Becoming a full-time writer was a growth process that began with a weekly column in my hometown newspaper followed by magazine publications, awards in contests, and multiple publications in the world-wide book series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” After I wrote and began promoting my first novel, I wrote a second, and spent the majority of 2015 promoting it, while I continued to write my third. And while all this may seem like a vortex of work, it’s the life I’ve worked painstakingly to achieve, and I love every minute of the build.
I’ve discovered that my career all comes down to a disciplinary juggling act of priorities in order to complete my goals. But the thing about working towards goals is one size doesn’t fit all: it’s an individual process predicated on many variables including outside interests, other responsibilities, and even temperament. I thought I had all my vagaries in a manageable rhythm until I took a good look at my writing habits and realized I’d been wasting time. What became glaringly clear to me is no well-intentioned goal in the world can compete with that which stands in the way, and oh the humility that came from realizing I needed to prioritize my time. I know now that my progress isn’t so much about a daily agenda as it is about resisting the temptation to become sidetracked, so I’ve resolved to change all that in this New Year by committing to a schedule that focuses on habits to break.
1. I will no longer turn on my computer each morning and get caught up in my homepage. Mine is customized with my interests and therefore holds all the danger of a runaway train. I will no longer become involved in the weather forecast, my horoscope, nor which celebrity has pulled what shenanigan.
2. I will no longer look at Facebook before I begin my day’s task to see who’s living the high-life in what locale. It occurs to me that my friend list can do without my immediate likes and comments.
3. Although I will check my e-mail for anything urgent, I will resist the temptation to look at anything superfluous that has wormed its way to my in-box. All writers’ groups I’ve joined, with their ongoing discussions, can wait as can all promotions from retail outlets I ordered from in the past.
4. Once I’ve called up my prioritized work, I will silence my inner critic, who suggests another writer could say it better. I will not look over my own shoulder as I write; I will remember writing is about re-writing.
5. I will not concern myself with producing a certain amount of words or pages per day. I will write from my natural flow and call it the best I’ve got for the day.
6. With regard to novel writing, I will let go of my tendency to review what I wrote days, or even weeks before. The temptation is too keen to scratch the itch of editing, which can become a complete time-waster. I will allow myself to look at a preceding scene in order to keep a flow, but I will keep a firm line of demarcation and set my sight on moving forward until my first draft is complete.
7. I will let go of the need to be brilliant. I will trust my own voice.
8. I will stop looking at my words through another’s eyes.
9. I will throw away the thought that I will be judged (especially if I’m writing a first draft.)
10. I will remember I write because I love it, and that it is its own reward.
In 2016, I will adhere to this list like a daily devotional.
I will print it out and display it on the bulletin board hanging above my desk with a straight-pin whose head says, “Imagine.”
I will put it beside the autograph of a writer who inspires me (whose name I’ll withhold because that’s another kettle of fish.)
I will straighten up the room where I write and call it hallowed ground, then take out my yellow highlighter and emphasize the tenth point on my list until it glows.