Resolving to Write

pencilsNew years are notorious for setting up people for failure, and writers
are no different. A new year is a blank canvas waiting for you to fill
in the colours of your aspirations, but it is easy to get carried away.
With eagerness you allow the colours to swirl into each other so that
instead of having a clear picture of what you’re hoping for, you end up
with a chaotic picture full of muddy colours that have bled out your
pure intentions.
There are a myriad of resources to consult in order to design a writing
plan and books such as Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within and Jurgen
Wolff’s Your Writing Coach can also get you upright at your desk with
ideas about how to best approach this business of writing. But there
are some basics that you don’t need a book to tell you about. Trust me,
this I know after years and years of making plans, or should I say,
setting up the traps of self-sabotage.
Firstly, spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve as a
writer. Do you want to be a novelist or a environmental journalist? You
need to have your mind firmly set as to what it is you want to achieve.
To establish a career as a writer, you can’t be a jack-of-all-trades.
Case in point: I decided to go to the Richmond Book Fair. I approached
a local newspaper to do an article on the fair, but the books editor
didn’t want a general piece on the fair, she wanted a review on one of
the books being launched at the fair. Interviewing the writer and going
to the launch took all my energy away from the fair itself, and it took
another two to three weeks of reading the book and writing the review.
I am not a review writer, I don’t want to be one, I shouldn’t have
agreed to do it! The review was okay, even if the editor didn’t like
it, and yet it was a colossal waste of time and energy. Time and energy
that would have been put to much better use at the writing projects
that I’m committed to and passionate about.
Secondly, take some time to plan out blocks of time to devote to the
writing projects that you’ve chosen to do. If you are aware of deadline
dates for short story competitions or for novel chapters, then you’ve
got an idea of the amount of time you need to allocate to achieving
each one of the projects.
Thirdly, don’t set yourself up for failure. If you’re writing erotic
science-fiction short stories, don’t send them to You magazine for
consideration. Don’t send a non-fiction book proposal to a poetry
publisher. You must identify your markets so that your writing has the
best chance of succeeding. Also, don’t over-extend yourself. If you’re
a part-time writer, then your output is going to be considerably less
than a full-time writer, so try not to be over-ambitious. Be realistic
– the amount of time you have will usually determine how much you can
Fourthly, write. I am amazed at how many people consider themselves to
be writers, but don’t actually write. They either read about writing or
they have ideas in their heads! Neither will get you published. To be a
writer you have to write – I believe every day, but you may disagree.
However, if you’re not putting words on a page you cannot be a writer.
Writers write, it’s that simple. And the more you write, the easier it
Finally, if you don’t have the luxury of being able to share your
writing with anyone, invest in Peter Elbow’s book, Writing without


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