We’re a couple weeks in, and it’s still hard to believe: It’s 2020! I’m still writing 2010 on the checks I hope no one cashes.
I hope last year held many blessings for you, and I hope the coming year will be even better. Maybe you met your writing goals, hopes, and dreams in 2019. But even if you didn’t, you can still make this coming year a great one. And one way to help that happen will be to write—and to write plenty. How? Here are a few suggestions:
- Free yourself to write poorly.
Perfectionism has ruined many writers. We should all strive for excellence; but trying to get a story, article, or book perfect—especially in the early stages—is an invitation to frustration, even disaster. If you try to write perfect prose, you’ll probably spin your wheels, get stuck, even crash into a concrete abutment of self-doubt. Did I take the metaphor too far? Big deal, I got it written, didn’t I? So, make it your goal this year to write rotten first drafts. As David Sedaris said, “Write something that stinks.” Just write. And write. Set yourself free to write plenty of bad first drafts in 2020.
- Abandon your writing.
One of my earliest editors told me, “You can never finish a piece of writing; you must abandon it.” True. As I say, we should all strive for excellence; but if you’re one of those writers who continues to revise long after the life has been sucked out of your piece, figure out a way to end the process. Not before thorough critique and careful revision, of course, but how many times are you going to return to an article, story, or book before you let it go? Is it a number? Is it a date? Whatever it is, abandon it (into a drawer, into someone else’s hands, etc.); and move on to the next idea.
- Cast lots of bread on the waters.
You recognize the reference to Ecclesiastes 11:1: “Cast your bread upon the waters: for you will find it after many days” (ESV). The phrase “Cast your bread upon the waters” was probably an Arabic proverb for what looked like wasteful expenditure, similar to our modern proverbs about “throwing your money down a rat hole” or “throwing good money after bad.” But I think the author of Ecclesiastes turned the old proverb on its head, saying, go ahead and be generous, maybe even uncomfortably generous, when you see a need, because in the wisdom and purpose of God it will return to you some day, somehow, when you are in need. I suggest you do something similar with your writing in 2020: Get it out there. Share it in a critique group. Submit it for professional critique at a writers conference. Enter a contest. Start a blog or a podcast. Submit something for publication. Do it. Do it over and over again. Start the invaluable process of learning from critique, editing, rejection, maybe even acceptance.
We writers can often be our own worst enemies. We suffer not only from analysis paralysis but also from the perfidy of perfectionism, the fear of rejection, and the stasis of erasis. Okay, I went too far on that last one. But it’s staying in this post. Like you, I’m learning. I’m striving to be better. And I hope, pray, and plan to write plenty in 2020.