The beginning of a new year is an exciting thing. 365 days filled with promise, unsullied by mistakes, unspoiled by bad attitudes or hurtful remarks. A year is a powerful thing, and it’s exciting to have a new one ahead to conquer.
Except when it’s not.
Sometimes the thought of a new year, combined with the disappointments of the year (or years) past, can be intimidating instead of exciting. As much as we would like to leave the burdens, disillusionment, and frustrations of the previous year behind us, that’s a difficult thing to do. Sometimes, it really is impossible. Maybe resolutions failed, writing goals weren’t met, or projects that we were so enchanted with at the beginning of the previous year have fallen flat and lost their magic. Writing is a tough business, and more than that, it’s a slow one. Contracts aren’t signed overnight, books take years to be written and revised, and ideas that were hatched two, even three years previously still haven’t been given the attention and love they deserve.
In short, it can be very easy to reach the beginning of a new year and, instead of resolving to put all the effort and love you can manage into your stories, decide instead to let that dream die.
After all, dreams die all the time, don’t they? Writers quit, they find new pursuits, and books molder in drawers instead of being published and passed to the world.
But it doesn’t have to end like that. Writing can be discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be. The beginning of a new year SHOULD be exciting, no matter what is behind you.
Here are five tips for entering the new year as a conqueror, instead of feeling defeated before you even start.
1) Look back at the year past—and choose to see the good in it.
As a writer, nothing you do is wasted. Pages that have been trashed, agents that have turned you down, blogs that have failed, all of them have taught you valuable lessons. Every word you write, whether it’s been deleted or not, has brought you closer to where you want to be.
2) Be comfortable with baby steps.
Writing is slow. Publishing is slow. Getting a book into the world is slow. An impatient writer is a frustrated writer and a discouraged one. Enjoy the moments, allow them to pass as slowly as they need to, and be content with the knowledge that however slow you are going, you’re still so, so far ahead of those who have never dared try.
3) Don’t base your success on someone else’s decisions.
I see so many resolutions from writers that talk about getting an agent or landing a contract. I am all for reaching for the stars, and especially for setting big goals. But landing an agent or a publishing contract is not a goal that you can reach on your own. Ultimately, it comes down to their decisions. Whether your book is right for them and their business at the moment, and whether they have room for another client.
And if you are discouraged and struggling to continue, the last thing you need is a resolution that you have no power over.
Still, we don’t want to throw those resolutions out the window, right? So, instead, consider changing the wording.
Instead of resolving to land an agent, resolve to perfect and polish your query letter and proposal. Have a certain number of agents that you want to send it to by the end of the year. Focus on your effort, your enthusiasm, and your dedication, instead of their decision.
Then, when the end of the year rolls around, whether you have a contract or not, you can be proud of yourself for doing everything possible to make your dream happen.
4) Realize that there is really only one way to fail as a writer.
A bad review is not a failure. A dead blog is not a failure. An idea that surged and died is not a failure.
The only way to fail is to quit.
Everything else is learning, everything else is a step forward, or redirection, or a bit of experience. If you continue, you will find your niche and you will find your story. So don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep writing, even when it looks hopeless from the outside.
5) Do what you love.
Before you resolve to hit this milestone or that one, pause. Resolve to rekindle your love for the writing. The stories. The characters that once caught your attention and persuaded you to take on their journeys and their passions.
The only way to write well is to write with passion. Readers know when you’re only going through the motions of being an author. You loved this craft once, and maybe you still love it now.
Take a moment.
Remember what it is about writing that you love. Journal with your characters. Renew your friendships with them. Explore the cities, the forests, the places that you write about, and linger in them. Smell the deep mould beneath the trees, the fresh brewed coffee at the coffee bar, or the wet pavement in the rainy streets.
Forget the logistics of followers, agents, queries, platforms, and contracts. Forget how many likes that last post received. Pause all of that.
Enjoy the journey. Love the writing. When your passion returns, then return to the rest.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.