- The aim this year is to develop a sturdier, deeper writing practice. A big part of that is combating distraction–and, not having a TV, a lot of my distraction lives in my computer. Much more on this later, but the basic plan is: begin the writing day with paper & pen, not at the computer; no e-mail till at least noon; no internet till somewhat later; no social networking like Facebook till late afternoon; and, crucially, a “computer Sabbath” from Sat PM to Mon AM.
- Another element will be to develop a more focused, regular routine. The above will, I think, go a long way towards that. Much more on this later as well: but I’ve come to believe that a writing practice can be buoyed greatly by a spiritual practice. Writing is very much a form of meditation–and a deep and difficult one at that. One can simply thrown oneself into it (which may work for some); or one can consciously develop the various ‘muscles’ (physical, emotional, spiritual) that go into sustaining a writing practice. I’m opting for the latter.
- Helping to ground that daily routine is a rough yearly plan. Basically what I’ve done is break up the year into thirds (I was tempted to go with quarters, but that makes for a lot of goals, and three months is a time period, it seems, that can really get away from you) and sketch out not only writing but reading goals for each. I’ve allowed myself to become far too unfocused and undisciplined a reader.
- One reason for the importance of a better routine this year is I’m going solo–withdrawing for the time being from writing groups and workshops. This is not to dismiss all I’ve gained (and may yet) from such group learning and collaboration. But there comes a point in a writer’s life where you’ve accumulated both some solid instincts on what makes a story work, and a critical mass of story ideas and ongoing projects–and where it may make sense to lean on those instincts, largely alone, and see how far you can take them. As a wonderful teacher once cautioned me: there are distances in a writer’s life, and in each individual story, that must be traveled alone. More on this, too, in a future post.
- But writing entirely in a bubble doesn’t sound like much fun, and so community will play an ongoing, if different, role in my writing life. I will continue to read for a small group of fellow writers: having a circle of trusted readers is essential for most of us. And when I make a commitment to read I will do so promptly (I was prompt for a couple of people last year, but not for others)–sharing work is a kind of sacred trust. I’m also hoping that limiting my time on the internet will generate greater focus and purpose for that time. The distractions of Facebook and other sites have caused me to neglect the deeper writerly connections offered at places like the Zoetrope Virtual Studio and the Poets & Writers Speakeasy.
- No definite goal when it comes to submissions (though if you are someone who hasn’t made submitting a regular part of your writing practice, that may be a good idea). At this point, 100 seems a minimal goal, and I expect to hit that. I have ten stories (a couple done, a few needing a polish, the rest a significant rewrite) I expect to send out in the first few months of the year: I’d like to have a bunch of stories in the till when I get to AWP in April. And I hope for another big run of submissions in the fall.