A week into the new year and for some of us, the shine is already wearing off. Sure, we have a slightly higher digit at the end of the date, but our good intentions and optimistic resolutions will quickly get subsumed by the list of stories we didn’t finish last year, or the notebooks full of ideas we didn’t get to. Last year was really only a week ago, and those things we didn’t do are still just over our shoulder.
It’s easy to see where we’ve failed. It’s the simplest thing in the world to look at our mistakes and not see all of our successes.
Instead of getting frustrated with ourselves, let’s toss 2012 aside for a day. Forget the half-written tales on your hard drive, or even that blog post you’ve been considering writing for the last month. Take a moment to breathe. This is a new year, a new day, a new moment to let the past go and focus on what’s good about the now. The best way to do that is to write something new.
What I mean is this: clear your head. Forget the ideas you came up with last year. Don’t open any of the stories you haven’t finished. Get a blank piece of paper or open a new .doc file. Write something.
No, it doesn’t matter what you write. Maybe you’ll do with something with it, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Don’t aim for a certain length, or a particular market. All you need to know going into it is that you’re going to write something down, and you’re going to finish it.
Write about what you did yesterday. Write down the conversation the two older ladies at the table next to you were having about their grandchildren. Write down that vivid dream you had the other night. Open a book to any page, pick one line, and write a story that makes sense of that line.
Wherever you get your inspiration from, keep it short, keep your plot simple, and make sure that the moment you’re putting into words concludes. Your character goes to sleep, the ladies finish their desert and pay the check (or don’t), or the goldfish giving you a walking tour of Paris has to leave for his date so you settle into a crêperie for a late dinner. It doesn’t matter how you end it as long as you can look at it and think, ‘yeah, that’s done’.
The point of all of this is that you can write. You’re a better writer now than you were at the start of 2012. You did learn from your mistakes. You got something out of all that unfinished work, you grew as a writer because of every one of those scribbled down ideas, even though they haven’t yet found a home. By taking a moment to write a new thing you are starting the year fresh.
It doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees this bit of writing. Save it, put aside for at least a month, and then if you like you can come back to it. By then you’ll have a better idea of if it’s worth editing. But the important part is that by doing this you’ll be able to start 2013 knowing that you’ve already finished a piece of writing. You will have concrete proof that you are a writer. That you haven’t been wasting your time. That you had this skill already, even if you sometimes forget.
I think I’m going to start every new year this way.