On the writerly resolution

I'm not really a resolution type girl. I prefer goals. SMART goals - that is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Goals can be worked towards - they aren't necessarily met or not met. Instead we use them as roadmaps and progress towards their achievement. If you have a goal to write 12 chapters and only write 6, you haven't failed, you've written 6 chapters. So, as we are now in January 2014, I thought it might be right to define a few writerly goals rather than resolutions that we can all work towards in our writing practice.  There is no non-achievement here.  Every step along the way is to be congratulated.  Here are my five goals for 2014. Maybe they'll resonate with you too.

  • Write every day - no matter where; no matter what.  I don't like to confine myself to word counts - sometimes I have to stop and research. Sometimes I have to minister to the many people in my life that I love and who need me.  But if I touch base with my writing each day it moves forward and stays present in my head. I can then also do a lot of the work in my subconcious, through attention, and application in ways that don't happen if you let a day, or several days, go by without writing. 
  • Write without restraint. Allow yourself to delve deep - sometimes to dark places where there is pain and desire. No one will read what you've written until you let them, so forget about your readers for a bit and go where you must to find your own truth (bet you don't hear that often...).
  • Turn off the lizardy, self-critical voice in your head (she can come back later) when you write. The goal is not to write a masterpiece. That's too daunting and probably not SMART. The goal is just to front up and do the writing. The polishing comes later. So don't criticise yourself. Now is not the time.
  • Look, listen, pay attention. The world is full of characters and material. The more you write, the more you'll notice and find stuff to write about.  Everything (and everyone) is interesting if you pay close enough attention, listen, look, use your five senses, and really take it in.
  • Aim for completion. It doesn't have to be the whole project. Chunking a project into, for example, chapters, or poems, or pieces of finished work is not only more satisfying than endlessly working on something, but it gives you something you can submit somewhere, which really helps keep the writing juices flowing (a few accolades/publications/or positive critiques don't hurt either).
How about you?  Will you be setting secific goals for 2014?  Whatever you'll be spending 2014 doing, have a very happy new year!  

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.


Kathleen Moulton said...

Maggie, I love, love, LOVE how you wrote this. I needed this balance in my thinking. I keep plugging away and my mindset has been more about what I haven't accomplished than what I have accomplished. We need both.

Also, I liked point #2. I don't want to be a machine just putting out what people expect me to put out. Thanks so much for this. Printing it and will read it regularly.

Heidiwriter said...

I like "turning off the lizardly, self-critical voice"--good piece, Maggie!

widdershins said...

I got this image of a bespeckled, severe, Maggie Smith-ish gecko peering over my shoulder, ready to pounce on my keyboard at any moment!

Karen Cioffi said...

Maggie, this is excellent advice. Using smaller obtainable goals is the way to go. And, I love that you mentioned if your goal is 12 chapters, but you only write six, you're six ahead, not six behind.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I'm with you...I prefer smart goals to resolutions.

Linda Wilson said...

Maggie, I can see why this post got so many readers. It will be a big help to me as well. Thanks for your terrific insights. They are a great help to us all.

Build Your Brand

  Contributed by Margot Conor While you are writing your novel, or even when it is just an idea in your head, start to build your brand. Res...