Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Essential Tools for Getting through Any Post-New-Year's-Resolution Slump

Making New Year's resolutions about my writing is fun.  Energizing.  At New Year's, anything is possible.  I look at what I haven't managed in 2015 and set my sights high for 2016.


I ride the high until around mid-February, usually.  Then I need to have three essential tools in place to help me get through the post-New-Year's-resolution slump.

These three tools are the main reason I've managed to write and publish thirteen books in three genres. 

They are:  (1) accountability, (2) inspiration, and (3) determination.   They usually matter in that order.


Accountability
I can't write long without external accountability.  I need a deadline, a show-up date to deliver my chapter or scene.  I need to have readers (editor, writers group, writing partner) who care that I'm still writing. 

I have a lot of internal accountability--I'm very disciplined.  I keep plugging away on my own for a while.  My norm is five weeks.  After that, I need external reasons, outside my own head, for showing up.

You may feel excited about your writing possibilities, those goals you set when 2015 was exiting and 2016 was entering.  You'll run a good race for a while and feel happy about your progress.

I'm not being negative when I say this:  Most writers, without external accountability, will have a hard time keeping going.  Maybe you'll last longer than my five weeks, but I'll bet by February, some of your enthusiasm has waned. 

Since I know this about myself, through many years of hitting the wall, I plan for it.  This week, I signed up for an online class with weekly deadlines.  It starts February 2.  It will keep me writing.

Inspiration
Real inspiration is a writer's main energy.  Pushing yourself via discipline works for a while but most burn out without regular inspiration.  Julia Cameron made a killing on this idea with her book The Artist's Way and her weekly artist dates.  She encouraged us to go out and seek inspiration.  Mostly, to give ourselves new ideas.  To fill the well.

I find inspiration by reading good literature.  I make time for reading, always.  Even if it's just fifteen minutes before bed.  I don't read to numb out (I used to--and it's great on vacation).  I read to inspire myself.  I get ideas from what I read, and I get new ways to structure my scenes and chapters.  I ask my students for recommendations, I ask my Facebook friends, I comb Goodreads. 

Another key to keeping inspired is encouragement from fellow writers.  I cultivate this.  I am very cautious, too.  I've partnered with great writers who are very critical--at first, this is fun.  But after weeks of criticism and no encouragement, I drop them.  I need the "what's good" as well as the "what to fix." 

Determination
You've got to want to write.  Writing is not the fast way to fame and fortune.  It takes work, and it has to come out of your core, your heart, your passion, to stay important in your busy life.  It has to feed you--and not just the hope of becoming a bestseller and retiring early.  The process itself must matter to you.

I find my determination when I am writing every day.  Somehow, the story itself begins to fill me up.  I begin to live it, cherish it.  Over the holidays, I got busy with family and fun, and I set my book aside.  It was hard to get back to it once the new year came.  I had lost my determination.
 
Happily, one of my readers, Steve, sent me this link.  It's a little article called "When to Write."  It reminded me of the importance of just writing.  I recommend it for your writing exercise this week.  I think you'll find it gives you accountability, inspiration, and the determination you may have lost these past weeks.