Writing Resolutions: 2014 And Beyond

Last year, I did 25 writer resolutions for 2013 —

This year, I thought I’d add some more thought-midden to the steaming ordure heap that is this blog and toss out another ten resolutions for 2014.

Check ’em out, and if you feel so inclined: add your own to the comments below.

I Will Understand The Value Of Writing Advice

Writing advice as it exists, unregarded, is entirely neutral. It’s no different from me telling you how to make great chocolate chip cookies, or my favorite way to groom one’s pubic shrubbery, or the “best” way to get to Big Dan-Don’s Dildo Barn and Enchilada Factory. It’s either a pocket full of gold of a fist full of hot garbage — meaning, it either works for you or it damn well doesn’t. None of this — including anything I say here at this blog — is gospel. If a piece of advice sounds interesting or presents a solution to a problem of yours, then fuck yeah. Pick it up, try it out, see what happens. If it doesn’t inspire a change or challenge you to do differently? Then drop it like an angry squirrel. Also worth noting you should firmly get your order of operations straight: the writing comes first. The talking-and-reading-about-writing comes second. Writing advice is here to support your art, not support the illusion of your art.

I Will Try New Shit

It’s a weird new world out there for writers, and fortune favors the bold and occasionally batshit. Everything is changing. New tech. New ways to reach an audience. New ways to allow your audience to support you. And these changes in publishing can allow for changes in storytelling, too — the traditional system will remain in place and will continue to do the job it’s doing, but it will never be able to (or be willing to) accommodate riskier forms or formats. And that’s where you come in. Don’t you hate eating out with those people who get the same thing every time? “I’ll have the koala quesadillas with the deep-friend chimichurri hamster-bombs on the side. I’ll have these again and again until I die.” Nobody wants to see a storyteller do the same thing again and again, either. Be brave. Get weird. None of this is guaranteed. Safe art is boring art. Try stuff.

I Will Think More About Writing Than I Will About Publishing

You need to think about publishing. You do! It’s important. Publishing is how your work gets into the world. It’s how your story reaches its audience. You should be aware of your options and play those options. But at the end of the day, you’re more interesting as a writer. You will succeed in the long run based on how you write and on the stories you tell, not on what method of publishing you choose. Publishing is a container, and while choice of container is certainly important, it’s not the reason you’re here. If the only thing that makes you interesting is how you publish, your time in this creative place has a very short clock.

I Will Stop Thinking Of Myself As A Brand

Coca-Cola is a brand. Burger King is a brand. Big Dan-Don’s is a brand (“American Dildos made by American* Hands!”). A brand is a corporate identity. It is the standard-bearer of comfort and consistency: same burger every time, same bowl of cereal, same firm-but-squishy dongs. You are not a brand. You are a human being. Writing is your craft. Story is your art. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: who wants to read a story by a brand? (“Ah, the erotic culinary autobiography of the Burger King. Finally, it is mine.”) Your voice is what matters. Your ideas are what mark you. Your milkshake is what brings all the boys to the yard. You know what a brand is? A brand is the thing they use to mark a cow so that it gets identified with the rest of the mooing herd.

* translation: South American hands

I Will Protect Myself From Malefaction

Lotta sneaky fuckers out there who want to separate you from your money, your work, your good will toward man. Protect yourself. Check Writer Beware. Get a lawyer or a reputable agent to look over any deals. Eschew One-True-Wayism lest it drive you into a lake like some old-ass GPS that doesn’t have its maps updated. Stay frosty, word-nerds.

I Will Give My Work The Time It Needs

Sometimes a story comes out fast. Sometimes it comes out slow. And this isn’t just about a single story: learning to do this thing and do it well may not take the arbitrary 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell suggests, but it’s not learning to play beer pong, either. Overnight successes never are; what you see is just the iceberg’s peak poking out of the slush. This takes time. From ideation to action. From writing one junk novel to a worse novel to a better one to the ninth one that’s actually worth a good goddamn. From writing to rewriting to editing to copyediting. Don’t “just click publish.” Don’t just send it off half-baked to some editor or agent — they get hundreds of stories a day that are the narrative equivalent to a sloppy equine miscarriage or half-eaten ham salad sandwich. Don’t punish your potential readers by squatting over the Amazon toilet and voiding your creative bowels into the digital porcelain. Take pride in what you do. Go the distance and get shit done. Not just a little bit done, but all-the-way-to-the-awesome-end done.

I Will Earn My Audience

You don’t build an audience like it’s a fucking chair. And you don’t beat your potential audience about the head and neck with that goddamn chair, either. You earn them by being the best version of you. You earn them by being passionate and awesome and not-an-asshole. You don’t earn them by bickering. You don’t earn them through intrusive marketing missives. You don’t earn them through blathering yelly-screamy auto-DMs or through giant Hulk fists made of quivering spam. You earn them by being a person. A person who happens to have many amazing stories to share.

