Thursday, January 1, 2015

Five New Year's Resolutions for Writers (with Pictures)

I haven't written a blog post in a long time.  I think the last time I wrote, Robin Williams had just passed away and people were doing the ASL Ice Bucket Challenge.  I actually did the challenge, but by the time I had decided to post the video, the Ice Bucket Challenge was already just a blip in the history of the Internet.

As a side note, I did the challenge and donated the money.  I think I should just put that out there.

Many things happened to me that kept me from keeping the writing schedule that I wanted to keep this year.  I'd like to think I had some legitimate setbacks.  Some dealt with family and job issues.  Some dealt with issues I have with anxiety.  Driving has become problematic.  In fact, if I had written more, I may have been better able to deal with my anxiety.

Or it just might be that everyone has a breaking point and I have had mine.

The good news is that I'm dealing.  Thanksgiving and Christmas were great opportunities to reconnect with many people I had lost touch with.  I still feel disconnected from my writing self, however.  I teach others to write, and I love my job, but I feel like a hypocrite if I tell others how to write and don't write on a regular basis myself.

Therefore, I have come up with five New Year's Resolutions for myself to get me back into writing on a regular basis.  Five is a nice number; you can count these resolutions on one hand.  They come from advice I have been given, and that I have given to others as well.

Why this picture?  It's a cute girl reading. Why not?
Picture found here.

  1. If you want to be a good writer, write a lot and read a lot.  This came from Stephen King's book, On Writing, and it is advice I pass on freely when I tutor others.  King says to be good at writing, you have to write about eight hours a day.  I wish I could, but I usually tell students ten minutes a day with a small notebook works.  I can say that I do a lot of writing in my journal.  I don't invest a lot of money in fancy journal books.  I can go to the dollar store and buy a marble notebook and I'm set.  I do need to improve my reading habits though.  I just realized I've barely moved in the books I've been trying to read since September.  I have to admit, I need to make more time for reading and writing because writing gives me practice, and reading gives me fundamentals like structure and vocabulary.  This leads me to my next resolution.
The best character on Glee.  You know she'll keep your ass in line.
Image found here.
  2. Keep a regular writing schedule.  Now, I don't know how true the following story is.  I just remember hearing it from my therapist, who had read it in a newspaper article.  Apparently, John Cheever would wake up every morning at the same time, put on his suit, go downstairs into his home office, take the suit off, and work on his stories all day in his underwear.  When finished, he'd put his suit back on and "go home," as it were.  Again, how true that is, I don't know, but I did read this article about weird habits of writers which confirmed half the story.  I did try this (having a writing schedule; the underwear part I only did in the afternoons, not all day) and it was easy in July and August when I didn't have work.  But my work schedule made this extremely difficult when I went back to teaching in September.  Three classes and close to 30 hours of tutoring, not including other obligations, made writing difficult.  I did carry my notebook, which helped, but when I had a regular schedule, I felt a lot more in control.  So I guess it's all about balance, right?

3. Balance your writing with the other areas of your life, but stay focused on your priorities.  I have come to the conclusion that my writing, if it will ever generate a sizable income, is a long term project and that right now, my teaching pays the bills.  I have also become somewhat of a hermit lately.  Balance is definitely something I have to work on.  However, I know my writing has to be a more significant priority in my life.  Last November, I started work on a novel about a wizard criminal that has been cursed by other wizard criminals and now has no powers.  Think Quentin Tarantino meets J.K. Rowling.  I started the novel for NaNoWriMo, but didn't finish the first draft.  I'm kicking myself now because my excessive teaching schedule kept me from finishing a first draft that I know, under normal circumstances, I would have finished easily as the story is in my head and just needs to get plopped down on the paper.  Now that I have a month off from work, I could have easily edited my novel and been that much closer to publishing it.  Instead, I have to finish the draft.  I also love writing this story.  If you go back and look at my Twitter feed or my Facebook wall in November, you can see I had a good time coming up with scenes and characters.  Writing is my passion and fuels the other good things I do, including and especially teaching others to write.  I guess this is good advice in general, whether you're a writer or not, but for the solitary profession of writing, it is especially important to know its place in your life, whether as a hobby or as a profession.

4. Be your own cheerleader.  

Gratuitous?  Not as much as other pictures I found on the Internet.
But it gets the point across.
Found here.
I like people who toot their own horns.  I like guys who work hard on reviewing comic books or movies or exploitation and porn films on the Internet.  Why?  Because these guys had a dream that started out as a need to discuss fiction in different media and now, they're promoting their work.  It's hard because they are on their own.  They probably have naysayers out there.  As an artist, it's part of the job.  I respect guys like Eric Rodrigez, Brad Jones, and Louis Lovhaug because they put out a lot of work and promote themselves.  After all, no one will do it for them.  So as a writer, you have to believe in your own work.  If you're writing on a regular basis and enjoying it, you're on the right path.  I know this is one area where I need improvement.  I do want to make a living from my writing some day.  I need to put work out there.  I also need to believe in my work.  If you have the same dream, you have to be that way, too.

5. Hang out with awesome people.  While you might have to believe in yourself, it helps to also have people around you who believe in you, too.  As I said previously, circumstances and my own issues made me into a curmudgeonly hermit.  Without social contact, getting in touch with the creativity within becomes difficult.  

She seems like an awesome person, right?
Kat Williams said that if you have haters, you must be doing something right.  I agree.  I also know, however, that man cannot be fueled by hate alone.  Sometimes, it's nice to be loved.  That love can help foster your own inner voice and give it expression in your work.

Now, if you noticed that these five resolutions work together, you're catching on.  After all, priorities help you balance work life and social life.  An inner sense of love for yourself and your writing radiates and attracts others to you, in turn helping fuel you.  Also, success breeds success, so the more you write, the better you feel about your writing and the more you want to write.

I'm not saying any of this is easy.  In fact, the first step is deciding to do all this and then following through.  The follow-through is where many people get tripped up.  I say cut yourself some slack.  Don't punish yourself for letting your writing talent fall fallow.  Instead, reward yourself for writing anything, the way I plan on rewarding myself for writing a blog post, something I haven't done in months, by drinking the last beer in the house.

I'm hoping in the coming months to write about my driving anxiety and how I'm dealing with it, book and movie reviews, and tips on writing.  I think that in order to teach writing, you have to first be a writer.  My hope is that this blog will show off how awesome I can be while also being a practical repository of advice for other writers.

If you feel I've left off something from this list, let me know.  You can also follow me on Twitter @Mike_Pimp12.  If you're local and need help with your writing, I'm available and reasonable.  Read into that what you will.

Have a Happy New Year, and I look forward to writing for you in 2015.

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