Talking to Carol Cooper yesterday about resolutions for the New Year got me thinking about my own. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this past year was full of so much promise, so much untapped potential, that I feel like now is a good time to focus on self-improvement to turn that potential into reality. Here are my New Year’s resolutions as they pertain to writing.
1. Read more books.
Last year was kind of shameful, frankly. I think I made it through a total of maybe 23 books, and while I’m cutting myself some slack because I had an entire month where I couldn’t read anything and I also took on the monstrosity that was Infinite Jest, I still need to read more this year. The best way, in my mind, to improve my craft as a writer is to experience as many styles of writing as possible. Which means I need to read a lot more this year than I did last.
2. Read more books by women and writers of color.
Last year was also somewhat shameful in terms of how few books I read by women and minorities. Granted, many of the ‘classics’ of Western literature were written by white men, and classical literature is a field I’m trying to explore more, but that’s no excuse for not incorporating more works by authors of color and by female authors – not to mention the fact that there are plenty of ‘classics’ written by minority voices that I’ve yet to explore. Old (often dead) white men are great, but there’s a world of literature and a whole range of experiences that I need to explore a lot more than I have thus far. (I’ll be accepting suggestions and recommendations for books to read in this field, if anyone wants to offer any.)
3. Write in my journal more often.
My journal is where I practice my best introspective writing. The words I set down there are always deeply personal and emotional, and writing in my journal is what allows me to explore the human condition in all its loneliness, confusion, and mystery.
4. Write (and read) more short stories.
I’ve never been especially fond of short stories, so this will be one of the harder resolutions for me to keep. But my dad made a great point recently. He said, “short stories are wonderful as a writer because they allow you to practice different styles and experiment with different voices.” This is probably true, and I’ve been shutting myself out of that format for years because I don’t connect well with short stories. But if I want to diversify my skill set as a writer, to broaden the range of brush strokes I can use on my canvas, I need to read and write more short stories.
I always feel weird saying this in public, because it sounds super hippie-religious, but it’s really important to me. It’s a resolution I make every year and never keep, but I keep making it every year in the hopes that one year it will finally stick. Meditating is a great way to focus your energy. Simple, easy breathing routines get me out of my cycles of stress and anxiety and allow me to concentrate on the tasks at hand that day. It also lets me to see where my mind leads me when I’m allowing it to ramble, which is a great way to explore new avenues for stories, characters, and worlds.
So, that’s what I’m going to focus on in 2014. What are your New Year’s resolutions? What are you doing to improve as a writer and a reader?