I Will Respect The Role Of Storyteller

Not everybody gets how awesome stories are. Not everyone understands how important they are. Stories are how we communicate. They’re how we talk to one another after a long day of work. They’re how we relate details of our world to our children. It’s how we impart lessons. It’s how we inform and update. Storytelling is news, entertainment, myth, religion, memory. As humans, we’re biologically a turbid broth of genetics — but intellectually, we’re stitched of a complex quilt of storytelling memetics. Other people won’t respect your role. They think what you’re doing is a half-a-jar of horseshit. But being a storyteller? Choosing to do this thing? It matters. Stories make the world go around. Respect the role, and your choice of it. Storytellers matter.

I Will Get Excited About What I’m Writing

Ten years of freelance writing taught me one thing: you have to find a way to get excited about a day’s worth of writing, or it’ll juice your mind like an orange in the hand of Andre the Giant. It’ll kill you and your love of it, because writing stuff every day that isn’t precisely yours is — well, it’s many times better than doing the hard work of being a retail countermonkey (been there), but it still becomes a kind of drudgery. And so what you do is you find a way to be excited about the work. You still make it yours. You own it. You claim it with the flag of your voice thrust into the earth of the work. And this is true with any writing you’ve got going on, whether it’s a personal project or freelance or a story you’re forced to continue at the hands of a rabid fan who has kidnapped you and hobbled you by chopping off your foot (YOU DIRTY BIRDIE, YOU). Discover your own door into the material. Find the You-shaped hole in every story. Getting excited during a day of writing makes it go easier. It makes it fun and insane and is one of the many things that can elevate the raw ore of craft to the glittery baubles of art. Get geeked about your story. Write what thrills you. Every day of writing, sit down and ask: what am I going to write that excites me today?

I Will Write

The simplest commandment of them all: write. Write a little or a lot every day but goddamnit, write. Whether it’s 350 words or 3500 — the only way out is through. Put words down. Smash them together and force them to tell stories. Boot distractions into the trash bin. Kick haters into the wood chipper. Get shut of fear — what are you afraid of? Not being good enough? You don’t get to good enough by sitting on your ass and staring into your hands. Drown your doubt in a washtub. We all have doubt. We’re all plagued by the bitey monkeys of uncertainty — the difference is, some folks let the monkeys weigh them down, and other folks just keep on staggering forward, flinging those chattering doubt-gibbons and fear-baboons into the brush. Write! Write. Write. Write your way through 2014 — a year in words, a year in stories, a year in getting shit done.

* * *

Out now:

 

51 comments

  • “I Will Get Excited About What I Am Writing” is 100% me. While I don’t have the 10 years under my belt (only 7 or so here), I’ve been doing copywriting and ghostwriting until my eyes and fingers and even my nose have bled. Many days, I hate it. But then I remind myself that I could be editing government proposals as I was once doing for the 9-5 and it’s not so bad. This year, my big resolution is to grind out AT LEAST half an hour every day for my own writing, no matter how busy the work schedule is.

    Also, agreed on the brand thing. I’m getting really tired of the handful of “I’M A SUCCESS, SO YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO ME” indie writers that insist on writers becoming a brand.

  • My mantra for 2014 comes from the great Rumi (1207-73) who was right on the money then and now.

    Come, come, whoever you are-
    Wanderer; worshiper, lover of leaving-
    What does it matter?
    Ours is not a caravan of despair.
    Even if you have broken your vows
    A hundred times-
    Come, come again, come.

    substitute write for come as needed.

    Happy 2014 to you

  • Chuck, you are a god damned treasure. Just when the “bitey monkeys” are dragging me down, you blog-scream in my face, yank me to my feet, and shove me back toward the front line. Thanks…

  • I will respect the role of storyteller! Yes indeed. Stories matter – the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we hear from others. We humans just naturally understand our world through the medium of story – it is the only thing that really changes lives. An thoroughly enjoyable last day of 2013 read.

  • Had writer’s block for YEARS. And then I did NaNo on the fly, at the request of a professional group member, November 1 with no idea what to write. Yes, I pants it and now I have bok one of a Trilogy. I got my writing groove back and now we have dare: 14 in 2014. That’s right, 14 stories for the year of 2014. So I will respect the role of story stelling and WRITE!! and then WRITE some more!! Thank you for the inspirations.

  • A few months into 2008 I started to call myself a writer and have been writing since. I have a few friends who actually read some of what I write and each year I hope will be the year others outside my circle will notice me and that something will come from it. Nothing has yet but I have so many stories and ideas in my head I don’t think I will ever stop. Thank you for the inspired words that will keep me going.

