Guest post by Alegra Clarke
Every year my husband and I make two lists on New Year’s Eve. One of the lists is of our resolutions, the other is our requests. We like to look at resolutions as things that we know we can achieve by our own efforts. The requests represent our dreams and hopes for the year ahead. The two lists often find themselves intertwined, the requests representing the fruit we hope to harvest as the result of fulfilling our resolutions. An example would be the resolution to write and submit ten short stories with my request being that four or more of those stories might find publication.
There is something deeply satisfying when a request is fulfilled. At the end of each year we review all of the things we have achieved and the requests that have come to pass. The achievement of a resolution grants us a temporary sense of accomplishment but the fulfillment of a request gives us something more—it fuels our sense of adventure and possibility.
Requests are fulfilled in ways that are always a surprise and very often involve the generosity of others. I like this, especially when it comes to my writing goals. It allows me a certain freedom to dream big and work with full commitment but without so much fear of failure— after all, besides trying to win the affection of my muse by buying her pretty notebooks and taking her out for lattes at artsy cafes, I have to surrender the outcome of my writing efforts and enjoy the adventure. I can’t force someone to publish me, at least not in any way that will help me sleep better at night, so I never know which one of my writing requests will be fulfilled or how it will come to pass.
This year my resolutions are streamlined. This has nothing to do with finally learning moderation or respecting my limits and everything to do with the fact that two of my resolutions are so big that they nearly consume all of the oxygen in my brain whenever I think of them. As the mother of a newborn, two small children and a horse-dog, I really need that oxygen. My first two resolutions are to finish my master’s degree and finish the novel. My other resolutions are intended to support those first mammoth tasks.
Morning Pages & Writing Routines
Years ago my mother gave me the book The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and from that book I took away the habit of writing morning pages (three pages of hand written stream of consciousness) and made it a daily practice for several years. My memoir that won the Writer’s Digest Competition, Salamander Prayer, was born out of these pages. I’ve decided to return to writing them this year.
The other resolution is to experiment with my writing routine. Most of my favorite authors have discussed the importance of certain rituals when working on a project. For some it is the need to write in the same place at the same time every day. For others it might be going for a walk every morning. Whatever it is, the key thing is that it requires consistency. I have never attempted this before and I want to try it out for myself. One of my first experiments is to work on the novel only in my bedroom. It is the one space in my small home where I can have some level of control over my environment—especially once my husband gets around to installing a lock on the door.
What are your writing resolutions this year? Or if you don’t believe in resolutions, I’d love to hear some of your working habits or writing rituals. I am always inspired to hear how other writers work and dream.
Alegra Clarke is a frequent contributor to Editor Unleashed.