The Year of the Writer (redux)
December 31, 2020 § 27 Comments
2017 2020? Yeah, this post I wrote three years ago is STILL ASTOUNDINGLY RELEVANT. You know that feeling of low-grade background stress you’ve sustained for nearly four years, ramping up a level each year? You’re not alone, fellow writer.
So 2020 was a dumpster on fire while swept away in a flood, yes, but how was your writing? Because now is a great time to consider what you did. Not scold yourself for what you meant to do and couldn’t. Let’s genuinely take a moment and sit with your accomplishments, together.
Did you write an essay or a paragraph or a sentence you’re really proud of?
Get a piece accepted? Submit to places you want to be accepted?
Help another writer with insight or feedback or supportive critique?
Make it to an online workshop or reading or write-in?
Read a book you really loved? Or one that taught you something about writing? Tried some exercises? Researched something new?
They all count.
Bask in the feeling of accomplishment. If you’re a journal-keeper, 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. 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 12th. But it’s a good time to reassess, because other writers are happy to talk about goals right now, and gorgeous new notebooks and diaries deck your local independent bookstore (who likely offer curbside pick-up).
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.
- That one’s Measurable–this time next year, either you did or you didn’t, or 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. Maybe start with “meet more Swedes.”
- 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 (10 tries, quarterly submissions, etc), so the goal starts with an action you can take.
Here’s what I’m thinking about:
What kind of writer do you want to be? I want to finish a novel, because I care about writing YA, and I think it looks better to give writing advice when I’m walking the walk. You?
Do you need help to be this kind of writer? I need to locate a couple of beta readers who haven’t read the previous incarnations so they can come in fresh. What help do you need?
What big project do you want to finish? That book, and to host a writing retreat in Costa Rica or Italy, both delayed from last year. 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. And allow myself grace when elements I can’t control hinder my progress. What’s your big project?
What do you want to read? More “challenging” books and less comfort re-reads. How can you make that happen? Order Hilary Mantel’s latest and dive in! What can you not wait to read?
What do you want to stop doing? What’s occupying time you’d rather have for something else? I’d like to spend a little less phone-on-sofa time. You?
It’s an effort to pull out only the most important from the giant pile of “things I’d love to do” in our brains. It’s hard to look at the amount of time relative to the things that fill it, and be honest about what we can actually accomplish. 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 2021’s writing year? 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 Manager. January 22nd, she’ll be leading the webinar This Year You’ll Finish Your Book: Goal-Setting and Project-Planning for Writers. It’s a steal at $25–sign up here!