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Becoming a Better Writer in 2015

My friend and I always spend a weekend in December creating vision boards for the new year. This is not like making New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a

Written Words by Sophia Louise [1]
Written Words by Sophia Louise

process that requires a lot of time and thought. We ask ourselves what this year has brought and how that feels, and what we’d like to see the new year hold. Then we make boards that hold our intentions, with photos and words (she uses more words, I use more pictures) and put the board somewhere it can be seen.

I’ve been pulling together my writing schedule for the next year and it occurred to me that this vision board process might be great for the writing life, too. [pullquote]

What would you like your 2015 writing life to hold?


[/pullquote]Often writers will make quantitative goals: “I want to write 100,000 words this year,” or “complete my novel.” Those goals are great, and I always include them in my planning. It is much more difficult to achieve a goal that has not been articulated.”

There are other goals that are more interesting to me. One of the reasons that writing is so engrossing as a life pursuit is that it is impossible to master it. It’s possible to always learn more, go deeper, find new insights about old ideas. One can always be better at writing. Always.

If I apply the vision board idea to my writing life, I’d include quantitative goals, and I’ll include monetary goals because I’m a positive thinking person and better to aim high than low.

But now that I’ve had this revelation, I’m going to come up with some other goals, too. Maybe one is that I’m going to write about things that scare me, or things that are secret. I might only write those things for myself, as an exercise, but maybe I’ll write them into the work of my novels, too.

I am going to choose a particular aspect of writing to study, too. I’m not sure what it will be, but I can see what shape it might take. If I choose to study character development, then I will study some of my favorite writers to see exactly how they build character. If I choose to study wordsmithing, I’ll really study poetry and download some study guides.

I’m also going to read some authors I’ve never read. Go back to the classics and see who I’ve missed. I will also reread classic favorites, to see what the writer I am now might learn. Recently, I’ve been reading A Moveable Feast again because one of my characters was reading it, and I remembered how much I loved the book the first time through, and how surprised I was to love it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it now, but I always learn something. I learn something from M.F.K Fisher, too, and from A Distant Mirror, which is a beloved text on the middle ages. (I don’t even write about the middle ages anymore, but I love this book).

Another thing is that I’m going to come up with new ways to fill the well. Over the past few months, I’ve been learning watercolors, and it’s amazing what it’s doing for the writing work. That’s a good thing to continue. Maybe my goal will be to take a class in watercolors or something, or maybe I’ll take up pottery. Not sure.

Because there is one more aspect to this: I’m not going to rush it. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to mull it over and think about what I’d like to add to my writing life for the new year. What would make me feel stronger? What would add joy? What things have been nibbling at the edges of my creative urges recently? Is there a genre I’d like to study? And then, in a few weeks, maybe I’ll make a word map [2] or a small board with words and pictures to help me remember what I was thinking about.

What might make you a better writer at the end of 2015 than you are now? Let’s have a discussion, maybe bounce ideas around.  Maybe you’d like to study with a particular teacher, or go to a conference, or find a critique group. Maybe your goal is to manage the hours of your day better so you have more time to write, or finally finish your rough draft.

Are you struggling with a craft issue? Are there writers you’d like to read and have not done so? Are you filling the well, or just working all the time?

What sorts of things come to you? Quantitative, monetary, craft, reading, study, social? What would make you a better writer at the end of 2015? Let’s talk about it.

About Barbara O'Neal [3]

Barbara O'Neal [4] has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life [5], which landed her in the RWA Hall of Fame and was a Target Club Pick. She is a highly respected teacher who also publishes material for writers at Patreon.com/barbaraoneal. She is at work on her next novel to be published by Lake Union in July. A complete backlist is available here [6].