The New Year is a time to set goals. People vow to shed bad habits and do a better job of just about everything, only to find themselves feeling cynical a month later, resolutions forgotten or at least shelved.
Writers, why not start the New Year several pounds lighter? Why not start off fresh by shedding the baggage that has been weighing you down?
To help you get started, we’ve identified ten things writers can do without in 2013.
Shed Your Baggage: Ten Things That Hold Writers Back
1. Fear. Fear and self-doubt can be deadly for a writer. Unless you’re content to leave your finished manuscript in a desk drawer or on your hard drive, you’ll have to face your fears—of rejection, criticism, or simply of sharing your work with others—and take steps to get your work published.
MAKE A CHANGE: If you doubt your talent, try to use that feeling to your advantage. Start asking for constructive criticism. A writers group or a creative writing class (or both) will help you build confidence in your ability as you hone your craft.
2. Pride. If you’re too wrapped up in your own brilliance to accept advice, you won’t be able to grow as a writer.
MAKE A CHANGE: Learn to accept a little help on your journey and leave the heavy beast of pride behind.
3. Regret. Focusing on the past will hold you back if you’re fixated on mistakes: I should have traveled more; I should have taken writing classes in college; I should have made a go at being a writer instead of playing it safe in my career…
MAKE A CHANGE: Regret can be turned into positive motivation to do things the way you want to this time around. Instead of regret, concentrate on the advantages you have when you learn from your mistakes.
4. Envy. Envy is a negative emotion, and negative emotions usually attract negative energy. Are you jealous of other writers who have had success? Do you wish horrible things to happen to them?
MAKE A CHANGE: Take a closer look at the people you envy. You might learn some valuable things as you study what makes them successful writers, and it will suck up far less energy than wallowing in revenge fantasies.
5. Self-Destructive Behavior. Yes, we should all floss three times a day and run ten miles and give up all forms of sugar… Realistically, however, there may be some bad habits you can overcome that interfere with your writing.
MAKE A CHANGE: Get a little more sleep. Take a walk instead of having that ninth cup of coffee, or head for the library after work instead of the local bar. You don’t have to be perfect; just take one small lifestyle step that will have a positive impact on your writing career and call it good.
6. Worry. Worry is misdirected energy. What if the literary agent doesn’t like my book? What if I forgot to enclose an SASE? What if my husband/sister/cousin doesn’t like my poems?
MAKE A CHANGE: Here’s the good news: Nobody else expects you to be able to control things that are out of your control. So it doesn’t make sense to expect that from yourself. Let worry go, and focus your energy on the things you CAN control.
7. Excuses. You’d have finished your memoir if only the fridge hadn’t needed cleaning or your coworker wasn’t so annoying or the puppy hadn’t thrown up on your bed.
MAKE A CHANGE: Excuses arise from not having clear priorities, goals, and desires. There will always be things vying for your precious time. It’s time to stop making excuses and tackle whatever it is you need to write. Or, simply show yourself some kind acceptance if what your priorities are and what you want them to be don’t line up.
8. Stale ideas. You know that half-finished short story that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere? Or a character in your novel that just isn’t right no matter how many times you revise? They can make a writer feel stuck, downtrodden, and uninspired.
MAKE A CHANGE: Let it go. Sometimes when an idea or a character just isn’t working, it’s time to scrap it and start totally fresh.
9. Resentment. It’s easy to resent family members who don’t support your writing career, the editor who dared send that rejection letter, the people who critiqued your work instead of praising it. But resentment, like worry, is misplaced negative energy.
MAKE A CHANGE: Resenting others is sometimes a not-so-obvious way of feeling sorry for yourself. At the end of the day, it’s your opinion that matters most. Just do your best work, and show Uncle Bob that you’re a REAL writer—with REAL rejection letters (and maybe even some acceptances) to show for it.
10. Procrastination. This is fairly obvious. If you are procrastinating, you aren’t writing, you aren’t submitting your work, and you aren’t developing your craft.
MAKE A CHANGE: See our article, Procrastination: Don’t Put Off Dealing With It, and get moving!
Take Initiative Now
Why not create your own list of baggage that weighs you down and stalls your writing career? Once your list is complete, you can bury it in the backyard, burn it, or shred it into tiny pieces and kiss it good-bye. Get ready to embrace what good things await you in 2013!
QUESTION: What is the number one thing that holds YOU back, and how will you overcome it in the new year?
I am my own worst enemy … but also my best cheerleader. What holds me back is my reluctance to impose my writings on family and friends any farther than I already have. I’m reaching out to other readers via Facebook pages and groups. That effort at promotion has limited (almost eliminated) my time for writing and submitting. But at least I know of the faults … and can make an effort to restructure my time.
Great comment, Terry! Just be careful when sharing your work online; you don’t want to place it anywhere that could be considered “public viewing.” Check out our article on the subject, 5 Safe Ways To Share Your Writing Online.
My fundamental impediment is the butt-in-chair thing. Writers write, it’s what we do. Sometimes, being human and allowing procrastination to gain momentum is the biggest stumbling block to writing happiness. There is always something else that needs doing. Sure, working things out while parked in that favorite chair is a necessary and valid thing to do, but putting your butt in the chair and doing the work is paramount.
Great points, Jim! Procrastination and writer’s block are the bane of all those who strive to writer their way into history, but it’s good to keep a positive mind-set. Just remember how good it feels to get that perfect piece done, and use that adrenaline to get going. Here’s hoping your new year is filled with publications!
These are all really good and all really pertain to me and my writing. Another couple of things: Feelings of overwhelm i.e., “I have too much to write. I can’t pull my thoughts together. It’s all a jumble. I’m interested in too many things, etc…” And the classic:
I’m just not good enough. What was I thinking when I said I wanted to be a writer???”