Divide and Conquer: The Habits of A Writer

Whether published or unpublished, full-time or part-time, writers have daily habits and obligations that they need to deal with. Probably you’re working a nine-to-five, or probably you’re still a student. It’s understandable – you have a workload you simply can’t ignore, although on occasions circumstances allow you a bit of downtime. So you use that downtime to sit in front of your computer and watch videos until the sun rises. In between, you manage to squeeze in around five, maybe ten minutes – and if you’re lucky, a half-hour’s worth – of writing something, and it doesn’t even matter what kind of written piece it is. Just as long as you write.

I said it a lot before – taking advice from strangers on the Internet, like me, is sketchy, unless we strangers have concrete proof that our advice works. And even then, it might not work for you. But humor me first, because I certainly hope you can relate: writing does not, and perhaps cannot have a place in your daily routine. There’s the feeling that writing isn’t just something that can be as regular as your job, or the classes that you have to take every day, and you just can’t commit to projects that you start because you know you’ll never finish them anyway. Maybe in a few years, when you’re living a comfortable life thinking of nothing but your writing. If that day ever comes.

But if you do want to improve your writing – and writers out there usually do – you will want to make a habit of actually writing. And I say writing, because that is a vastly different activity from trying to write, the operative word there being “trying.” Writing means your attention is on what you’re writing, and you’re not preoccupied with thoughts of whether you should actually be writing. For starters, just write.

And it’s perhaps going to be a bumpy ride, incorporating writing and easing it into your routine. But if you want to go on a journey, the clichéd – but true – answer is that you have to begin somewhere, right? Bodybuilders don’t start out buff. Likewise, writers don’t churn out wonderful, moving pieces after the first try. It’s possible, I suppose, but rare. Uncanny, even. But the important thing to do is that you have to have a sense of how you spend your daily life. Don’t think about writing for the moment. Think about what you’re actually doing every day, sans writing. Do your best to estimate the number of hours you have to spend fulfilling schoolwork, or going from one place to another. If you want to go extreme, you might also want to think about how long it takes for you to bathe and how long it takes for you to finish your food. Getting a good sense of how you spend your time, and where you spend your time, will give you a good sense of whether or not writing can be comfortably involved in your day.

I also say where, because there are times when you’re in a certain place at a certain time when you don’t feel like doing anything at all, much less write. So recognize your daily activities, and where you spend them, and then think about writing. I’m not saying that writing should be low priority, but there are, certainly, things in life, obligations, that we cannot ignore. So think about your schedule, and think about the details, and think about the where and when, and think about where, in the chaos of these things, you will, so you think, be most comfortable with when it comes to writing.

Writing regularly does not necessarily mean a daily business, although the ideal is that you will be able to write something, anything decent, every day. I’ve already said these things in previous posts, of course, but it pays to repeat it until you get it in your head that writing is part of your daily – or weekly – rhythm. I suppose the best thing to compare writing to is physical work-out. I doubt many of us started out with a regular work-out routine that we followed aggressively, almost, perhaps, religiously. You start out small – light weights, fifteen minutes of cardio, maybe ten to fifteen squats a day. But the more you incorporate you routine, the easier your body – and you’ll be surprised to find, your time – acclimates to these changes. And then you can be more aggressive. So writing can be an every-other-day thing, a thousand words or two thousand. And you don’t have to be overly meticulous when it comes to writing – just write whatever comes, as long as you’re managing to write. The habit will ease into your habits and will eventually become a regular thing for you, something so natural and so normal that you have to do it every day. Or every other day.

That being said, bear this in mind, too: the aphorism that Rome wasn’t built in a day applies, certainly. Don’t worry too much about the quality of your writing, so long as you’re satisfied with it. To get into the habit, write first for yourself, and then think of others second. Certainly, like Rome, I doubt Joyce managed to pen down Ulysses in a single, smooth swipe, with his wit and his dense prose appearing on eight-hundred or so pages in one go. Although of course this is Joyce we’re talking about. And then you think of Finnegans Wake.

Some light joking aside, I’m not saying that this will be easy. Life happens, and if you’re not dedicated enough to your craft to be able to set aside time to work with it, it will not work with you. I’m also not saying that you should just drop everything else and just write, because in reality, that’s not really a good idea. I’m saying, though, that if you do get into the habit of writing, and if you incorporate it in your routine, someday you will produce something that will make all those hours worth it.

Like most things in life that you work hard for.

 

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Get Back Up Again: Why Staying Physically Healthy Is Important for Creativity

No one likes getting sick. Okay, maybe there are some people, especially if it gets them out of responsibilities – school, work, you name it. But the hardest thing to do after recovering is getting back up and going with the flow again, doing your best to catch up and fulfilling obligations that you’ve neglected because you were physically unable to. It shouldn’t be too hard if you had all the time in the world, or if no one relied on your work output. But the world doesn’t stop for people who get sick, which makes illness rather problematic.

The “real world” aside, getting sick is also problematic when it comes to working on your creative projects. You may already have hit that gold vein, may have found a lot of interesting things to fuel your fiction, and maybe you’re already on a roll. But then comes a rather debilitating illness that forces you away from your laptop, or your tablet, or what have you. Basically, you’re away from your keyboard for a few days, and perhaps during those few days you’re thinking about what you’re going to do when you recover. If you recover. Finally, that fated day comes, and you’re allowed to get back to your normal routine. Except when you sit in front of your laptop, and look at the documents you had to leave hanging for a while, nothing comes. The jolt of inspiration that should have built up over the past few and pretty much unproductive days is not there, and you’re left confused.

It’s a problem that a lot of people experience, but for those who are in touch of their creative side, getting back into the groove can be more difficult. Creative work already involves touching a certain mindset, and one already struggles with that kind of work even without illness. Meanwhile, recovering from an illness just makes it all the more difficult, because the body is still not strong enough to let you pay attention to your creative project. You may have heard of artists engaging in unhealthy habits to get that creative mindset running, but go overboard and you may not be able to get that mindset running, at all.

So what am I getting at? It’s important to stay healthy. Whether it’s your eating habits, or sleeping habits – and both are questionable things, where a lot of famous artists are concerned – make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep or the right kinds of food. Junk is easy to eat, sure, but it pays to eat the right food. Among other things, of course. Find time to get away from your keyboard for a few minutes to an hour a day, maybe have some exercise – and exercise will help, because physical activity will help get the mind running. There’s no problem getting back to your creative project after a quarter or a half-hour of work out, compared to getting back to work after you get sick.

Finally, as much as you’re making a habit of writing a lot, make it a habit to follow physical work-out or healthy eating habits. You might be surprised at how these will all work together to help you actually deal with your creative work.

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Knowing When to Reject Yourself

A friend once told me about a short story he had been writing. He’d had the piece revised over and over, no doubt had invested a lot of time just writing it, and was incredibly – and reasonably – proud of it. But he brought the piece over to a group of friends who happen to be writers, and they – so he told me – crushed the piece and left it bloody. When he was telling me about it, he looked understandably forlorn and frustrated, but relieved to have a group of honest, critical people, who were willing to tell the truth about his piece. Which was that it wasn’t working for them.

Rejection is a reality, and it will hurt if your piece gets rejected. Different people have different tastes, and constructive criticism comes from people whose views don’t gel perfectly in harmony with yours, and therefore may have different ideas on what ‘good’ writing is. I realize that ‘good’ is hardly a helpful word when it comes to trying to place your work on a spectrum of quality, but different people have different ideas of what ‘good’ is, and what you think is good may not be what good is for others. So you think what you’ve written, worked hard on, and nurtured, is good. Great, even. But then you get friends to read it and they just turn it over and inside out, and you’re left hurting.

The reality is that yes, it’s probably not as good as you think. The thing with getting someone to read your work is that you’re asking – maybe even begging – for criticism, and if someone invests enough time, energy, and critical thought into putting your piece through a workshop, then you should at least be ready to consider what they’re saying. Often, critics – even if they’re just your friends – are ready with a sharp tongue and a careful eye, pointing out the holes and the cracks in a piece you’ve worked so hard on you’ve become blind to them. And you must be ready for the criticism, because – and especially if you consider the important things they say, and not take them personally – it will help you improve. Perhaps you might want to get back to that piece. Perhaps you might want to write a new one. But the bottomline is that getting criticism is important.

Now, if you’re like my friend, whose work, it seems, wasn’t simply just critiqued, but aborted, then that’s another level of difficulty right there. My friend had a hard time accepting it, of course. But it pays to know, accept, and even look at that kind of rejection as a blessing. You might have been doing something that didn’t click, and your friends – hopefully writers, too – just thought you’d be wasting time if you kept on working on it. Then again, maybe it’s a piece that’s not for them. But another thing is that you need to learn to let go of a piece you love if it’s not working as well as you thought it would work.

Criticism, rejection, and letting go of something you’ve written and loved is a part of the writer’s life. Published or not, a writer should be able to recognize where good, constructive criticism comes from. A writer must be able to accept that a piece is already becoming toxic, and that friends would be able to point that out. In the end, this is for self-improvement. And who knows? Maybe the piece that everyone didn’t like might find a different, more accepting audience someday.

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Roots: Why Recognizing Your Inspirations Is Important

It’s easy to plunge headfirst into the reckless abandon of engaging in creative exercise, writing your way a thousand words a day through a story that you’re probably making up as you go along. It’s easy, as well, to attempt to convince yourself to continue working on your creative project. All you really have to do is look at the goal you want to reach, and set your sights onto that goal, for you to push yourself. It may or may not be very effective, but it can work.

But it’s funny, because we talk about what we want to do, and what goals we want to reach, and what highs we want to achieve, without talking about our roots. Sure, we started out somewhere, at some point, finding that writing is an activity we’re comfortable with, for example. Or speaking in public. Or drawing. Or making music. A lot of pursuits stem from something, but it’s important to look back. Way, way back. To your roots, to be precise. And by roots, I mean your inspirations. The people who have influenced you, basically, to pursue your passions. And by influence, I mean both positive and negative.

What we should remember is that just about everything we choose and everything we encounter has an impact on our lives, and when it comes to creative pursuits, a lot of things figure into that. I suppose the easiest and most obvious thing to look at is your favorite author, and the author you really don’t like at all. Or texts, actually. Which texts do you like? Writing styles? Genres? Which don’t resonate with you? Your personal reading library will show you the kinds of things you like, and have been reading, and how these texts you own and like or dislike have somehow influenced your own work. I speak in terms of books and authors but this can also be applied to many other things.

It’s also important to think of why these texts resonate with you, or why these texts don’t. It’s simple to look at a book, read it, and say, “okay, I liked it.” And then what? Which parts of it did you like and dislike, and which parts do you think need development? Why did a certain author even become your favorite, in the first place?

Starting out by answering those questions and digging into the roots of your passion is already a pretty light and easy way of being critical – both of your own work, and of others’ works. Blind devotion to a single author is sketchy, especially when you sit down, start writing, and think of the ingredients that make up your favorite work. So what? They have heroes like this, villains like that. So does every other book. It’s like a meal, isn’t it? Something a chef cooks consists of ingredients that one can get from just about anywhere – it’s what the chef does with it that makes it unique, or gives it its own flavor. Which is true about texts, about writing, about creative pursuits, and about inspiration.

The final thing then, is this: know what you like, why you like it, what you can improve about it, and what you can do about it if you’re given the “ingredients.” Knowing the raw material and digging into the roots will help you eventually craft a better – hopefully – creation than you’ve ever imagined.

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Too Much of Anything: Why It Pays to Organize Ideas

Creative work, when you’re really driven, can be both exciting and frustrating. Exciting because you have a ton of ideas you want to execute, and you think them all brilliant, and they’re all floating in your head. Frustrating, precisely because of the same reasons.

I’m willing to bet you’ve heard the saying “too much of anything can be bad for you,” or variations thereof, the point being that an excess of anything will do more bad then good, and the moral being that you just have to moderate everything. And it is true, only the idea is associated more often with food, work, and spending money, more than anything else. Eating too much is unhealthy, and overthinking is unhealthy. It’s also true when it comes to creative work – getting too many ideas in your head and trying to execute them all at once will lead to you producing nothing of value, or something of little value. It’s easy to say that you can devote part of your time for this one creative project, and then another part of your time for another, putting everything in compartments and juggling things all at once. That’s something you can try doing, but whether or not it will work is something else entirely.

Having too many ideas will overwhelm you at some point, and it’s inevitable. Trying to tie them up and make something coherent out of them will give you a hard time, and maybe at some point you will give up on all your projects. While I’m still sketchy about giving pieces of advice (and these sometimes contradict each other, I’m aware), what you can do, when you feel overwhelmed is this: empty your mind.

Cut off the ideas that aren’t fully developed yet, the ideas that you’re not completely satisfied with. Ideas that sound okay, ideas that you can explain if someone asks you about them, you stick with. Organize your ideas. Brainstorming is a fun thing, and it likely yields a lot of interesting results, but having too many little things flowing will become to much in the long run. Group ideas and concepts together under general headings, and think of how one is related to another, before jumping in to attempt to execute your ideas. It’s a stretch, certainly, and I’m speaking only in broad terms, but I can’t really be very specific about this. The idea, though, is that a lot of ideas will seem indispensable at the start, and these may even be things you’re proud of or are unwilling to part with. But if your head’s streaming with a lot of ideas, a lot of concepts, sit down and ask yourself: are you really up for everything? Are all the things you’re thinking about things you want to execute, things that make sense, things that you can develop? When you try to group and organize your ideas together, you will realize which ones can be discarded and which ones can be kept. It pays to organize, because it will help you produce a tighter output, something less general, something more interesting, something that makes more sense.

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Real Worlds: World-building

Part of what makes a lot of stories compelling is the world in which the characters live and breathe in. World-building isn’t just confined in literature, because a lot of shows, movies, and video games make use of made-up settings for the narrative, and populate these settings with a lot of different people. It sounds like a really tough job, making a world from scratch, especially if you consider all the work you have to put into it. Countries, cultures, industries, government, a magic system (if applicable, of course) and religions are just some of the things one needs to develop in order to create a convincing, living setting. And sure it’s daunting, and it almost feels like you need to iron out every little detail – down to the kinds of animals that live in the forest – just to make sure everything falls into place. And then you have to check and recheck every detail in order to achieve consistency. And that’s not even putting the story into things.

I’m hardly qualified to tell you about world-building and give tips, as I’ve never been published before and I’m convinced that I haven’t managed to make a good enough world that’s not a carbon copy of some other world that’s already made, or a half-baked, pieced-together Frankenstein’s monster of a world. I have, however, tried to build enough worlds to know that I’ve been doing it with a certain pattern in mind, and here are the things I usually do:

  • Make a map. I love books that have maps, and I love the details put into them. Having a map for a setting makes the world all the more enticing, because maps provide a sense of realness. So you could try – if you haven’t already – making a map for your own setting, putting a good amount of time into details: borders between countries, landform locations, important landmarks, cities, towns, villages, waterforms, names of relevant places – you get the drift. I find making maps a pretty fun activity, and – although I don’t guarantee it – it may give you a better sense of physical distances between locations, which may, in turn, help with generating a sense of authenticity.
  • Give names. Names to important places, events, dates, and institutions, that is. A world needs to have culture. You don’t have to name everything from the start, because that’s overwhelming. What you can do is start small – start with a town, or a city. A country. Detail its culture, its hierarchy, its industries, what people eat, wear, do, and joke about. The daily lives, preoccupations, and worries of the population all add another dimension to your world. And then, of course, once you have names, define them. It doesn’t help if you just have a name for an event that happens during, say, the summer season. Why is that event happening? What brought it about? Why do people celebrate it, if it’s a celebration, for example? Those things don’t have to be extremely detailed – just detailed enough for them to become relevant to the world you’re building.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. It’s tempting to create a world and obsess over every detail, but I’ve found that it’s not very healthy, especially if the world overshadows other equally important things, like the story and the characters. Remember to balance things, and remember to give equal weight to details that have to be pieced together to actually make the story work.

Like I said, I’m hardly qualified to say these things. But this comes from experience, however little. Budding writers jump headlong into creating worlds, only to find themselves stalling and confused in the middle, and I know the feeling. In the end, it still helps to consider the kind of world you’re actually building, and whether or not you like it. Details have to be nice, but easy enough for you to remember. Eventually, and hopefully, your world will come alive.

Professional Opinions:

I’ve given a few “tips” based on experience, but it helps a lot if it comes from the authors and the experts themselves. Here are a few articles on world-building to get you started:

7 Deadly Sins of World-Building / Writing Fantasy: Tools and Techniques (Brent Weeks) / Five Foundations of World Building

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Milestones and Motivations

It’s easy to lose grip of the purpose of what you’re doing, making it easier to abandon the exact task at hand, eventually leading you to failing to fulfill that precise thing. It’s a complicated matter, I guess, especially when a project starts out really slow and appears to go nowhere. A lot of times, it’s easy to just give up.

I’ve said a lot about advice, and about getting through something even if you’re experiencing difficulty, but I think it’s relevant to drive home the message again. This time, though, with a more general approach.

Whatever one attempts to undertake in life, the rule to be remembered is this (albeit a cliched rule): nothing good comes easy. If something’s worth anything, worth a lot, in fact, you can bet that a hundred people will try to pry it from your grasp. And “it” is a variable thing. It can be excellent academic standing. It can be recognition in the workplace. It can be, in broad strokes, fame, fortune, or variations thereof. And you try to walk down the road leading to your own goal, when halfway down you discover that you’re, somehow, inefficient, incompetent, and completely unworthy of the goal you’re attempting to reach. Which is a common mindset, of course, and something that everyone has to deal with. A little bit of self-deprecation goes a long way when you’re trying to humble yourself, but it will become debilitating in the long run, and you’ll discover that whatever road you’ve set out on, that whatever project you undertake, you’ll eventually cripple yourself and prevent yourself from completing it. “Ifs” and “buts” haunt you. You look at how well others are doing and think to yourself, you’re not really that good, so you can’t really reach their level.

We live in a world where progress is partly – but significantly – defined by how many Facebook likes you get, how many friends talk to you, and how often you update your social media accounts. Seeing people “live” their lives online makes you think that you have nothing good to post and present to a virtual public. Your pursuits are ignored by the people you share them with. Sometimes they don’t have time. Sometimes they just don’t care. And eventually you’ll think you don’t have time, or you don’t care. The project is abandoned. Dead.

That’s troubling and everything, I suppose, but the important thing to remember is this: there will be slumps. Hardships. But there is never only one way to accomplish something. There’s never only one path. What brought a friend to success may not be the road for you, because it lies elsewhere, with your passions.

To get you off the slump, it pays to look at what brought you to setting yourself down the path in the first place. Milestones that have added up in the past may have served as ladders to where you plan to go, and you have to remind yourself again and again that there is a purpose, and that (hopefully), what you’re doing is for yourself. At least, it started out that way. Reminding yourself of what you’ve accomplished so far, and what you want to accomplish, will help to get you to your goals. Like I said before, nothing good ever comes easy.

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Read/Write: Reasserting the Importance of Reading

Previously, I wrote about writing, and how it is an intimate experience. In fact, let’s stretch that, and say that, in the act of creation, artistic pursuits in general – composition, visual art – are intimate experiences on their own. But at the moment, I am reminded of something my professor in English Renaissance Literature told the class about. Once, she overheard some Creative Writing students adamantly refusing to read anything because it might influence their writing. Another local writer claims the same sentiment: you do not have to be a wide reader to be a writer. These attempts at justifying not reading comes off as weird to me, since reading should already serve as a springboard for the act of writing. It doesn’t help that big-name writers actually advocate reading a lot. I am here to reassert the importance of reading, and how it goes hand-in-hand with writing. You can’t separate one from the other, in other words.

Reading is as much an intimate activity as writing, though in a vastly different way that writing is intimate. Both acts involve the self and the text. Whether it is one writing the text or one reading the text does not matter – what matters is that we recognize the fact that one cannot read for another as much as one cannot write for another, in the purest manner possible. What I’m trying to say, in other words, is that when you read, you are engaged in an active exchange with the text. When you write, you are engaged in an active exchange with what you are writing. Both are not simply centered on what the material is. Both are centered on what you are, what you think of, and what you do with the material.

That’s all fun, but how significant is this? Since we’re focusing on reading and its importance, let me get one thing clear (and I don’t think it has to be said because it’s obvious, but I will still say it for the sake of emphasis): reading is an intellectual and active experience. Maybe physically you’re just sitting down, but your mind flits here and there, examining the cracks in the text, examining the text’s texture. Whether you notice it or not, when you read a text, you are developing your own understanding of it. Your own interpretation. This interpretation cannot be invalidated by anyone else, because it is how you understand the text to be structured – only that you have to assert your interpretation by picking out supporting details within the text (and even, in certain cases, outside of it), and strengthening your argument as to why you believe in that certain interpretation. Literary theory is filled with a lot of ways on how to read or understand a text – psychoanalytic, Marxist, feminist, to name a few – but literary theory does not always hold. Reading, in short, develops your own ability to understand a text. It develops your ability to discern particular details, figure out puzzles, find explanations, and string them into a whole that will, hopefully, make sense. And the important thing here is the linchpin: you. You read primarily for yourself, and you think primarily for yourself. Combine this with a text that can be interpreted in a number of ways virtually infinite, and that’s just a daunting map to navigate.

As for reading not being a necessary thing for one to write? That’s an easy way to get out of the act of reading itself. Influence is inevitable, and it comes from everywhere. Reading makes you understand how a text is supposed to work – or not work – for you to be able to write something yourself. It’s not helpful if you don’t read. The nuances of texts will escape you, and the effectiveness of writing will follow in its wake.

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Starting the New Year and Keeping Track

Goodreads is one of the most popular websites on the Internet when it comes to books. It helps in keeping track of what you want to read, have read, and are reading, besides giving recommendations based on the titles you’ve put in your virtual shelf. One of the interesting things they did before the year ended is to show the user his or her year in books – basically the full list of titles one has read over the course of the year. The website is one big system that organizes things and keeps track of your reading progress for you, which is really, really useful, especially when you forget to do it – or are too busy to do it – yourself. At the start of the year, meanwhile, Goodreads also asks you to fill in a blank space on your homepage, asking you how many books you plan to finish for the year. It’s Goodreads’ yearly reading challenge, and it’s supposed to push you to keep track of your own reading progress, while reminding you how many books behind you are, or how many books in advance you’ve read.

That’s all interesting and fun, especially if you’re concerned about statistics and how many pages you’ve read in the year, and which genres you’ve spent time with the most (and Goodreads has a handy statistics page for you number nerds), but I think it’s meant to be teaching us something. If you do have a Goodreads account, you might have checked out the “Year In Books” feature, and might have felt, perhaps, frustration or fulfillment as you read the list. But a website like Goodreads only shows you what you’ve done over the year, and how you basically interpret or evaluate your choices over the course of twelve months is up to. I recognize the possibility that, perhaps at a certain point in the year, you may have been in the mood for, say, Japanese Literature, or Greek, and did a lot of binge reading. Or you may have become sick of certain genres, and consciously avoided them when it came to reading.

The thing is that lists are cold, hard, factual things. Usually. Keeping track of your reading progress will help in your decision making over the next year, and this new year – if you do treat it as a blank slate, or a new beginning, like many others treat it – is an opportunity to read things that you didn’t read/have actively avoided in the past. If, say, your list lacks a lot of graphic novels, you might want to consider throwing in graphic novels in the mix. If your list lacks a certain genre or author, keep it at the top and consider it a carry-over from the past year – a part of your unread list that you’ve been meaning to read but never had the opportunity to.

I realize that this may be sketchy, common-sense, shallow advice, but the bottomline is that you may be able to discover new interests in the course of taking risks on even what seems as trivial as book choices. Expanding horizons and opening doors by reading a lot will hopefully take you somewhere you want to be. Reading can serve as a solid foundation for writing something good, something that pushes your creativity to the limit, and if you’re looking to start the new year in an interesting way, start keeping track of your reading progress and maybe look back the next year and see how far you’ve gone.

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Clean Slates and Beginnings: The New Year and Creativity

I’ve already written something related to the New Year before, but it’s about looking back and evaluating yourself, instead of looking forward. The New Year is interesting because, even if it, realistically speaking, just another year – and the coming of it just another new day – a lot of people put stock in the fact that it represents a fresh start. For what? I don’t know. It varies from person to person, and may involve, among other things, trying out new things, going somewhere you’ve never gone to before. Which are all really nice goals, and which help make the start of the new year something really exciting. At the very least, you have something to look forward to.

But these kinds of goals are things I like to think of as “one-time” goals. Once you’ve accomplished them, they can never really be replicated, because they are events that are merits in themselves. And so people make new years’ resolutions, which may or may not be thrown out of the window after the first week.

In terms of creative output, though, it may be a little harder. Often, an artist is comfortable with the excuse of not being in the mood to write, or draw, or paint or something, and while I’m against forcing oneself to make something while not being in the right mindset, sometimes it’s nice to have something to push yourself to do something. Since the new year is a sort of blank slate, why not mark your own calendars with mini-deadlines and goals to achieve, in terms of creative output? A lot can be done there. It doesn’t even have to be limited to just writing, or drawing, per se. You can write a short story every month, or a few poems, and make sure to read a new short story every week. In a sense, it’s like working out, although much less physical and much more intellectual – unless actual physical work out gets your head going.

And stick to your mini-deadlines. One of the reasons why new year’s resolutions fail to work is because after going at it for a while, a person might not feel very comfortable about what he or she is doing, or is not seeing any huge, significant results that might convince him or her that the resolution is working. As with all things, do not be discouraged. It’s probably going to be rough at the start, especially if you’re, say, trying to write after a long period of not writing. A friend linked me to an infographic detailing two kinds of mindsets, and she was telling me that, for 2015, she’s going to adopt the “growth” mindset and push herself to the limit to see what things she can do. And I told her, “yeah, that’s a good mindset to adopt, and I suppose everyone can get something really good if they can just adopt that kind of mindset.”

Which might be true. But the important thing is, if you’re setting deadlines for yourself, making goals for your creative outputs, keep these in mind:

  • Make them realistic. Know your limits, and then try to find a good stretch so you can grow without overextending yourself.
  • Follow the resolutions. Lists are fun to make and often, people are so excited to start out, but no doubt somewhere in the middle it gets really tough. Just push through, and you’ll be fine.
  • Keep a larger goal in mind. If there’s something you really want to achieve for 2015, as they say, “keep your eyes on the prize.” And again, as people say, “no pain, no gain,” so really, you just have to run and grab it.

That said, here’s to a great year ahead!

And another thing:

I mentioned an infographic about two mindsets, and here it is (along with the article).

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