Ah, mid-January. Are you already sick of posts about new year’s resolutions, writing resolutions included?
Are we still, somehow, finding clickbait in the promise of some brilliant hack or promise that could set us up for success?
No hacks here, fellow writers and friends. Just some gentle reminders that have resonated with us in this month of taking stock. We hope they’ll resonate with you, too.
Shore up your faith in yourself.
I recently found myself nodding along to an “Armchair Expert” podcast interview with psychologist Phil Stutz. He offered some visual ways of looking at the world, one of which was a paradigm with three boxes descending in size: faith at the bottom (the largest), action in the middle, confidence on top (the smallest).
That faith at the base of it all is not spiritual, necessarily (though that can be a part of it), but faith in yourself—faith that a good outcome toward a certain goal can and will occur. Here’s the catch: The second you try to find some kind of proof, reason, or evidence to prop up that faith (because that’s our instinct, right?), it isn’t faith anymore.
But once you have faith in yourself, “Then you can take action: Not because you’re sure that the action will succeed,” he explained, but because “you’ve developed faith so if it doesn’t succeed, you have the power or the strength to keep on going.”
Which brings us to the third box: Many people think they need to have confidence before they can get serious about taking action, but the opposite is actually true. Action builds confidence.
I share this here because Stutz wasn’t speaking specifically of writers, or even creative individuals, but he immediately set my mind spinning about how often we speak of writing as “a leap of faith” without necessarily putting faith at the bottom of our own paradigms. If this resonates with you, there is plenty more from Stutz, including a Netflix documentary called “Stutz” and a co-authored book called The Tools. But you can take it by itself for what it is: Not just permission, but encouragement to have faith (or more of it, at least) in your writing goals. What better time to start than right now?
(Need some ideas of what that “action” can look like? Try our evergreen “5 Smart Ways to Invest in Your Writing This Year”.)
Follow (and unfollow) strategically.
If you’re like me, you’re probably resolving to cut back on social media instead of spending more time doom-scrolling. But being smarter about who you follow—and, therefore, what you see in your feed—can actually keep you on task.
Are you following the sorts of writers you want to be when you grow up? The ones who are writing in your genre or succeeding in some other way you admire? The ones who will inspire you to smile at what they’re doing, and then turn off your phone and get back to work? If not, do it now.
For publishing related content, there’s no need to overwhelm yourself, but why not start with two of my favorite industry follows on Instagram: literary agent Carly Watters and The Hot Sheet editor/founder Jane Friedman. (Yes, they’re on other platforms too, but Twitter is a mess right now, and Instagram is where they shine.)
Conversely: The people who are sapping your energy, the groups where all people do is complain about how unfair the world is? Unfollow. If you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings, mute them instead (an option on most platforms) or turn off your notifications for a whole toxic group.
Expand your definition of “writing.”
Intimidated by the idea of writing every day, but wanting to make it a doable priority? Expand your definition of ‘writing.”
You can make “writing” progress by assigning yourself a brainstorm topic and going for a brisk walk, doing some housework, or taking a hot shower. (Dictate notes into a phone or run for your notebook as soon as you’ve toweled off.) Or by spending some time in an unfamiliar part of town where you’d like to set a scene. Or by researching that thing you’ve been thinking about adding to Act 2.
Not going to get to your manuscript today? That 300-word email or blog post you spent a lot of time on is writing too, you know.
It’s not cheating to expand your definition of what it means to write every day. It’s what writers do. (Want some company in this goal? Join our discussion on Facebook.)
Happy New Year, friends. Let’s make it a great one.