Every year presents a new opportunity for renewed commitment to your writing goals. One month into the new year is often a good time to take stock. With the hype around the new year—and even some of our lofty goal-setting—behind us, it’s a good time to set the course for smart and steady for the next 11 months.
Many writers I work with are struggling this year more than they have in years past. Regardless of where you land on politics, it’s been a distracting time. Tensions are running high, people are experiencing PTSD symptoms associated with the rhetoric and actions of this administration, and lots of people are scared about the future. This is not a great environment for creativity to thrive in.
Which means that if you want it, you have to dig in. Here are 5 ways to support yourself, and to bring a little grit to your writing practice while you’re at it.
1. Take classes and allow yourself to simply absorb
I teach a lot of classes, and I see how much students want to implement what they’ve learned right away. Writers can put pressure on themselves to have something to show for a class they’ve taken, sometimes to their detriment, or setting themselves up for the class not to be “worth it.” Take a class just for the pure enjoyment of it. Release yourself from any pressure. I’m doing this, by the way! Join me at She Writes University starting next month. The best thing about this kind of course is the caliber of the teachers (Rebecca Skloot! Dani Shapiro! Natalie Baszile!). Give yourself the gift of studying with the pros and see what unfolds for you. Let yourself be inspired without any pressure to act on anything—yet.
2. Come up with a BHAG (Big Hairy Ambitious Goal) I speak from my personal experience with BHAGs here. There’s something about your commitment to a BHAG that gives it more importance and which contributes to a field of energy toward that goal that typically results in it being realized. BHAGs have to be realistic and not pie-in-the-sky dreams, but setting a clear intention and starting to talk about your BHAG as something you really want to do will give you clarity for 2017. Say it out loud. How much does it resonate? How much do you want it? Give yourself one big goal this year and make it happen.
3. Limit Your News Intake and Social Media Engagement
Right now more than ever I’m seeing distraction. People are complaining about it and not getting a lot done as a result. They’re frustrated with themselves, but 24-hour news cycles and social media feeds are actually addictive. Set boundaries. If you can’t take a full day off, give yourself certain hours where you will not engage. There are apps to support you to do this. You can ban yourself from getting online with apps that turn off your Internet for certain windows of time. It may take going to extreme measures, but if you want to write in the current news climate, this may well be what it’s going to take.
4. Allocate Time for One Offsite Writing Session a Week
This is tied into getting off your devices. Getting out of your office or out of your house gets you into a different zone. Go to a café, or to the library. Have a no-wifi writing session with yourself, and don’t try to make it happen more than once a week. It’s reasonable to expect completing 1000-3000 words in a single sitting, depending on the day. This is better than nothing. Give yourself the space to get out of your day-to-day sessions, and see what it feels like to write 4,000-12,000 words a month. If that’s all you can manage for a while, celebrate rather than berate yourself!
5. Take a Break from Writing to Create a Writer Mission Statement
It’s not very often that writers create personal mission statements for their own creative work, and yet, why not? After all, writing is a business as much as it’s a hobby—or at least should be for those of you on the publishing track. Start with brainstorming a list of your values, or just doing a free-write on the topic of “Why I Write.” You likely already intrinsically know, but there’s something incredibly powerful about putting these words to paper, and then coming up with a 3- to 5-sentence Writer Mission Statement. Once you have it, put your statement up on the wall in your writing space, carry it in your wallet, and share it with the people in your life who most support your writing aspirations.
Good luck, and please share your BHAGs or other ways you’ve been digging in to prioritize your writing since the new year.