Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Right Resolution for Writing

It's taken me a good week or so to think about what I want to do in 2017 as a writer.  Usually, New Year finds me in a froth of ideas and to-do lists as I aim for more projects than I can actually achieve.  By spring I have usually given up on most of them and by the end of summer, I am utterly dispirited again.

My usual way of thinking goes along the lines of: "I must write more; I must find more time to write; I must settle on a better place for my writing, conducive to intelligent thought; I must enter some competitions; I must start that novel; I must finish that novel....." This last one has been on my list of resolutions for years.

I also usually try that little trick of SMART goals.  But these just remind me of being at work, appraisals and all that capitalist productivity mush.  I cringe every time I see this expression.  So if I cringe, I avoid.  Never mind SMART.  This year I'm going to use good sense.  And that starts with that sixth sense that we don't always use enough - gut instinct.  If it makes me cringe, I will abandon it.  That goes especially for my writing, however precious I might feel about a particular paragraph.

So 2017 is going to be different.  Out with the old, outdated idea that I must write more.  This year, it's all about writing better, going for quality rather than quantity.  So my list has gone from about 30 items exhorting me to produce thousands of words per week, to these three.  

  • Get a piece written - everything, including warm up paragraphs, is to get written down.  One idea at a time.  One story at a time.  When one is finished, then write the next.  I frequently take on so many writing projects I can only progress them one paragraph at a time and then  nothing gets finished.  Not this year.  I am shelving everything except the one idea that excites me the most.  When that is over, I will start on the next one.
  • Get fussy about revision - I will not hold anything sacred, especially those warm-up paragraphs, or, in my case, pages.  Write them, then get ready to delete them.  Be tough and above all don't be precious.  Writing is for reading and readers don't tolerate easily a writer's self-indulgence. Leave aside all those unnecessary words -'very', 'really', 'incredibly', 'huge', 'most' - in fact, avoid hyperbole altogether.  In fiction, it makes me cringe (so it's got to go) and in non-fiction, it usually reflects a lack of depth and critical analysis (unless it's what the client wants - always produce what the client wants, it's good for the bank account).
  • Write for a clear reason - write to inform, to inspire, to tell the story that is burning to be told.  Writers don't often understand why they want to write, what it is they want to write about or even what they want to achieve from their writing.  But there is no point to burbling.  Once you are clear what you want from your writing and what you want from your reader, then write.  Until that is ready, it is just another idea mulling about in your mind.
For me, in 2017 less is more and quality seriously supersedes quantity.

What do you think?  Achievable?  We'll come back to this in the summer, see how things are going; i might just find my work heading for this place!

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