Ruth E. Walker
Resolutions can be hard to keep. Often, it’s because the resolutions we make are either too complex or too unrealistic.
And sometimes, it’s too hard to even choose a resolution. Should I resolve to submit my novel this year? And should it go to an editor or agent first? And should I resolve to start writing the sequel to that novel or maybe I should wait to hear from the publisher first?
Here are six resolutions designed to enhance your creative skills in the coming new year. And bonus! You only need to choose one for New Year’s Eve:
#1 Resolve to devote one day exclusively to the craft
Think about it. Just one day. C’mon, you can do it. Pack a lunch and head to the library. Or stay home, unplug the phone and the Internet, and spend the day writing. Maybe you can pretend it’s a snow day. Or maybe you can book a one-day escape at a hotel or B&B, or check out Gwynn’s writing getaways at her Northumberland home on Lake Seymour.
Consider what the word “craft” means: In Old English (pre-900 CE) cræft meant strength. Giving yourself a full day to focus on the art and skill of your craft can only strengthen your words on the page. No matter what option you choose, make sure you schedule your day devoted to writing. And then make sure you show up, as scheduled.
#2 Resolve to write while travelling
We didn’t say “write a book” when travelling. We only suggested that you remember to write when on a journey. “Writing” can be a restaurant napkin with a snippet of overheard conversation recorded next to the smudge of hot sauce. “Writing” can be jot notes on a map or guidebook: stopped here and ate weird-tasting burgers at Fast Eddy’s Eatery. Nobody got sick.
The point is that there are all kinds of ways to “write” while travelling. You’re creative. In 2017, see what you can do to write while travelling.
#3 Resolve to write something different from your “usual”
Step away from the familiar and head down the rabbit hole. If your passion is fiction, go for non-fiction or poetry. If your comfort zone is poetry, try your hand at playwriting. If non-fiction is your go-to, start a graphic novel. Science fiction writers, take the time to meet romance. Mystery writers, shake hands with erotica.
There’s a strange chemistry that happens when you shake up your pen and at the very least, you’ll return to your writing nest with some fresh ideas. And maybe you might find that trying something new opened up a whole new “writer” in you.
#4 Resolve to read something different from your “usual”
This one is easy. You don’t even have to choose a book. How about a bodybuilding handbook or an article in a finance magazine? Or a graphic novel, or modern play, or a children’s board book? Or a corporation’s annual report, or a technical how-to manual.
The object of this resolution is to teach your eyes to see what you might have skimmed over in your own work. What made this particular piece of writing publishable? Where is the strength in the writing? Who is the reader or audience? And why do they need this publication? What changes, if any, might you make to improve it?
This analytical approach might prove useful in your own writing. At the very least, you introduce your eyes to a way of writing or to content that is not what you normally choose to read. An excellent exercise to expand your writing horizons.
#5 Resolve to devote at least one day to NOT writing
A counterintuitive resolution? Actually, this is a great resolution for those who have trouble leaving their desk, or pen, or computer. It’s great to be a devoted writer, one who writes every day without fail, one who will forgo lunch if a plot point needs adjustments or a character is sitting a bit too flat on the page.
Nonetheless, a daily writer might be surprised what might happen when you give up just one day of working at the craft. The tension of staying away from the writing could fire up your pen in ways you hadn’t imagined. The “day after” may be something you choose to indulge in from time to time. At the very least, it’s a worthwhile experiment for the relentless writer to try out.
#6 Resolve to pay attention. Yup. Maybe you think that you already do this just fine. But we’d like to suggest two different approaches in case there’s one you’ve not yet tried:
Be objective: I attended an Andrew Pyper workshop where he suggested that paying attention without judgement is a great way to discover characters and ideas. I think he called it “writers’ reportage.” Take a seat in a public space and people watch. Simply record the facts of what you see. No emotion. No subjective consideration. e.g.: Young woman in red halter top and white shorts pushing dark blue stroller without a baby inside. Man in yellow hat and biker jacket runs up library steps and goes inside then exits almost immediately.
Be subjective: Gwynn Scheltema suggested that there are benefits to being subjective when noticing, and that it really is a kind of art. Her “Art of Noticing” was posted to The Top Drawer a couple of weeks ago. Gwynn nudges you to bring the five senses into your observations. Can you describe the taste of coffee? Did you hear what your fellow passengers discussed on the bus? And what is the colour of snow, exactly?
No matter which approach you take to your paying attention, both Andrew and Gwynn remind writers that there is writer’s gold in observations. So take the time to mine some for yourself in 2017.