When I was calling the shots at Writer’s Digest, our staff would prepare for every new year by brainstorming an editorial calendar of issue themes. It was equally exciting and daunting, thinking ahead to so many new topics and angles at once… But starting was always easy. Because we never needed new ideas for January.
January was a given—so constant it was almost a running joke.
- This Is the Year You Write That Book!
- 2020: Your Year to Finally Tackle That Book!
- THIS Is the Year, Even If You Swore Last Year Was the Year!
Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s swing over to my shelf:
Geesh, you’re probably thinking. How lazy. Come up with something else, will you?
Not a chance.
Because those issues sold like gangbusters, year after year after year. We weren’t uninspired; we were meeting demand.
If it ain’t broke, as they say, don’t fix it. Or in this case, if it is broke, keep trying to fix it!
I don’t point this out to be discouraging, but the opposite. We’re all in good company; we’ve all stared down a clean slate with the best of intentions. But even with self-discipline, lecturing ourselves to keep our butts in the chair will get us only so far. We need a plan, one that goes further than making ourselves a promise or even setting a weekly word count goal.
We need to set ourselves up for success. Which I’ve learned means:
We need to invest more than just thought into achieving our long-term writing goals.
We must anticipate the inevitable day when we’ll lose steam, and plan ahead for it.
Here are 5 Smart Ways to Invest in Your Writing now, so you’ll be more likely to meet your goals in the year ahead.
Join an author group, in person or online.
Your investment: Time.
Your return: Tap into the power of solidarity, and the morale boost that comes with it. Seek out accountability partners. Sure, your spouse wants you to succeed, but he also wants you to watch the new season of Schitt’s Creek with him (what can I say? the guy’s got good taste). Find sounding boards, and use them—sure, you can commiserate, but you’ll do better if you keep that to a minimum and trade advice (best practices, favorite resources, leads on opportunities) instead.
Subscribe to a publication that will make you feel like a writer—and keep you savvy.
Your investment: Minimal $.
Your return: The signal you send to yourself that you’re serious about this; the reminders (all year through!) that will come directly to your mailbox or inbox when you need them most; and, of course, the valuable info inside.
For craft advice in an affordable, good ole fashioned paper format, my favorite is still Writer’s Digest magazine (currently $19.96/year, $29.96 for two). Obviously I’m biased here, but it’s the highest circulation publication in its class for a reason. You might outgrow the tips for things like finding an agent, but the craft instruction, interviews, and inspiration are evergreen.
And for industry trends, my favorite is Jane Friedman’s weekly e-newsletter (30-day free trials available; $59/year thereafter) The Hot Sheet.
Sign up for a conference or retreat—whether as a speaker (if you’re already published) or an attendee.
Your investment: Registration fees and possibly travel (unless you’re speaking, in which case expenses are likely to be covered).
Your return: Networking. Education. Positive energy. Momentum. You could meet your literary hero, get signed by an agent, or take the workshop that will set off a life-changing lightbulb. You’ll also have that date marked on your calendar to work toward and look forward to—and that alone can be a powerful, motivating thing.
Feel pretty: Get a laptop, case, and bag you actually like.
Your investment: Depends on where you already are with this. As expensive as a replacement for your old, buggy machine, or as inexpensive as a new $10 keyboard skin.
Your return: Have you ever heard the advice—often given by fitness experts around this time of year—to buy an outfit you’ll feel good working out in? Something about trading your old T-shirts and sweats for a sleek new moisture-wicking number is supposed to make you want to go to the gym. And you know what? I believe it: Our brains are highly suggestible things. Writers rejoice about being able to do our job in those same comfy yoga pants, but we can “dress the part” when it comes to a gorgeous leather-bound journal or whatever novelty laptop case makes you smile. If it makes you want to write, it’s worth it.
That thing you’ve had your eye on.
Your investment: You tell me. You know what I’m talking about—the bright, juicy carrot that always catches your eye but then you talk yourself out of it. Maybe it’s the allure of Scrivener, but you’re daunted by learning a new program. Maybe it’s a webinar that you’ve been wanting to take, but it falls during your kid’s soccer practice.
Look, I’m not suggesting you drop a bunch of money that will become the equivalent of a dusty, neglected treadmill. The beautiful thing about writing is precisely that you don’t need anything other than a blank page and pencil to do it. But if there’s something you’ve been truly wanting to splurge on, I actually think the start of a new year is a good time to go for it. You’re not depriving yourself of fun things to get more writing done (ever notice how many resolutions have to do with cutting things back?). You’re splurging on the thing you wanted to get your writing done. No regrets.
Your return: Feel the thrill of toggling between chapters way better than you could in Microsoft Word. See how worth the hassle it was to bum your kid a ride to practice just this once. Saying yes to yourself can make you want to do it again.
And for that, you’ll have to get back to writing.
Because this really can be your year.
(Hop on over to our Facebook discussion to share your goals—and your own tricks!)