder and ignites a torrent of words?
Mind you, I’ve read just about every writer’s memoir or instructions on writing and the writing life―Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is my favorite―and while I learned a lot and gained great inspiration from their stories, I’m not them, not even close.
Probably the most distressing thing I read in King’s book was this: Write 2000 words a day. No wonder he’s been so prolific.*
Word count is the least of my concerns when it comes to the writing life.
But I’ll start there, with word count. Here goes:
- Write 500 words at a sitting. Or try to. Let’s say it’s possible to do this every day of the year, with two weeks off to goof around. 500 x 351 = 175,500 words …
- Read, a lot. On days when I can’t write, due to illness or other impositions on daily life, I attempt to do some serious reading. An essay on grief by V. S. Naipaul published posthumously sent me back to his earlier work.
- Think about Life. Go deeper than the platitudes thrown about by popular culture and social media.
- Seek out new experiences, especially those that create anxiety and fear. Life is close in those moments.
- Go sit in a large library and ponder the many people, desks, pens, paper, and days that it took to create these marvels of human knowledge. Take notes on those ponderings.
- Watch people. And listen. Observe.
- Take time off to recharge when family or friendship obligations get to be too much.
- Limit social media! It will still be there once the writing is done.
- Read, a lot. Not just books about writing.
- Daydream. Record nightly dreams, if possible. If it’s any consolation, I for one can’t remember my dreams very often.
- Be humble. But be proud of your work, too. A hard thing to juggle, balance.
- Read, read, read. Oh, I said that, but it bears repeating.
- And write, just write. Don’t edit along the way, there’ll be plenty of time for that later.
Eat well, learn to cook, walk the dog, pet the cat, walk, stroll, smell the roses.
Oh yes, and have fun, despite that boss taking up residence in your head 24/7.
*I read somewhere recently that he’d scaled back to a more doable 1000 words.