The Year of the Writer
December 21, 2017 § 33 Comments
How was 2017?
OK, a dumpster fire, yes, but how was your writing in 2017? Because now is a great time to consider what you got done. Not scold yourself for what you meant to do and didn’t, but genuinely take a moment and sit with your accomplishments.
Did you write an essay or a paragraph or a sentence you’re really proud of?
Get a piece accepted? Submitted to places you want to be accepted?
Help another writer with insight or feedback or supportive critique?
Make it to a workshop or a class or a conference or a coffee date with another writer?
Read a book you really loved that showed you something about writing? Read a craft book and tried some exercises? Researched something new?
They all count. So bask in the feeling of accomplishment. Make some notes about what felt great to get done, and why it worked to do it that way. Congratulations.
When you’re done, look ahead. What kind of writing year do you want to have in 2018? Sure, a year is an arbitrary designation–maybe you operate on some sort of fiscal year, or you’re still a fan of the Julian calendar, or your new year starts February 16th. But it’s a good time to mentally reassess, because other people are happy to talk about goals right now, and gorgeous new notebooks and diaries deck the bookstores.
Make a little list–not too many things or it just gets overwhelming–of your writing plans. Think about the classic “SMART” goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. Specific like “I want to be published in Brevity” (and we hope you do) rather than “I want to be a published author” which is a bit wide-open. The Measurement on that one’s easy–this time next year, either you did or you didn’t, and if you didn’t, maybe you got a different venue for your essay and we lost out. Attainable is also key. I’m not aiming for the Nobel Prize quite yet, plus I think someone Swedish has to nominate me. And really, winning a Nobel isn’t especially Relevant to what I want to be writing. Timely can be a deadline, or a number or pattern of attempts, so the goal feels like something you can take action on.
Here’s what I’m thinking about:
What kind of writer do you want to be? I want to write more travel pieces for mass media, so I’m making a list of places to pitch, reading their stories for tone and structure. I also signed up for a big industry convention next month, to collect business cards for tourist boards, meet media reps, and check out travel trends. Do you need help to be this kind of writer? I’ve hired a coach to help refine my first few pitches and give feedback on story ideas.
What big project do you want to finish? Definitely another pass on my young adult novel, with a plan about how many chapters to do a week and when to start querying again. I’m organizing a writing retreat in India, and need to finish budgeting and start marketing. How are you going to do that? They’re both check-off-able tasks: chapter by chapter, email by email–“write a book” would be as nebulous and difficult as “lead a retreat.” One project is creative and the other’s business, but I’ll approach both with a defined process.
What do you want to read? More paper books and less news on my phone. How can you make that happen? Maybe turn on parental blocking on the websites that are my “I’m momentarily bored” crutches.
What do you want to stop doing? What’s occupying time you’d rather have for something else? I’m restructuring my freelance editing to do only one full manuscript at a time, with gaps between for my own work.
I realize that all sounds very organized. But it’s an effort to pull out only the most important from the giant pile of “things I’d love to do” in my brain. It’s very hard to look at the amount of time relative to the things that fill it, and be honest about what I can actually accomplish. In a way, it’s like tapas or sushi: order all at once, and you’re likely to have more food than anyone can finish. But grab the thing you love best first, enjoy it, and then order the next thing you have room for, and the next. One dish at a time. One step on a goal. And no, you do not have to order vegetables first. Choose the goal you love the most, not the obligation.
Got any questions you’re mulling over for 2018’s writing year? The comments are wide open. Ask us what you’re asking yourself. Tell us what you did–and what you’re going to do next.
Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor and the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Want writing news, events, and upcoming webinars? Join the A-List!
Oh, Allison, oh thank you. I started crying immediately. It is so hard to reward myself for what I do rather than what I hoped to accomplish. Thank you. I need this.
❤ You're doing good work ❤
Thank you, Allison!
What I did: published poems and essays; revised and renamed a brand new novel and have begun to query; wrote stories for my grandchildren; and still teaching, reading, and writing.
What I hope to do: more editing—much, MUCH more editing; stretch; publication of creative nonfiction at Brevity; more fantasy tales for my grandchildren; 100 rejections.
