Written by Jemima
Have you found yourself wondering if the whole New Year’s resolutions concept is getting a little jaded and tatty around the edges?
If so, allow me a shot at rekindling your passion for pledges to the Self. I know that most of us writers can raise a hand on having made heartfelt promises that have been spectacularly broken, with a mighty tumble before the end of January. Could it be that those resolutions were somehow inadequately charged? What we need, it would seem, is to tap into the thrumming of thousands of years of human history.
The first record of New Year’s resolutions draws us back to ancient Babylonia and the festival of Akitu. Almost four millennia ago, the turning of the year was marked by making promises to the gods – to pay debts, and return what had been borrowed. The mighty resolve for an annual reinvention has trickled and mutated alongside human evolution ever since. When you dig deep and make pledges to your future self, consider the act to be tapping into humanity’s vast collective ancestry. Well… tune in, dear writers, and charge up some resolutions for a bona fide transformation of revolutionary scale! 😜
1. Rewrite Until It Hurts
This New Year’s resolution is the one I plan on making flirtatious eyes at over my seasonal cranberry margaritas. So much so that I’m envisioning printing it out in a triple-digit font size and hanging it above my desk well before the stroke of midnight on the 31st. I don’t carve out enough time for rewriting, or savor this part of the process for the underappreciated delicacy that it is. American novelist Bernard Malamud said: “I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times – once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say.”
So, what are we trying to say?
In truth, being a writer means holding entry passes to two endurance events. The first is getting the words out, and down on the page; the second is honing and polishing those words until they flow over and absorb the reader, without so much as a stutter. Maybe your particular sporting category is more of a baton race – you write, and re-write; write, and re- write. Simply, we mustn’t forget that we are multi-disciplinary athletes, and indulge in a little writers masochism when necessary! 😉🙀
Legendary sci-fi writer Michael Chrichton told us that: “Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
I hear you exclaim in dismay. But don’t be distressed by the wild and tempestuous art-form that you, as a writer, must tame and make your pet. The rewrite is the time in which we distill our work to it’s purest essence. We cut out the functionless and dial up the clarity. This is where the magic happens, so resolve to embrace it.
2. Be Prolific
Before we get to bringing our rewriting efforts to heal, the material has to actually be there. Critically acclaimed novelist Jodi Picoult pointed out that: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” For this particular feat of mental hula-hooping, I often draw inspiration from the phenomenal output of Isaac Asimov. I referenced him not long ago, so I’ll draw on another author whose prolific penmanship knew no bounds. Voguecalled Barbara Cartland “the true Queen of Romance”, and write romance she did.
3. Do Something Out Of The Ordinary
The month of January was named for the two-faced god Janus, who symbolically looked both backwards to the past, and forward into the future. If you envision a more accomplished version of yourself as a writer, look forward through Janus’ eyes and see what makes your future self different.
A new writing routine, or a new space to work in?
A totally new approach to planning and structuring your first draft?
Perhaps resisting the urge to treat your copy as if it’s the One Ring – casting yourself as Sméagol – and refusing to allow anyone else to see it! Talking to other writers, and seeking critiques of your work can be essential and transformative. Yes, that word again – undeniably what New Year’s resolutions are all about…
Ah, I’ll leave you with this poignant excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s poem, Little Gidding:
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
If not the above, what New Year’s resolutions will you be making as writers?
Have a Happy New 2020! Rewrite until it hurts! 🙀😜💃☕️
See you next year, in January!
Next post – 21 January 2020, The Mystery of Deja Vu