New Year's Resolutions for Writers
Resolutions are fun.
Especially for writers.
It’s fun to talk about how this year, in 2019, we’ll be writing every day and only taking breaks to market ourselves and our work on social media. It’s fun to talk about how this year, unlike all the other years, we’re going to read every classic we’ve been putting off, along with all the books by our friends and colleagues. (We’ll review all those books, too, and promote them, and not be jealous of the success of others… right?)
Like I said, resolutions are fun. They’re the "winning the lottery or having Chris Hemsworth buy you a drink" type of fun. Unrealistic at best, delusional at worst—why hasn’t Chris returned my letters? I just want to hang out.
“...if 2019 is indeed to be your year of literary triumph, it will be because of your long-practiced patience and self-discipline...”
Alas, do not fret, dear readers (or, in this case, dear writers). My pessimistic opening statement serves only to point out that if 2019 is indeed to be your year of literary triumph, it will be because of your long-practiced patience and self-discipline—not due to the magic nature of those ethereal Planck moments between December 31 and January 1.
For example, take this quote I just made up:
“The great Muse comes to us at a moment’s notice. And in such moments we must be prepared to create until our minds wither and our bones hollow.”
—Some really passionate artist, probably
There may be some folks out there who can operate like that. No writing for days on end, then, BAM, 20K words in a weekend. But for most of us this isn’t the case. And for those of us who, rather than seeing a Muse, see bills and dirty dishes and our own mortality all piling up, it can be tough to stay in the zone of creation long enough to finish projects.
“Build your intellectual stamina.”
So, like any other muscle, we must build up and begin flexing our self-discipline. You can’t run a marathon without endurance training, or lift 300 pounds without resistance training. The same applies to writing. Build your intellectual stamina. Make it a goal to write four days this week. Five-hundred words per day. Move up to 1,000 words per day next week. Then move the days up from four to five. Train yourself.
Likewise, when you don’t hit your goal, forgive yourself. Self-loathing is bad for business. If you miss a day of writing, make it up, or just vow to not miss another. Keep yourself motivated by reading, even when you don’t feel like it. Stephen Graham Jones once said he continually consumes fiction until he vomits it back up and onto a page. It’s a disgustingly apt analogy.
Or maybe we meet our marks, but the writing isn’t as good as we’d hoped. Who cares? We’re writing. Try again tomorrow. Joe Lansdale wrote 100 short stories in 100 days early in his career. “They were pretty much crap,” he told me. “But once I’d flushed the crap out of my system, I was ready to write something decent.” Another great tidbit from the Lansdale school of writing is this: “you can’t write something great if you aren’t writing.” Profound, no?
“In a sense, writers are addicts.”
In a sense, writers are addicts. It’s just that most of us are addicted to life instead of writing. Whether it’s making rent, raising kids, watching Infinity War again and again on Netflix (please, Nordic Gods of my ancestors, just let me have one beer with Thor before I die), there are always reasons to tell ourselves we’ll write later. We’ll write tomorrow. Next week. Next month.
But then the weather changes, the sunsets are just as brilliant but coming on faster, and as the glow of another year disappears beyond some cosmic horizon, we find ourselves making resolutions which sound eerily similar to those we’ve made before. So let us go forth and write, writers! Lest we perish and all our obvious and uncompromising genius be buried alongside us.
James Wade had his short stories published in more than twenty literary magazines and reviews. Awards include: Winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest (Historical Fiction category); Finalist of the Tethered by LettersShort Fiction Contest; and Finalist of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest (Thriller category). While Wade’s short fiction has been published in the U.S. and internationally, All Things Left Wild(Blackstone Publishing) is his major debut novel. He is a veteran journalist, editor, and fiction author. Brought up in the lush pinewoods of East Texas, Wade learned to seek the solace of nature at an early age. He and his wife, Jordan, are committed conservationists. They are currently traveling the country with their two dogs in a twenty-two-foot trailer. Hopefully they can make it back to Texas for some breakfast tacos.