New Year, New Writing: Tips for Moving Ahead
Here we are at the start of another year, and though the winter weather has yet to be harsh here in central Ohio, we can safely assume that it will eventually slap us with cold and snow. We know this because we’ve lived through it before and will surely do so again.
Each flip of the calendar—each sunrise, even—gives us a chance to rededicate ourselves to our writing lives. We know those lives are made up of peaks and valleys. We have days when we feel the writing is going well, and we have days when the words just won’t come. We have our successes, but we also have our disappointments. We have to learn to chart an even course through both, knowing that one success doesn’t necessarily predict another just as disappointment will never be permanent. The highs and the lows are a given. We can’t control when they’ll come. What we can do, though, is keep moving ahead. A couple of years ago, I posted some tips to keep us writing during those times we’re tempted to quit. Now seems like a good time to post those tips again, so here’s what we can do to keep ourselves moving ahead.
Accept the fact that the world does indeed doubt the value of the work we do in our writing rooms. It’s a fact. We have to live with it. We can use that fact to our advantage if we’ll also acknowledge the fact that there’s something noble in our knowing the value when others don’t.
Embrace our family of writers wherever we find them—in writing workshops, at summer conferences, in the books we read. These are the people who know what it takes to do what we do. Not a one of them has ever avoided the same periods of disappointment and dejection that we feel.
Give as much to the group as we hope to receive. We should be good literary citizens, knowing that what we offer will come back to us. Offer encouragement to others. Offer clear, constructive criticism when someone asks for it. We should be present and active in our communities of writers so we’ll never feel alone.
Relax with the knowledge that we’ll fail more often than we’ll succeed. Once we accept the fact that we’ll consistently fall short, we’ll be more able to let disappointment roll off our backs, and we’ll be quicker to move on to the next attempt with our minds and hearts open to the spontaneous leaps of the imagination that creativity requires.
Be steadfast. We need to be consistent with our work habits. We need to know we have a schedule that we can stick to. Maybe we won’t write every day. Maybe we’ll only have one day a week that will be our writing time and we’ll come to cherish that time. Whatever time we can dedicate to the work will reward us. Consistency becomes generative.
My final wish for all of us as we move into 2020 is that we’ll learn to take more joy from what we do in our writing rooms. This is the life we’ve chosen. In spite of the ups and downs, my wish is that we’ll all be able to be more joyful even when the results aren’t what we wish them to be. Be joyful in the work itself, the work that sustains us even through the most brutal winters.
Thanks, Lee, for the truth and encouragement in these words. Though we work alone, we are not alone.
Ellen, you’re so right. Our work is solitary, but it’s done within what can be, if we choose, a generous and supportive writing community. Happy New Year to you!