3 Goals Every Writer Should Make in the New Year!
January 1, 2021 § 11 Comments
By Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Hello, 2021! The New Year is here! After the theatrics and tragedies of 2020, we have learned that life happens when we are least expecting it. No matter what, we have to carve out time for our creativity (whatever that might look for you on a given day) and protect it fiercely without taking on the performance pressures. As Franz Kafka said, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”
Everyone is different as is their relationship with writing. Writing sustained me during the pandemic. I am not surprised because writing is how I make sense of the world. It’s how I grieve and cope. I wrote every day to center myself. As a result, the manuscript for my upcoming collection of essays, A Piece of Peace, is now with the publisher and the book comes out in fall of 2021.
To me, writing is like meditating and practicing yoga asanas. It’s a daily practice and has very little to do with whether I want to or not. You show up with dedication and devotion daily—without any ego or expectations. Prepared to be surprised and don’t judge the outcome. Focus on your journey. You don’t compare yourself to others or even your own self. On some days, you will finish an entire story or an essay; on other days, a blank page will taunt you. Don’t allow your moods, inner voice, and external environment (sass, competition, negativity, cold days, rejections etc. etc.) to influence your dedication to the craft. Show up. Show up. Show up. If we all wrote only when we felt like it, imagine the number of books the world would be deprived of?
Here is what fuels creativity (at least mine): Move your body daily, floss your mind at least every 24 hours aka meditate, make healthy food choices 80% of the times, make time for fun, surround yourself with good people, and learn to be happy for other writers and their successes. Also, read a lot. This is one way of approaching creativity and establishing your relationship with it. But it is not the only way.
I asked four women writers if they could share their advice about three goals every writer should make in the New Year. Here is what they had to say:
Sayantani Dasgupta, Assistant Professor, Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Fire Girl: Essays on India, America, & the In-Between shared the following three bits of advice:
1. Give yourself the tiniest, most manageable daily writing goal. In my case, I have assigned myself to write ten sentences every day. I think it’s especially useful during this Pandemic time when every day can feel the same, it’s important to find a way to separate one from the other. If on some days, the 10 sentences become 20 sentences instead, or 20 pages, that’s great! But if not, that’s also fine. Somedays, my 10 sentences are just that. Somedays, they are nothing more than 10 words, each jotted on a different line. And that’s okay.
2. Build a cheerleading team of 2-3 friends who are also writers. They may or may not be tasked with reading your drafts but they absolutely must be willing to listen to you talk about what you are struggling with, be it a godawful character that refuses to die, or a poem that’s not cooperating in terms of strong images, or the literary agent who has ignored your last three emails. Please remember it’s not a one-way street. Invest in these friends by giving them the gift of your time and attention.
3. Be genuinely happy with other writers’ successes. Simply put, don’t be an asshole. No matter how successful you become, there will always be writers who are smarter than you, who sell more books, land more interviews, whose spouses take them to Paris and bring them breakfast in bed, and who photograph well, no matter the camera angle. Don’t hold on to envy or jealousy. It’s not good for your mind or body. And it’s most definitely not good for your writing or creative process. Find ways to improve your craft instead of bringing down others, whether literally, or in your own mind.
Rachel Hills of Brooklyn, New York and author of The Sex Myth recommends:
1. Write without your audience in mind. In this era of online comments and social media, writers have immediate access to what people think of our work – and that’s not always a good thing. Earlier in my career, I constantly had the potential responses of my audience playing in my head as I wrote, and I think it made me less brave and interesting than I might have been. Now I try to practice putting the audience aside entirely – at least when I’m writing the first draft – and I find it helps me to achieve better flow and deeper insights.
2. Make a practice of showing up for your work. It’s obvious, but it needs to be said: the only way to write a book (or a poem, or a blog post) is to sit down and write it. Make a practice of showing up for your work, whether it’s daily, weekly, or something in between.
3. Take the pressure off. It’s easier to show up to your writing practice if you make it fun. You don’t need to produce a perfect draft every time you sit down at your laptop or your notebook. You just have to write something. Learn to take pleasure in letting your thoughts unfold and find their form.
Jen Gilroy who lives in a small town in Eastern Ontario, Canada and has written the book, A Wish in Irish Falls, says:
1. Make practicing self-care a daily habit. Nurturing yourself also nurtures your writing. Taking even thirty minutes each day to do something for your well-being boosts mental health and enhances creativity, in turn increasing your happiness and productivity as a writer.
2. Set small, measurable goals and reward yourself for achieving them. Instead of setting yourself a big goal like “write a book,” break that goal down into smaller, more manageable chunks such as “in the next two weeks I will write 1,000 words each day.” Then give yourself a reward (watching a movie works for me) when you reach your goal.
3. Don’t compare yourself to other writers and limit social media scrolling if it contributes to self-doubt. In writing, as in most areas of life, it’s easy to compare yourself to someone else and think you’ve fallen short. However, every writing journey is different and even the most successful authors face rough patches. Support other writers and celebrate their success, but focus on your story and your career or, as many of us were told at school: “Keep your eyes on your own paper.”
Lisa Montanaro, who lives in Davis, California, and is working on her debut novel (The title of her WIP is Truth and Other Inconveniences) advises:
1) Honor Appointments with Yourself to Write: I’m a certified organizing and productivity consultant, so my biggest piece of advice is to carve out time for your writing on your calendar by scheduling it in as an appointment. And then honor those appointments with yourself just like you would an appointment with someone else. We tend to honor appointments for official meetings, with other people, or for events. Do the same with your writing sessions!
2) Move Your Body Each Day: Writing is often done sitting down for long stretches of time. Make it a point to move your body each day. Whether that consists of light stretching, yoga poses, a walk outside, calisthenics, or more strenuous exercise like a bike ride or hike—it doesn’t matter as long as it’s movement. I love the app Down Dog and the free Namaste Yoga classes on Amazon Prime. But my favorite activity is cycling. I bring my iPhone and brainstorm ideas for my WIP and dictate them when I pull over to drink water. Dictating ideas for your writing is another great way to keep the writing going when you’re not sitting with your Butt in Chair!
3) Get a Writing Partner: My writing partner and I have been together for almost three years now. I don’t know where I would be without her! We use Facebook messenger to communicate almost daily, do video chats periodically, brainstorm ideas for our WIPs together, and swap pages. We hold each other accountable, offer a shoulder to cry on, and cheer each other on. I would not want to be on this writing journey without her! I highly recommend finding another writer that you can partner up with. Of course, you have to make sure that you’re a good fit. But once you find a great match, it’s worth it’s weight in gold.
Be it for two hours or ten minutes, include exercising your writing muscles as part of your routine. Be it daily or once a week, schedule time in your calendar for writing. It’s self-care, it’s your dedicated me-time, and much more. As Pattabhi Jois says, Practice and all is coming.
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 12 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach who is committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Sweta is a trained yogi and certified Ayurveda health coach, is on the board of Fly Female Founders, and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients across the globe. She also teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well incarcerated men and women. Find her on: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.