My awesome husband gave me several books for Christmas. Yay! One of them is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. I canâ€™t remember who turned me on to this book (something I read online in the last six months), but I am so glad. Normally, I wouldnâ€™t be interested in a how-to book on writing that was published in 1934. I have the modern tendency to believe we have better ideas â€œnowâ€ than â€œthen.â€
But this book is great! The chapters on â€œHarnessing the Unconsciousâ€ and â€œWriting on Scheduleâ€ made me feel like an undisciplined child being scolded by an auntie. I started the two exercises in those chapters today. Tomorrowâ€™s reading is the chapter â€œThe Source of Originality.â€ Iâ€™m very excited about this because of my work in my masterâ€™s degree. Iâ€™ve found that some of my work appears to be exciting and interesting and original, but Iâ€™m afraid I wonâ€™t be able to expand it enough to make an entire novel of exciting, interesting, original characters and ideas.
That sort of (normal) fear is part of the reason I love mornings, the first of the month, and January: they are all opportunities to start again. Or â€“ to better express what I want to do with my writing â€“ to start fresh.
What do you want to do this year that is new or fresh? What do you want to do that youâ€™ve been wanting to do every year but still havenâ€™t managed yet? Do you have a fresh approach you want to try?
Since this is a time to think about whatâ€™s working and whatâ€™s not working, Iâ€™ve been thinking about myself at other ages. As long as I can remember, Iâ€™ve been a â€œwait till the last minuteâ€ person with homework and things that were required of me, like chores. But things that I loved, that seemed more like fun than work, those things I did quickly, easily, eagerly. (I spent countless hours playing my saxophone in high school, usually without being told to go practice by my mother.)
I used to think I waited till the last minute to do homework because I was so smart that I could still get an A without spending more time. Now that Iâ€™m older I tend to believe that if I can do a good or great job quickly and easily, how much better can I do if I spend some time at it? But in my past experience, I only spend time on things I think are fun.
So you can see my conundrum if I tell myself that writing is my job and I must do it or go back to accounting. My writing tends to be more sporadic rather than disciplined â€“ if I have to write, I donâ€™t want to, but if Iâ€™m having fun, I think I should be doing something more important. This uneven approach yields writing quality thatâ€™s good, sometimes very good, but itâ€™s not brilliant as often as I want it to be for a career novelist.
That is why I decided to read this book, Becoming a Writer. I know the technical aspects to writing, and I know the craft. What I donâ€™t seem to know as well as Iâ€™d like is â€“ me. What is going on in my unconscious? How can I relax and trust myself and find both self-discipline and self-confidence? I donâ€™t know if Dorothea has the answers, but the chapters I have left to read suggest in their titles that there are some awesome â€œah-haâ€ moments ahead. Iâ€™ll let you know what I find out. Or go buy or borrow the book yourself. (Itâ€™s got a $12.95 cover price, and is currently $5.95 on Amazon.)
I decided that I wanted to see if there are some things I can learn about myself that will help me in creating goals and plans that work better for me this year than in years past. With my usual optimism, I believe 2011 is going to be the best writing year yet! And I believe that believing it is half the battle. But I need to see if there are better ways to go about the work, ways that work better for me personally, ways to work with my natural self and not against myself. Itâ€™s a combination of faith and works together that will see me reach my goals.
If youâ€™re interested in some new ways to plan out your work and your year, check out the online class Iâ€™m teaching starting next week â€“ Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for Writers. Weâ€™ll be working through our own personal lists of what we want to get done and what needs to be done, and writing out a schedule of sorts to accomplish it with more peace and less stress. If you think this could help you start your new year off right, sign up now. Class starts Monday.
However you decide to make plans for 2011, make them now. Youâ€™ll accomplish more if you get even half of your goals accomplished than if you give yourself no goals at all.
Kitty Bucholtz is a writer and speaker, and a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of Australia. She co-founded Routines for Writers http://www.routinesforwriters.com/ a web site dedicated to helping writers write more. In 2011, Kitty will receive her Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing from University of Technology, Sydney.
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