DAYS SPEED BY, BUT WRITING GOES SLOW. It’s in its nature. We pre-write, draft, redraft, review, revise, edit, and proofread—just to get 500 decent words where we want them. Instead of railing against the constraints time puts on our writing process, we can choose to drop below time’s dictates and give ourselves an opportunity to move at the pace of writing, rather than demanding our writing perform at the hectic pace of life.
To that end, here are twelve gifts to give to your writerly self this coming year. You might want to unwrap one a month between now and next December. May each of these exercises nourish your writing needs and give your creative self a chance to breathe.
1. Visit a used bookstore. Browse dusty shelves for treasure. Settle on the floor in the picture book aisle and allow your inner kid to journey through the illustrated worlds you find there.
2. Journal. Curl up on the couch one Sunday morning and write with no agenda, no goal. Take this time to discover what you think, what you feel, what you mourn, what you hope for … all by writing it down.
3. Discover a new-to-you author. Ask writing pals to recommend writers they think you’d enjoy. Check out the new releases section of your local library. Or read THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review, join a book group, or sign up for Goodreads. Let other writers share their gift with you this year.
4. Start a manageable new writing project. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to create a kids’ book about a favorite toy. Or compile your grandmother’s recipes, updated to make the most of today’s kitchen gadgetry. Or collect photographs of your cats, caption the images, and produce a few copies just for you and your cat-crazy friends (or is that just me?). A new project can add fuel to your writing life. Just make sure it’s the right size to bring to completion this year. Because writing “The End” on a draft is a sweet reward for a (small) job well done.
5. Make a date with a writing pal. A cup of coffee, a croissant, and congenial company create the perfect ambiance for a few quick, free-writing sessions. (I’ve got about a zillion writing prompts on my blog that you’re welcome to use for this purpose! Just search “prompts.”)
6. Take a walk. While you’re strolling, keep an eye out for interesting sights and occurrences. Maybe snap a few pictures along the way. When you get home, take just ten minutes to write about what you saw.
7. Record your dreams. Keep a notebook by your bed and jot details from your dreams a few mornings in a row. This lets your unconscious know you’re listening, making it more likely that it will offer up the fresh goods next time you need access to its wild, imaginative leaps.
8. Nap. Or, if you’re not a napper, steal an hour out of an otherwise busy day for horizontal couch time. Flick through a magazine (check out THE SUN MAGAZINE!), or read a short story or personal essay. Snuggling with an available cat, optional.
9. Take a writing retreat. Depending upon your resources, this might be a month-long writing residency on Martha’s Vineyard, four days at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers retreat, or a weekend holed up in your own cozy den with no interruptions and no other plans but to read and write.
10. Follow your nose. You know how sometimes you’re online looking for one thing and something else catches your eye? And reading about that next thing, you see something even more intriguing? Great! Indulge that! Follow your nose from interest to interest, filling the thirsty well of your mind with tidbits that may come in handy in some future writing project—or may not. Even if you never use any of that cool stuff, I bet your writing self considers the time well spent. (Brain Pickings is a great place to start your nose-following quest!)
11. Earmark November. Each November, writers around the world take on the NaNoWriMo challenge. Short for “National Novel Writing Month,” NaNoWriMo provides support to get bigger projects done. While the NaNo official goal is 50,000 words on the first draft of a new novel, you might piggyback on NaNoWriMo’s energetic community to complete a more modest project—a short story, for instance, or one of those manageable projects you started back at number 4!
12. Throw your writer self a party. Pull out all the writing you’ve created this year and celebrate the sheer number of words you got on the page. Raise a glass, bake a cake, fling confetti. You’ve done good. Congratulations!
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