So, are you a goal-setter, a year-in-review junkie, or a bit of both?
I’m usually a bit of both, but this year I’m not quite sure what I want my goals to be, probably because I’m being pretty hard on myself for not achieving all of the things I wanted to in 2011. I mean, I guess I did accomplish some things (had my first child; ensured that I, the child, and myself survived the first year; completed a terrible rough draft of a new WIP). And, as I received another rejection letter today, I also noted that last year I sent out 20 queries, which didn’t sound all that good when I’d promised myself to send out way more. However, it was far better than 8 in 2010 (which is downright shameful to me).
Okay, enough of my moaning. It’s a new year. A blank slate. Or in writing and creation terms, it’s a blank page and canvas. Time to either revise rough work from last year, or possibly start on something completely new and different. The whole year stands before us, and while we often face the end of the year desperately trying to finish up things, January is a time for new beginnings. Perhaps this is part of why I know that I’m at my most productive in the early months of the year. And part of the secret, I believe, is allowing myself the freedom to play.
Indeed, I know I’m mentioned before how important play is in the creative process, and indeed, in our lives from infancy to death (Here’s the link the past article here.) The problem, of course, is we become fixated on other things and seem to forget that play is not only fun, it increases productivity and output – a far cry from diminishing these things.
I’m considering playing with my creativity in a few ways, which I’ll share since who knows, maybe they’ll work for you too.
1 – Consider all the possibilities. Nothing is off limits. For me, I’m trying to decide what to start work on, what will get the benefit of this new year’s energy; an existing work? Sure, I could probably finish it, and it would be decent, undoubtedly. But with the revision notes and plans I have, I can probably plug away at that later. So what about something new? Something wild and different? What if it leads me down different pathes for the whole year? What if doing something I don’t usually do – like consider writing a smash-up kind of piece – might be the direction that helps my writing evolve in a new way?
2 – Let loose, float, and go where the current takes you. I know, sounds a bit wishy-washy, but I think of it like brainstorming. When you’re brainstorming an idea, you can’t restrict yourself, all inner editors have sealed lips, and everything is included, no matter how ridiculous or useless it may be. Because the thing is, if you say “no, that’s too ridiculous to write down, to consider,” you’ve closed yourself off to that possibility – and perhaps five or twenty more that are now too scared to rear their little heads. Instead, open yourself and your mind, follow the flow of energy. Do I really want to have aliens land smack down in the middle of a Regency ball (since this happens to be a stray thought in my head right now)? No, probably not, but I’ll write it down. And wait … what if someone FELT like an alien, or actually was an alien, but just not the space kind … See where the thoughts can lead? And they can’t go anywhere if you tamp them down in the first place.
3 – Be open to possibilities, and let your imagination soar, or My old friend ‘What if?’ I’ve been reading a lot about raising children, and they explain that toddlers around three-years-old or so believe anything is possible and have a hard time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s imaginary. So if they hear something like their father saying the boss just exploded today, they’re probably thinking it sounded messy, with a literal understanding of explosion. As writers, we need to remind ourselves to do the same, and to create worlds that help readers momentarily recapture the imaginary, to believe in the world we create. And sometimes we can do that by thinking about all the possibilities. What if the boss really did explode? What if unicorns really did exist?
4 – Work hard, work fast. I know, seems a little counter-intuitive to the playing, but the thing is, new year’s energy, just like the resolution to lose weight at the gym, can burn away quite quickly, which means we have to use as much of it as we have and stretch it as far as we can. Working with this kind of energy might last longer some years, shorter others, or might help snowball to carry you all the way through to the next year, but whatever the case, use it while you have it. When you’re working with this kind of new years energy, excitement, the hope and wonder of a new year, a blank slate, even a day may be wasting too much.
Best of luck, happy 2012, and thanks for reading.