  • Awesomesauce list but… I don’t know what sort of cold dystopian world you’re writing from, because I’m pretty sure EVERYONE wants to read the erotic culinary autobiography of the Burger King.

  • I’m in much the same mind. This time last year I was half way through a script-writing MA and everything seemed easy, but the moment I left and ventured out into this dreaded realm known as ‘Real Life’ my life became hideous blend of Groundhog Day and The Shawshank Redemption, where all I seemed to have been doing was crawling through rivers of shit.

    But now I have a job to earn money with which I can buy things like driving lessons and other responsible crap. And all the while whenever I can, I scribble away on this and that.

    See at the end of my second semester, as I crossed over into dissertation country where you have a year to hand in SOMETHING, I set myself the lofty goal of creating an original TV series and writing 4 episodes, a tie-in radio play and a series bible. So far I have my bible and episode 1, with everything else in outline form. And each day, I make sure I hack away at least two scenes from the fever-dwelling that is my imagination.

    So far I am on course, so long as this itch to write a YA fantasy set in a world on caffeine addicts doesn’t tempt me off the beaten track with its hilarious world-making.

  • Thanks for those good words, Chuck. And thanks for your Challenges, which have started me off on a whole new full-length book starring the orichalcum miners. Looking forward to 2014. Hope yours is good too. Happy new year!

    • January 3, 2014 at 7:38 PM // Reply

      I am so happy to hear that!

      Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure my next MG novel was sparked by a FFA challenge story.

      I appreciate this nudge. I’ve been spinning my wheels since finishing my last draft in early Dec. I will say that time spent visiting Mom is important. But seems like I should have been able to write some too. I will read this list until I have my rhythm back!

  • Chuck, you are awesomeness personified. I will print this page out and hang it somewhere so that my head will regularly smack into it in the course of my everyday life. But I’m afraid, for reasons outlined in my blog this very week, I CANNOT call them New Year’s Resolutions. No way. The fabric of my universe will unravel, or something like that. I will think of some other name to call them and then cherish them like the jewels they are.

  • I have never succeeded in keeping any of my resolutions. Like last year I made a resolution to learn a new word a day, I think I forgot three days later. I can’t remember.

    BUT.

    I think I might keep this one, maybe, probably not. Don’t count on this. I’ll forget.

    I want to read a book a week. Seems easy enough, well until I run out of books my favorite authors wrote, then this will be a pain. I think that writing is a good resolution, but isn’t reading just as good? I am no author and I never have been skilled in expressing myself through words. Reading is the happy medium. It keeps everybody happy. (for those who cannot write, like me)

    • January 3, 2014 at 7:40 PM // Reply

      Hey, we word-monkeys depend on people like you! Reading a book a week is a GREAT resolution, and I hope it leads you to find many more favorite authors.

  • I’m in the same boat as Robyn LaRue and others who have commented: I have printed this post and was going to tape it to the wall next to my computer table, but now it sits on top of my printer within ridiculously easy reach of my right hand!

    Thanks, Coach! Have a wonderfully satisfying 2014, both personally and professionally as a (ahem!) published author. : D

  • January 1, 2014 at 9:37 PM // Reply

    I think you hit it, we too often get caught up in the hype of what it means to be a writer and forget that we have to be a writer first. Butt in chair and write that is my goal for 2014.

  • This is really well-timed. I’ve just recently realized I’d gotten completely bogged down with being a “professional” author and making my own moo-cow brand and got away from the writing. I was spending way too much time trying to insert my head in my ass and not enough time telling stories. Despite the fact that I like telling stories way more than analyzing Twitter.

    I’m getting back to being a storyteller and accepting that wanting to write in the gaming industry is just as “valid” as being a fiction author and to stop faking some kind of platform. My “platform” is about high heels and terrible cooking and nuking Gandhi in Civilization 5 and dammit that’s OK.

  • Chuck, thanks for a year of posts that somehow automagically stimulate my writing mojo. I still use your suggestion to start with writing 100 words and add 100 each day. It never fails to get me going again when the doubt-gibbons and fear-baboons have taken over the asylum. Happy 2014!

  • “Every day of writing, sit down and ask: what am I going to write that excites me today?”
    Gold Dust words I have shamelessly copied and stuck on my monitor. Thank you Chuck.

  • Took perhaps the best advice nugget I’ve ever panned from the internet from you: to just fucking write. My worst habit is (was) endlessly re-reading what I have written, tinkering with something here, changing something there, until time has stretched on and I’ve not achieved half of what I had planned. I should have had more books out by now, given how many years I have been writing the damn things. After taking your advice, I got my arse in gear and got one published. Finally.

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