Ruth E. Walker
Five years ago, we posted some ideas on writers’ resolutions for 2017. With just three days to go before the world shifts into yet another year, I think our suggestions are still valid. I’ve tweaked it a bit to acknowledge that the past couple of years came with pandemic challenges. But honestly, I didn’t need to make a lot of edits.
So here you go: Gwynn and I kept it simple and doable back in 2016 and that much has not changed. Six resolutions to choose from to enhance your creative skills. You only need one commitment for New Year’s Eve:
1. To pay attention. Yup. Maybe you think you already do this just fine. We’d like to suggest two very different approaches that maybe you’ve not yet tried:
- At an Andrew Pyper workshop, he suggested that paying attention without judgement is a great way to develop characters and ideas. He calls it “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 without a face mask in red halter top and white shorts pushing dark blue stroller without a baby inside it. Man in N95 face mask, yellow ballcap and biker jacket runs up library steps and goes inside.
- Gwynn Scheltema suggests that there are benefits to being subjective when noticing, and that it really is a kind of art. Her Art of Noticing in The Top Drawer takes us on a trip in 2016 to her childhood home, Zimbabwe, where she notices everything in a sumptuous five-sense immersion.
2. To write while travelling (and yes, we know we’ve not travelled a lot lately)
- We didn’t say “write a book” when travelling. We only suggested that you write when on a journey. “Writing” can be a restaurant napkin recording a snippet of overheard conversation. “Writing” can simply be 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. And there’s all kinds of travelling: lately, even a stroll to the neighbourhood park, or a trip to the grocery store has become for many of us the most common form of travelling. You’re creative. In 2022, see what you can do to Write While Travelling. And if we’re lucky, 2022 will be the year that proves Omicron to the be the last blast of COVID so that real long-distance travelling will return.
3. To devote at least 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 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 local hotel or B&B. Consider what “craft” means: In Old English (pre-900 CE) cræft meant strength. A 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.
4. 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.
5. To devote at least one day to NOT writing
- 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. You might be surprised how giving up just one day of writing can do. The tension of staying away from the writing could fire up your pen in ways you hadn’t imagined. The “day after” writing may be something you choose to create more often. At the very least, it’s a worthwhile experiment for the relentless writer to try out.
6. To read something different from your usual
- This doesn’t have to be a big book. How about an article in a bodybuilding handbook or 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 look for what made it publishable. Where is the strength in the writing? Who is the reader or audience? And why do they need this publication? What changes might you make to improve this?
- This analytical approach might prove useful in your own writing. At the very least, you introduce your eyes to a way of writing or content that is not what you normally choose to read. An excellent exercise to expand your writing horizons.
As noted, you only need one of these resolutions for midnight on December 31st. But consider holding onto this list and dipping back in from time to time. It may be just the medicine you need to fire up your muse and ignite your imagination.
Here’s to 2022. May the world put COVID to bed at last and may your writing dreams all come true.