New Year's Eve. A time for reflection, looking forward, and resolutions.
Unfortunately, promises made under the influence of good friends and libations in the wee hours of New Year's morning are often broken by year's end.
So what's a well-intentioned writer to do?
Most experts agree that the more specific and realistic the resolution, the more likely a person is to keep it. Resolving to "write the Great American Novel in 2006", for example, is hardly realistic, and unlikely to be achieved. Resolving to write a solid first draft of a work-in-progress, however, is realistic and do-able.
Jazzed by caffeine and ideas fueled by what worked for me while pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College, here are a few of my writing resolutions for 2006:
1. BIC (butt in chair) from 10-2 Monday through Thursday working on creative (except for my once monthly SCBWI chapter meeting days.) All web surfing, "Kat's Eye" and listserve business, reading of other writer's blogs for inspiration, and emails MUST be completed outside of BIC time. No exceptions. This applies to phone calls, too. None allowed, unless caller i.d. indicates the school or a physician.
2. Marketing Fridays. Each week, I plan to dedicate Friday to the business side of writing. What do I mean by the business side of writing? All those tasks that we know we should be doing in order for our work to be read by The Powers that Be, but rarely get around to because it's safer that way. Or we spend too much time doing research and "business stuff," instead of doing the hard work and sitting BIC. So, I'm setting aside a day for the market stuff.
Some of the activities Marketing Fridays will include: researching the children's market for theme lists and contests, selecting items of interest to pursue, and prioritizing my writing schedule around these deadlines. During this time, I'll also read professional children's writer publications (including the SCBWI Bulletin and The Horn Book), analyze children's magazines for trends and preferences, draft query letters, and yes, gulp, submit something--even if it's just a query--every Friday.
3. Take at least one writing class to further my craft. Earning an MFA from Vermont College was one of the best decisions of my life. Not only did it save me from losing myself in caregiving for E, it immersed me in the craft I love, and connected me with a vibrant community of writers and teachers and friends for life. To achieve this resolution, I will identify a writing class before the end of the month, and sign up as soon as I learn when doctors plan to perform E's surgery. Taking a writing class will build in writing deadlines, allow me to improve my craft, help keep my skills fresh.
4. Attend meetings with my face-to-face writing group to twice monthly. The one-on-one meetings are an excellent way to keep constructive critiquing skills alive. The accountability keeps me writing. And the deadlines gives me permission to keep writing a priority.
5. Attend local SCBWI chapter meetings monthly and regional meetings regularly. These meetings are crucial to my writing life. Without them, it's easy to forget that every writer--even those who are published--wrestles daily with his or her inner critic.
6. Read. I'm a firm believer that writers need to read. How else to train the inner editor to learn how to recognize the beat of language and the music of prose? At VC we were required to log the books we read in an on-going bibliography. Not only did the list record our progress, it taught us about the movers and shakers of the industry, and increased our sense of who publishes what type of books. These days, I log books read in a separate notebook, making notes about what I liked/disliked about the work.