Here is my last column for 2010 (quite a fabulous year, acutally) from The Voice.
I love a new year, just like I love a new day, and a blank piece of paper. Each is 100% potential. Every possible thing could happen. Hesitations and back tracking have yet to make an appearance. No does not exist. Perhaps I’m an eternal optimist but a new year always puts me in the right frame of mind- my superhero frame of mind- I can do absolutely anything and everything.
The world is wide open waiting only for me. Any experiences in the previous year that might be evidence used against my super hero-ness are rubbed clean. They are not allowed to cross that magical line we all step over at 11:59 pm on the 31st of December. Anti-superhero evidence, in its entirety, we drop at the threshold as we walk though the door into 2011.
So this year when you cross the door, in your imaginary blue tights and red cape, where will you be heading? It’s all fine and good to be equipped with x-ray vision and the ability to fly but if your talents are not used positively things can go decidedly pear shaped quite quickly. Even superheroes need goals and it’s best to make them when your mind is still untainted by the faltering steps and cracked pavement waiting to catch you out beyond the magic door. When the slate is clean, you can decide what will go where. Once you let Life get involved, it will start filling up all of the good spots, leaving you only leftovers- and no one likes leftovers.
As writers, despite rumours to the contrary, we design our course. Do I want to write a book about ghosts? How about win a short story contest? Do I want to get an agent? Will I self publish? All of these questions help us to define the path we take. Other jobs you have a boss handing out the goals and even laying down the bricks on your path. Not as a writer. It’s all up to you.
So make some new year’s resolutions- serious, specific ones. Make them now before it gets too late. You’re the boss, lay down those bricks.
From my point of view, as writers we have some main areas where specific goals should be made. We must write. We must learn. We must read. We must be published. We must publicise.
We Must Write
You call yourself a writer- but do you write? Make a resolution. Come the end of December 2011 what writing do you want finished? Do you want to end 2011 with an 80,000 word novel in your hands or five solid poems? How will you accomplish that? Will you write only on weekends? After work? Everyday? How many words must you write at each writing session to accomplish your goal? Commit to that word count. Give yourself quantifiable goals.
We Must Learn
Writing is an endless journey of learning. Tomorrow’s writing will be better than today’s if we make sure we progress in learning our craft. Attend workshops. Read writing books. Go to author talks. Learn online. But don’t only learn the craft, make sure you learn the business too. Know how the publishing business works. Pay attention to up and coming technologies. What learning resolutions do you have for 2011? Write them down; commit to them.
We Must Read
I know you’re getting tired of me singing this song BUT we must read to be good writers. Again make a new year’s resolution. How many books will you read each month?
We Must Be Published
Are you going to start a blog for your writing? How often will you post? Do you want to get your poetry or short stories published? Which literary magazines will you submit to? Do you have a novel that needs a publisher? Which agents or publishers do you intend to send it to in 2011? Write your goals down. On the 31st of December 2011, how many poems will you have published? Where will your novel be?
We Must Publicise
Though most writers would like to stay hidden in their writing room, the game decides that is no longer viable. In 2011 how are you going to get your work out there? Will you set up a website? Will you read at public events? Will you attend book fairs? Make a personal marketing plan for your superhero self.
Writing is a tough, tough business. By the 3rd of January 2011 evil forces will be tugging at your cape, your blue tights will start to fade under their hot gaze, but if you’ve marked out your path with stakes made of steel, at least you’ll know where you’re heading. They’ll bash you around with their rejections and losses. They’ll tell you your characters are flat, your plot predictable and your poem riddled with tired clichés- but it won’t matter. You are a writer with a plan and you expect next New Year’s Eve to be a time of celebration. So, get to work now, my Superheroes- your new day is just about to arrive.