Put the “New” Back in “New Year’s Resolutions”
by Erin Brown
It’s easy for writers who are seeking publication to get into a rut. Hell, it’s easy for anyone to get into a rut. So for 2012, why not make a resolution to do some truly new things this New Year and see if some incredible changes come your way? Now I’m not talking about the boring, been-there-done-that stuff that everyone promises: go on a diet, exercise more, save money, stop stalking Ryan Gosling, learn how to boil water—you know, the basics. Of course, I can’t identify each of your issues (and if you want to email them to me, feel free—I’ve been known to offer fantastic advice on everything from matters of the heart to matters of the kidneys), so I can’t comment on exactly what you should aim for that will improve your lifestyle, health, etc. But I can give some suggestions in terms of writing and seeking publication. A few things that you’ve maybe thought about doing but have put off because you think a) there’s not enough time, b) why bother? c) that’s outside of my comfort zone, d) I can’t do that! and e) are you crazy? I’ve got too much writing to do!
But take to heart these words of the following people who were oh, just kind of successful, and maybe you can find inspiration:
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” –Pablo Picasso>
“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” –Robert F. Kennedy
“Living at risk is jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down.” –Ray Bradbury
A few ideas of new New Year’s resolutions:
If you’ve been submitting your manuscript to every Tom, Dick, and Harry (and Emily) in the agenting world without a nibble, perhaps it’s time to take a break, put that manuscript on the shelf and start a completely new writing project. Perhaps you’ll find new inspiration in the new book, perhaps you’ll find new inspiration to go back and revise the first one; and hell, perhaps you’ll do both. But sometimes a break and a fresh start is just what the New Year’s doctor ordered (okay, cliché limit reached).
If you haven’t yet saturated the agent marketplace, after the holidays is the perfect time to begin sending out more submissions. If you’ve only been sending out your manuscript to a select group—your top ten favorites, for example—branch out! There are tons of fantastic agents, so get it in their hands. Smaller agents can be just as effective as the big boys (sometimes even more so in terms of focus on and support of your project). Open your mind to new agents, smaller agents, boutique agencies, etc. Do something different.
You know how everyone (including me) suggests writing a blog or articles in order to gain a following, hone your writing skill, and pad your platform? Well, now’s the time to finally do it. So what if two people read the blog at first (or ever!) or no one accepts your articles? What have you lost? Nothing ventured, nothing gained (damn, I totally lied about the clichés). You’ve exercised your writing talents, done something new, and there can never be a downside to that. And you just might get lucky and find out that you’re pretty damn good at it and people are responding to you!
Start a writing group in your area. Are you shy, nervous, or don’t know anyone you’d think would be interested? Get over it! Writing groups provide invaluable feedback and a die-hard support system for writers. Talk to your friends, and have them talk to co-workers and other acquaintances to see if there are some budding writers who would like to join. Put up a flyer at your local bookstore—you know the kind, with the strips at the bottom with your email or phone number: “Imaginative writer seeks same to form a writing group to take the publishing world by storm!” Step out of your comfort zone and make it happen.
Or you can simply keep on writing and submitting—hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (okay, that’s it, I promise)—but consider doing something that uses your knowledge and talent to benefit the community. Some of my best memories are volunteering to read books to kids at homeless shelters when I lived in New York City. Think you can’t have a powerful impact on someone’s life? You’re dead wrong. You could even start or find a program for mentoring kids or young adults, teaching them creative writing or even helping them with their schoolwork—you have no idea how in-demand good grammatical skills are. You could even work with those who are mentally challenged and have gotten bitten by the writing bug, or even seniors who want to unleash their imagination. There are so many things that would not only inspire others, but would inspire you and your writing.
Even if everything new you try fails (but really, in that case, redefine failure), think of the inspiration you’ll get for your writing—you’ll be boosting your creativity, generating new ideas, encountering colorful people who will affect you in countless ways, and maybe even attracting some super-duper karma. And rarely do people regret trying something new. Okay, fine, there are exceptions to that rule, but there’s really no need to rehash my ill-fated resolution from last year: become a competitive crocodile wrestler. But hey, it’ll make a great chapter in my book one day!
Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at www.erinedits.com