I have made seven writing resolutions for 2012. I may not fulfill them, but that’s OK. For me to be most productive, I need to set some trajectories for my writing, including some that imagine what things look like beyond the horizon. This can be a helpful step for all writers.
During this week’s writing chat, I asked chat participants to share their writing resolutions with me. I also talked about why resolutions are helpful for writers and explained how you can use them to motivate yourself to pursue stories, books and other writing-related projects.
Here are my resolutions, which I elaborated on during the chat:
1. I will learn to play a new musical instrument this year, probably the trombone. The key is not the playing, but the learning. If I continue to be a learner in all aspects of my life, the energy will carry over into my writing. I can’t tell you yet what analogies I will draw from playing a wind instrument and playing with language, but I have faith that they will come.
2. I will always read a book on a topic that is outside my comfort level. I will begin by re-reading a new book by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris titled “Believing is Seeing,” a detective-like investigation of the “truths” revealed by some famous and controversial photographs. While many scholars make their work more and more narrow, my goal is to go wider, to see where big and little ideas connect.
3. I will write at least one page a day. It was writing teacher Donald Murray who said to me, “A page a day, Roy, equals a book a year.” My book rate has been a little slower than that, averaging a book every other year, or so. But it is not the quality or the quantity of the writing that matters to me. It’s the dailiness of it.
4. I will meet my deadlines for a new book now titled “How To Write Short.” I am on track for a May manuscript delivery, but I know how easily I can wander off the path. A discipline of daily writing requires making some tough choices about things in my life that I will not do, or will at least delay. It turns out that “I wish I could help you, but I’m writing on deadline” is an understandable and acceptable excuse for saying no.
5. Before 2013 I want to begin work on a book project that is not about writing and language. I have a handful of ideas, so I will need to engage friends and mentors in the kinds of conversations that help me test out my ideas. In a sense, these folks become not editors or agents, but test readers, the first people who hear me rehearse what I may want to spend a year or two developing.
6. After a few years of expansion, I will look for an opportunity to engage in a bit of consolidation. Rights now I write books, I write essays for websites, I write on Facebook and Twitter. I teach in a variety of venues. I conduct online chats. I travel to conduct workshops and attend book festivals. I have the basic elements for my own blog. I have a strong feeling that these activities do not connect with one another in ways that they could. I will need the advice of someone — maybe a website designer — to help me take all these stars and form them into a constellation.
7. I want to play more golf and shoot more consistently in the 80s. This is another learning experience that will help me draw analogies to writing. More important, golf is a stand-up outside activity, a bit of an antidote to the sedentary positions that define the lives of most writers.
You can replay the chat here: