Making–and keeping–creative resolutions
It's not impossible, it just requires some reframing.
It's been shown repeatedly that New Year's resolutions aren't effective. The sudden burst of energy and ambition on January 1 is great for setting goals, but sustaining that energy is nearly impossible if the flip of the calendar was the main impetus to dream of change.
AND YET...I set some creative resolutions for myself this year:
Resolution #1: Become a better writer.
I've heard (and trust me, I believe) that most of writing is actually rewriting, but I had no idea how to begin editing my own work. How can you take an objective, critical eye when you've let your heart bleed onto the paper? I needed some training, so I turned to Megan Falley's Poems That Don't Suck class. She provided charts, and checklists, and mental models for thinking about how to make your words do more for your reader–all the things I needed to write a few pieces that pushed my comfort zone, then edit the heck out of them until the originals barely resembled the later drafts. I'm not exactly checking off this resolution as "achieved" yet, but I have more tools to get me there.
Resolution #2: Expand my creative formats; play more.
I'm talking form and medium for this one. In the writing itself, I want to play more with length, spacing, rhythms, genres. In its presentation, there's a lot of value in spoken word, mixed media, video, illustration. I don't want to let my creativity get stagnant.
So it was time for a change–the timing of which coincided perfectly with the start of #The100DayProject this year. As you may know, I'm a huge fan of the project. It's the reason I have anything resembling a writing process, a community, and a self-identity as a creative. I decided to take on 100 days of cutout poems, essentially adding words cut from magazines into handwritten pieces. On top of that, I'm sharing 100 days of prompts based on images cut from magazines as well. Last year, this small daily creation was immensely helpful for creating within constraints, turning off my inner editor for a while, and connecting to others for inspiration. I'm hoping the same will be true this year.
Resolution #3: Collaborate more/don't always create alone.
I discovered the joys of collaboration in 2020, and I'm committed to dispelling the myth that creation has to be a solitary act. Working with another person is a great way to see how their mind works, and to step into their shoes in a way that forces you to expand your usual boundaries and methods. Two poetry community friends set their sights on the same goal, and I'm excited to work with them on something collaborative once my 100 Day Project is over.
Resolution #4: Submit work for publication in lit journals; start thinking about a book or chapbook.
Writing some stuff and putting it online is easy enough, but striving to publish forces a greater focus on what the reader thinks. It means opening yourself up for rejection. And writing a collection also requires a change in perspective–how do my themes work together? What's my overarching thesis, and what sub-themes articulate that narrative arc over multiple individual pieces?
In writing this little letter, it hit me that exploration and play, collaboration, and striving to publish (resolutions #2-4) are all just ways to push boundaries and hone my craft. In other words, ways to become a better writer (resolution #1). So maybe that's a better way to handle the fraught concept of "resolutions" anyhow. I can reframe these 4 Big Goals™ as one main focus for the year, with three mechanisms that can help me get there.
And because "become a better writer" is a lifelong process of improvement and growth, there's no pressure to have an endpoint, and thus no getting disheartened and giving up entirely when progress is slower than I would like. I can resolve to do the same thing next year, and the year after, and the year after–repeat forever–and still have been achieving that goal the whole time.
Now that's the type of resolution you can keep.
A Rec or Two
Every now and then, a tweet about Ursula K. LeGuin's writing schedule recirculates. It's a rather sensible schedule, actually, in the grand scheme of things: wake up at 5:30am, eat "lots" of breakfast, start writing around 7:15, break for lunch, then "be very stupid" after 8pm (which is relatable, and certainly why the tweet has gone viral). This week was one of those times that everyone seemed to be sharing it, so I've been thinking about the concept and value of even having a writing schedule, let alone what various writers' schedules say about them.
To that end, here are two great pieces–one fairly serious, one almost entirely silly –on the topic.
The ideal routine by Austin Kleon (which breaks down LeGuin's aforementioned schedule and provides some solace for those of us who are a little...less than ideal)
I Copied the Routines of Famous Writers and It Sucked by Nick Greene (the title is a little clickbait-y, but the article itself perfectly toes the line between entertaining and informative)