New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

by Nicole Starczak, SBWC Director
  1. Read more. The average adult reads 3 to 4 books per year, which is less than one book each season. But we are writers, so how about a modest goal two books per month? That’s 24 books this year. It sounds funny, writers needing a reading goal, but the sad truth is that most of the writers I know excuse themselves from reading by saying, “I don’t have time to read. I spend all my time writing.” Could you imagine your doctor telling you, “I don’t have time to keep up with medical journals. I spend all my time diagnosing.” We need to read. It is our nourishment and job requirement.
  1. Write consistently. Here’s a thought: If you wrote one page per day for all of 2012, by the end, you’d have a novel. 365 pages. Those pages may or may not be good, but you’d have a full-length manuscript ready to edit. And no, writer’s block is not an excuse. As declared by his father whose work appeared in the newspaper everyday for fifty years, Monte Schulz told me, “Only amateurs get writer’s block. Professionals can’t afford it.”
  1. Send your work out. Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, sent out 60 letters to agents over a period of three and a half years. The 61st got her an agent, and three weeks later she had a publishing deal. We must be brave and expect rejection as part of the artist’s life. Despite the tumultuous state of the publishing world, agents and publishers still have to put food on their tables, and there’s only one way to do that: take us on as clients and sell our books. The late Anne Lowenkopf once told me, “It’s not always the best writers that get published, but the most persistent.”
  1. Participate in a writing community. It’s so easy for us to hobbit in our homes, curled up in our sweatpants with laptops and coffee. And from there, it’s not much trouble to find Twitter or Facebook. I won’t knock the importance of online communities, they are wonderful places to learn and connect with others, but they cannot do so well what physical presence does: humble and stimulate. How interesting to be in the same room as other writers! They are our friends and our competition with personalities that are simultaneously fragile and egotistical (I’m not sure how this combination can exist in nature, but I’ve also seen it is peacocks and poodles.) Whether this is a writers conference, a writing class at the local community college, or a writers group, participating in a community of writers is a wonderful place to stretch your literary muscles and make 2012 the year of your bloom.
  1. Find a mentor. Saul Bellow was mentor to Philip Roth. Alan Moore to Neil Gaiman. Mentors inspire us. They give us models for how to behave, provide encouragement and hopefully honesty. Think about it, why didn’t your parents want you to hang around the kids who smoked cigarettes? Well, now you’re a grown up and you want to hang around the folks with all those books on their shelves, some of which (gasp!), even have their name printed on the covers. Well, here’s to hoping publishing in 2012 is contagious like naughty teenage behavior.