Last week, I posted a list of my readerly resolutions for the upcoming year. But readers need good material—books, blogs, stories, essays, articles, poems—and that's where writers come in. So here are my writerly resolutions for 2010:
1. I will not panic about eBooks, the death of Kirkus, the (alleged) decline of the short story, or anything else regarding the (alleged) demise of publishing.
Instead, I will focus on the only thing in my control: writing the best work I can.
2. I will read more.
Eh? Wasn't this a list of writerly resolutions? It is, but no one writes in a vacuum. Reading feeds writing: it presents you with new ideas to engage with. And now and then, you read something and think, wow, I didn't know you could DO that. Followed quickly by Hey, I have to try that! and a mad dash to the keyboard. There are old standbys like The New York Review of Books and The Guardian's book section, but there are millions of other book blogs that will point you to new reads. (And that's just a taste of what's out there.)
3. Speaking reading more, I will subscribe to a literary journal.
Yes, I already made this one of my readerly resolutions. But there are lots of journals out there publishing amazing work, so I'm going to subscribe to another. For about the price of a dinner out, I'll get a year's worth of brand-new writing by both established and up-and-coming writers—supporting them and inspiring me.
4. I will enter a contest.
I am not a contest-enterer by nature. But contests—and their entry fees—are often the main way literary journals raise money to, you know, publish their issues. So entering contests helps support the journal, which also helps support the writers they publish. And who knows, maybe I'll even get lucky. Poets & Writers magazine has a great list of reputable contests—and that's just a starting point.
5. I will buy a new hardback book. At an independent bookstore.
How is this a writerly resolution, you ask? Buying new books supports the writer by providing both a royalty and an audience; a writer whose book sells well has a better chance of selling another. It supports the publisher—and tells them that I will pay good money for a quality product rather than a ghostwritten celebrity memoir. And it supports independent bookstores, which are far more than just retail outlets: they actually know their wares, help readers find new books, and provide writers and readers with a place to interact. (To learn more about independent bookstores, see this excellent post by Praveen Madan and Christin Evans.) For writers to survive, we need publishers and independent bookstores to survive, so let's give them a little help.
6. I will seek out one new experience I've never had before and write about it.
Every writer needs new material now and then, whether it's traveling to Japan, volunteering at a food bank, learning a new language, or trying a new food. Plus, new experiences have a way of snowballing into compelling projects—see Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, for starters.
7. I will try writing in a new form.
Maybe a novella—Josh Weil's stunning novella collection The New Valley has opened my eyes to the power of this much-neglected form. Or maybe I'll try a series of linked short stories, like Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's Ms. Hempel Chronicles, Nami Mun's Miles From Nowhere, or Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge.
8. I will try writing in a new genre.
I might try an essay. Those at The Millions, like this one on motherhood and writing by Sonya Chung, this analysis of baseball and the internet by Patrick Brown, and this meditation on day jobs by Emily St. John Mandel, give me that Wow Must Try This Now feeling.
9. I will reach out to other writers more often.
If I read a blog post I really like, I'll leave a comment and tell the writer. If I'm blown away by a book, I'll find the author's website (or find him or her on Facebook!) and send a message, or write via the publisher. Why? Writing is a lonely profession. Somewhere out there, that author or blogger is sitting at a keyboard, hoping she got through to someone; she should know that she did. Plus, good writing gets readers thinking and talking—and reaching out to the writer is a great way to spark a discussion.
10. I will not be annoyed when people say any of the following questions:
- "You're a writer? But what's your real job?"
- "Oh, so you want to be the next Dan Brown, eh?"
- "So is your work really made up, or do you base it all on your own life?"
- "I have a great idea for a story you could write."
- "You've been working on that novel a long time—aren't you finished yet?"
No guarantees I'll keep that last resolution. But it's good to have goals, right?
Whether you write fiction, poetry, blog posts, or just emails, there are lots of ways to stretch yourself as a writer, too. If you've got your own writerly resolutions—for a writing project, your blog, or even your private journal—share them in the comments section.