Bravo, Jan! Great work, and great intentions for the coming year!
[…] via The Year of the Writer — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]
This is a really good piece!
I love how you can put things into consumable bites. Well done. Now what goals shall I make (and achieve)?
Isn’t planning fun? And I love the tiny bites way of accomplishing 🙂
[…] via The Year of the Writer — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]
I’ve attended several writing workshops during which I kept quite good notes. Once home, I neglected to return to them. I intend to review them as my next step.
What a great idea to get inspired for the new year!
You are a mind reader and fantastic writer!
Thank you so much for these words of wisdom. Much, much appreciated!
Awesome article. Thank you for sharing your blog.Thank you for sharing I’ve attended several writing workshops during which I kept quite good notes. Once home, I neglected to return to them. I intend to review them as my next step. If you interested to know more information please visit http://onedaytop.com/nasa-astronaut-1st-fly-untethered-area/
One of the coolest writerly things that happened this year was getting published for the first time in three years! Yay! Now as I read this article, I wonder if it’s wise to aim high and aspire to be published in a journal that seems way out of reach. (Hint: I’m looking for a reply in the neighborhood of “Why not! Give it a try!”)
Yes! Go for it!
Excellent piece. I keep putting on my “to do list” that I have to make a “to write” list for 2018. Ah, had we but world and time.
Great post! I need this! 2017 was a great publishing year for me (newspapers/literary journals/online magazines) Also a year in which I finally felt good enough about my memoir to start sending agent queries. With LOTS of rejections marked on my agent spread sheet, I plan to forge ahead in 2018, and return to a draft of a novel I wrote more than two years ago – time to stop procrastinating!
That’s great that you have it all planned out. It definitely is helpful in order to stay on track, away from distractions. As of now, I do not have any specific goals, because I foresee 2018 to be a busy one for me in other aspects of life. What I KNOW I want to do is keep blogging here on WordPress. Does that count?
I am really proud of myself this year, because I started writing again. And doing so more publicly than ever before. It holds me more accountable than just personal/ community pieces that I did in the past.
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I’m loving this article from Brevity. Goal setting for the New Year is so important. Check it out!
Allison, cyber-mentor/muse extraordinaire, thank you for offering your gentle sense of proportion as well as humor. “One dish at a time.” SMART, indeed. This is so inviting, practical, and heartening!
Thank you for writing this article. Now I don’t have have to! Seriously, this is how I feel and that’s the message I try to pass along. Just write. A paragraph is as good as a page when you’re stuck. (Posted to FB.)
I shall read and reread this little kick in my pants as a reminder to get with it. Especially the part about changing up how I spend my time. And to read more paper books and less on line news.
I really like this piece, especially the focus on specific, attainable goals, because that’s something I’ve struggled with in the past.
What I did this year: finished and submitted a novel manuscript for the first time, and started another.
What I hope to do next year: finish, edit and submit the manuscript I’m working on right now, and hopefully get it published. Also, incorporate more poetry into what I read on a regular basis. Poets are word wizards.
I’m sharing this only because this clarification helped me so much in setting goals and because I find Allison’s posts so helpful and inspiring:
“Attainable” means that the goal is in your control. So, “being published in Brevity” wouldn’t be considered “attainable,” because the writer doesn’t make the decision to publish or not. But, “submitting a polished essay during every Brevity submission period,” is certainly something a writer can control. That’s attainable (and measurable, etc.) It should also be easy to break a goal like this down into smaller pieces. What do you need to do this week or today to have an essay ready to go during the next submission period? (And, what are you waiting for?)
Thank you, Madeline, this comment is absolutely correct. It reminds us of what is and is not without our control; what we aspire to is not necessarily within our power to promise.
“What I hope to do” is akin to the list of what skills I want my students to achieve by June before I begin teaching in January; it does not guarantee they will learn from the instruction and experiences I offer them, but reminds me that I have a worthwhile goal.
“Hope to” is not a “promise to” as every disappointed child knows. If I could, I would edit my earlier comment for clarity. Alas.
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