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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? It’s something I’ve been doing for several years now and it has really affected my creativity, output, and productivity.

Consider making the following resolutions this year:

(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 don’t, 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 priority.

(2) Deal with Obstacles

What keeps most people from writing? Chances are it’s 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 Session

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 Year’s Day. My just-as-important New Year’s writing tradition is my annual brainstorming session.

On New Year’s Day or the day after, I get out a pen and notebook (my computer just doesn’t 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 they’d need to receive my appropriate query letters.

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 web articles.

(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 horizons!

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 I’d 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 don’t 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 that is!

Resolve this year to become more educated about the writing life and process. Learn something new as often as you can.

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 don’t think I can do it," students and writing wannabes will tell me. For some reason or another, they don’t believe they can achieve any writing success. They find excuses to believe they can’t succeed (whether it’s fear of failure, procrastination, or lack of time). They don’t 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 you’re 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. What’s important is this: that you resolve to become a better writer in 2002!

© 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.

Other articles by Cheryl Sloan Wray :

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