New Year’s resolutions have been around forever, it seems. A fresh start. A clean slate. A new chance to get it right. I have my own, personal resolutions but I thought it would be fun to think about resolutions for me, the writer. Perhaps they’ll strike a chord with you.
Give Your Story a Home
I always have a story I’m working on and one that is swirling around in my head, impatiently waiting for its turn on the page. I work best with one story at a time, but I won’t completely ignore the one that is next in line. I can justify its significance and my commitment to it by starting a file (electronic or otherwise) for ideas (characters, locations, plot ideas, etc.) and give them a place to settle and wait for me. I won’t forget about them, and it will keep my mind clear while I work on my current story.
Writing Isn’t Always Writing
I spend countless hours in front of my computer screen – we all do. Sometimes you just need a break. If your brain is anything like mine (Heaven help you!), you can’t stop working even after you shut down the computer. Find a place to jot down those bits that come to you away from the computer. I keep pencil and paper on my bedside table – if something comes to me when I’m ready to sleep or an idea wakes me up, I can write it down and then try to get back to sleep. It might be a phrase or a specific word that you were agonizing over a few hours ago. It might be the next scene or how to transition getting from one to the next. Jot down the word or the main points that you’ll remember tomorrow. Now you have it!
On a recent trip, I spent time on a bus traveling between locations. I knew I’d need some names for my next story, so as we traveled, I entered the names of towns, rivers, etc. into the Notes app. on my phone. When I’m ready for that next story, I’ll have a great selection of names to choose from, and I can visually remember what they look like. I also took photos on my phone of the locations and their names. That’s a huge chunk of research already done! The story takes place where I was traveling, so what I see and document will have that authentic feel that is vital to the believability factor of a story.
Permission to Zone Out
This one is going to be hard for me, but I’m going to work on it. I have this terrible sense of guilt if I go a day or two (NO!) without writing anything. More than that, the characters in my story start tapping their feet impatiently, waiting for me to get back at it. I find that if I take a break and do something unrelated to writing (laundry, gardening, etc.) it frees up my brain to be more focused and creative when I fire up the computer and start that next scene. I also find that my characters are still with me, even in the laundry room (too bad I can’t assign them a few chores if they’re so desperate for me to get back to their story). But I’m learning to turn down their chatter so that I can focus on something else for a while.
Lastly, I’m learning that once you create a character, they’re with you forever. I love them dearly but will have to set some boundaries we can both live with. That’s what I signed on for when I became a writer. I can live with that.