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7 New Year's Resolutions for Writers
by Cheryl Sloan Wray
As the holiday season comes to a close,
thoughts often turn to plans for the new year. Well-intentioned men and women
everywhere vow to lose 10 pounds, stop smoking, and be a better spouse (parent,
employee, boss, student, etc.).
What if, this year, you made a goal to
stop making such ordinary goals and instead make a real difference in your
writing life? Its something Ive been doing for several years now and it has
really affected my creativity, output, and productivity.
Consider making the following resolutions
(1) Make Writing a Priority
Do you spend enough time on your writing?
Do you devote energy to writing, just as you do for the other serious pursuits
in your life? If you dont, then you need to make a change in 2002.
Start by locating time in your schedule
that can be devoted specifically to writing, then dedicate yourself to doing
just that. Pick a specific time (Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9:oo p.m.,
for example) and place for your writing pursuits.
If you already spend time writing, make a
goal of increasing that time this year. Make writing even more of a
(2) Deal with Obstacles
What keeps most people from writing?
Chances are its the many obstacles that get thrown in our way (or that we
create on our own)--things like distractions, writers block, and lack of support
from people around us.
Resolve this year to not let these kinds
of obstacles get in your way. Recognize what these roadblocks are in your life
and then find constructive ways of dealing with them.
(3) Have a Brainstorming
In the South, we have the tradition of
eating Hoppin John (a wonderful black-eyed pea concoction) and watching as much
football as possible on New Years Day. My just-as-important New Years writing
tradition is my annual brainstorming session.
On New Years Day or the day after, I get
out a pen and notebook (my computer just doesnt seem to work well for this) and
brainstorm ideas for magazine articles for the rest of the year. I write a
different month on a different sheet of paper and then brainstorm ideas
appropriate to each month; I then try and locate markets for each of the ideas
and determine when during the year theyd need to receive my appropriate query
This same approach can work with
different types of writing. Do you write short fiction? brainstorm different
ideas for short stories. Do you write for the Web? brainstorm various ideas for
(4) Break into New Markets
Do you keep sending your articles, poems,
short stories, or essays to the same publications? Do you find yourself working
with the same clients time and time again? It may be time to expand your
You want to keep relying on those markets
that have been successful for you in the past, but you also want to break into
new ones. The new year is the perfect time to do this.
Since I write for magazines and
newspapers, I consider the publications that Id like to be published in during
the next year--even if they seem out of my reach. Then I make realistic plans
for having success with those markets.
(5) Be Professional
I firmly believe that professionalism is
one of the major keys to success in the writing field today. You must devote
yourself to being a professional in every aspect of your writing life and
business. Some of the ways you do that include: submitting to editors in the
proper way, checking for basic spelling and grammar mistake, being accurate in
your research, being courteous toward sources and editors, meeting deadlines,
treating your writing like a business, and submitting as near-to-perfect
manuscripts as possible.
None of us are perfect, but we can all
strive to be professional. If you dont make that a priority at the current
time, then the new year is the ideal time to start doing so.
(6) Learn Something New
One of the most dangerous traps we can
get into as writers is believing we cannot improve or thinking we know all we
need to know about the writing and publishing process. How far from the truth
Resolve this year to become more educated
about the writing life and process. Learn something new as often as you
How can you do that? There are a
multitude of ways--read books about writing, subscribe to writing magazines,
take an online writing course, join a writing group, find a writing mentor,
attending a writing conference.
(7) Believe in Yourself
At writing conferences, in writing
classes, and in casual conversations with aspiring writers I have heard the same
complaint over and over again: "I just dont think I can do it," students and
writing wannabes will tell me. For some reason or another, they dont believe
they can achieve any writing success. They find excuses to believe they cant
succeed (whether its fear of failure, procrastination, or lack of time). They
dont believe in themselves!
Success, however, is very much tied to
our belief in ourselves. It is essential to believe in your abilities, create
opportunities for success, and to aspire to greater things than youre
experiencing right now.
What is holding you back this year?
Determine what it is and then determine to defeat it!
All of these seven resolutions are
wonderful ones to personalize in your own life this year. And you may find that
there are other resolutions that apply even better to your situation. Whats
important is this: that you resolve to become a better writer in
© Copyright 2001, Cheryl Sloan Wray
Cheryl Sloan Wray is a freelancer writer with more than 1000 articles to her credit. She is also the author of Writing for Magazines (McGraw-Hill), a popular guide for freelancers.
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