Tag Archives: resolutions

How to do more writing, by someone who has never made any such resolution

Jonathan Lange asked on Google+ for ideas about keeping a “write more” resolution. I took over his comment section, and in the spirit of taking some of my own advice, here’s a synthesis of what I said there. Since not writing as much as I feel I ought is never a problem I’ve had, this advice is in the delightful genre of someone who has never needed the advice simply making some up and giving it to you anyway! Enjoy my half-baked ideas.

Re-use your writing. A lot of people I know spend an enormous amount of time on crafting lengthy, tightly argued emails. These count, and you can make them feel like they count by editing them for a sufficiently general audience and publishing them on your blog. This is one I actually do do: several of my Geek Feminism pieces originated in annoyed private emails I sent to close friends, or in IRC rants.

Accountability and incentives. This is like all of the “how to exercise more” advice: make it public, make it social. Make a public commitment, make a shared commitment with a fellow writer. Have a competition, one-sided or not (“I will write more blog entries than N will this year”?). Deadlines and someone who will be personally disappointed in you can be an excellent motivator (as long as it doesn’t tip you over into an avoidance cycle), and for writing there’s a whole profession which involves, in part, holding people to deadlines and being disappointed if they fail to meet them: so, find an editor.

Unfortunately, in order to get an editor one generally needs to pitch (leaving aside the whole question of finding an agent, especially when it comes to fiction), which means writing, so you will have to be motivated to do some writing before you can partially outsource your motivation to editors and deadlines.

Becoming a freelancer seems like a big effort in order to fulfil a personal goal to “write more”, but part of the attraction is that you can pitch to places that have a ready-made audience, which means that you have outsourced any implicit “write more in places people will read it and find it useful” goal; you don’t need to put an equal or greater amount of work into building an audience for your writing.

Specific goals. This assists with accountability. What does writing more mean? A certain wordcount? A certain number of blog entries? A certain number of pitches sent out? A certain number of pitches converted to published articles? All of these are more artificial but easier to keep accounts of than “write more”.

Spend money. Enrol in a course or similar. This adds deadlines too, typically.

The Year of Octavia Butler and James Tiptree Jr.

Last year, Skud wrote about attitude adjustment resolutions:

I’ve had good luck in recent years with vague resolutions that attempt to adjust my attitude. I think it was 2007 or 2008 when I said “never turn down an adventure”, and 2011′s was “be an artist”… in that vein, this year’s resolution… is GO TO THE SHOW.”

That’s not what I’m aiming for this year — not a lot that was wrong with my 2012 would have been solved by attitude adjustment even of the most fun and aspirational kind — but I like the idea of a resolution that isn’t a chore. I’m also short an obvious, and perennial, resolution because I actually did submit my PhD thesis in 2012.

So at today’s New Years Day party I came up with a resolution, which is to read works by Octavia Butler and James Tiptree Jr. at long last. I’ve decided on one a month. Obviously I will be reading other stuff while I am at it.

Here’s my schedule through to end of April:

  • By January 31: Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories
  • By February 28: Tiptree, Up the walls of the world
  • By March 31: Butler, Parable of the Sower
  • By April 30: Butler, Parable of the Talents

Just creating this list has shown that it’s going to be harder than I expected: the university library I live near, the largest in the country, will be close to exhausted by the end of April, except for rare books not available for loan.