*With a Little Help from Blydyn Square Books
Let’s face it: Every year at this time, as the New Year approaches, we all come up with these grand ambitions for how we’re going to radically change our lives the moment the clock strikes midnight on January 1. And by February 1 (if not sooner), we’re right back where we started.
Make this year different when it comes to finally taking your passion for writing to the next level. Here are 5 simple things you can do differently this time around to actually change your (writing) life:
1. Read more.
I (and Stephen King) always tell people: You need to be a reader if you want to be a writer.
Even if you already read 100 or more books a year like I do, you can read more: more intensely, perhaps, or at the very least, more widely.
Try a new genre. If you’re a chick-lit kinda person, read something sci-fi.
Explore new authors. (Hint, hint: We have plenty of good ones right here at Blydyn Square Books!)
Join a book club—and make sure it’s the kind that actually reads and discusses books and doesn’t just drink copious amounts of wine while spreading local gossip (though, I admit, those can be fun, too).
In fact, if you’re looking for a book club, make it easy on yourself and join ours at Blydyn Square Books. We meet on Zoom every month to chat (okay, and sometimes argue) about a new book. We read lots of different authors and genres (and no, not just the books WE publish).
Another easy way to read more is to sign up for Blydyn Square’s annual Reading Challenge. We give you a list of different sorts of books (for example, “Read a book with a red cover”) and, over the course of the year, you read books to complete the list. At the end of the year, post your finished list and you’re eligible to win a prize.
Yup, that’s right—free prizes just for reading. How can you go wrong?
2. Write more.
Most writers tend to be the type of people who only feel like they’re “really” writing if they spend hours laboring over the blank page. But trying to find huge blocks of free time is not only unrealistic, but also a quick way to make yourself HATE writing (which is supposed to be your favorite thing to do, right?).
The easy solution is to write more, but less.
I know, I know—you’re probably saying, “Huh?”
Let me clarify: Write more often—in fact, I always suggest that people write EVERY DAY. But allow yourself to write less. WAY less.
Rather than trying to find 2 or 3 HOURS of time to write, carve out 5 or 10 MINUTES. Instead of forcing yourself to eke out 1,000 words in a session, try scribbling down just one single SENTENCE.
In fact, there’s a simple way to be sure to write a least one sentence each day. Join our #OneSentenceADay group, where members post our first (or favorite) sentence from each day’s writing.
Even if that one sentence is the only thing you write that day, at least you’re always making progress. It’s a great way to stay focused, stay accountable, and stay writing.
3. Start a journal.
Okay, okay, I know. You’re probably thinking journals are for little girls with locks on their diaries or people who just entered rehab after an emotional intervention. But no. A journal is the perfect place to get yourself writing, without feeling like you have to “write well.”
Most writers tend to have a perfectionistic streak and hate the idea of writing badly. So, instead of writing something that isn’t perfect, they just don’t write at all.
As an editor, let me tell you one thing: I can edit a crappy first draft, but I can’t edit . . . nothing.
If you’ve ever read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, you probably know about Morning Pages. They’re just 3 pages of longhand writing about whatever comes to mind, written first thing in the morning.
Now, I can already hear you whining: “But mornings are so BUSY. And longhand? That’s for old farts.”
Okay, okay. So break the rules. Write them at night. Or in the afternoon. Do them on the toilet, for all I care. Type them into your phone or tablet or whatever newfangled device you’ve got. Just DO them, because they’re worth it.
Morning Pages—or any kind of relaxed journal-style free writing—gets you used to the idea that ANY writing is good (at least, good enough for a crappy first draft) and helps you start to see writing as something pleasant and fun—an enjoyable break from work instead of actual WORK.
Give it a try.
4. Find a writing group.
Now, before you start complaining that you’re nowhere near ready to have your writing criticized by other writers who (let’s admit it) can be very harsh, let me tell you about Shut Up and Write.
Unlike most online meetup groups, this one is all about the PROCESS of writing—not the trials and tribulations of critiquing.
You meet (in person or online), chat with your fellow writers for a few minutes to get to know one another, and then you start writing. For one hour, you do just what the group’s name says: Shut Up and Write.
You work on your own writing, whatever it is, in silence for a full hour—no screaming kids or TV or laundry piled up in the background, taking away your focus. Trust me: You can get a LOT of writing done in an hour without distractions.
And then, when the writing hour is up, you can go home (or sign off) or stick around and chat some more.
Writing can be a lonely, isolating pastime, so it’s always nice to meet other writers—without feeling like you have to share your work with them (and maybe get emotionally clobbered—hey, there are agents and editors to reject you; let your writer friends be supportive instead!).
Try it out. I bet it works for you.
5. Get educated/get some expert advice.
Whether you’ve been writing for years or you’re just starting out, there’s always something you don’t know—inside tidbits that can help you (finally) stop futzing around and finish your book or (finally) figure out what’s wrong with what you’re submitting and attract the attention of an agent or publisher.
There are plenty of excellent writing programs out there, many of them online and easy to take right from the comfort of your home.
Beware, though: These days, with the rise of self-publishing, there are tons of people out there selling their “expertise” even if their only writing and publishing experience is creating a Word document of some kind and then clicking “Upload to Amazon.”
Be sure the writing class or webinar you choose is run by seasoned professionals with extensive experience in TRADITIONAL, not self-, publishing.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but if you have even a glimmer of hope to one day be published by a “real” press, you need to know how traditional publishing works—and even a bestselling self-publisher can’t begin to tell you that.
So, do your research and choose the right program or webinar for your needs. And while you look for one, why not start by reading our soon-to-be-released book, Secrets Most Writers and Publishers Will Never Tell You? We’ll give you insider tips to take your writing to the next level—no matter what your starting level might be.
And don’t stop there: We’re working on creating our very own writing program to help you put the secrets we reveal in our book to work. Stay tuned for more on that in early 2021!
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought as this New Year approaches. Don’t let yet another year pass you by. Use these 5 easy tips to finally make YOUR writing take off.