Well, here we are again. 2012 is dead, and 2013 is all shiny and new. The much-anticipated End of the World was a bit of a non-event. Christmas passed in a blur of wine and indigestion. And today spent fireworks and party poppers are littering the ground, and revellers everywhere are nursing evil hangovers. It can mean only one thing: yes, it’s time for some New Year resolutions!
I’m sceptical about resolutions in general, not least because they rarely make it past the first week of January. Diets and exercise regimes are abandoned; stealthy cigarettes are smoked, and bottles of wine cracked open. In order to really fulfil your resolutions, you have to want to do so, body and soul. This is part of my problem, I think: I lack the resolve to see these things through. Realistically, I’m most unlikely to live on tofu and mung beans or go for a run every morning, and I’m not sure I even really want to.
One thing I’m very serious about, however, is writing, so this year I’m setting a number of writing resolutions. I think my chances of success are pretty good, mainly because I really do want to succeed. Here they are:
Use your time wisely. This can be tricky for those of us who have day jobs. Tiredness and other responsibilities can be used as eternal excuses, especially in those miserable times when writing feels like swimming through treacle. In 2013, I’m going to use my time well. No matter how tired I am, no matter how many other demands are being made upon my time, I am going to set at least two hours per day aside for writing. Not research, not surfing the internet, not blogging. Writing.
Not everything I write will be brilliant, by any means. It’s not at all uncommon to reread a few pages and facepalm, before muttering, ‘Mental effluent. Mental effluent, pure and simple.’ However, time spent writing is never wasted. Terrible writing can be another step on the road towards good writing.
Take criticism on the chin. This is one I think I’m pretty good at anyway. Still, there’s no denying it: criticism hurts. Your book is your baby; your love for it is unconditional. However, there’s also a good chance that nobody else will ever love it quite the way you do. This is one of the contradictions that come with the territory. In order to write, you have to be almost excruciatingly sensitive; but once you’ve published, and the reviews start to creep in, you have to be as tough as old boots.
Painful as criticism is, though, there is such a thing as a ‘good bad review’ – a review that at least tries to analyse why the reader thinks something doesn’t work. This is always valuable. Besides, once you published your work, it ceased to be yours alone. Now that it’s ‘out there’, in the big scary world, people can think and say whatever they like about it.
Goodwill to all writers. I don’t think of myself as being in competition with other authors. If I get jealous because somebody else’s book is selling better than mine, I’m only doing myself a disservice. (This doesn’t happen often, admittedly, not because I’m selling well by any standards, but just because I don’t pay a great deal of attention.) If I get jealous because somebody else has written the book I really, really wish I had written – and this happens a lot – I’m missing the point rather spectacularly. It’s not about me: it’s about the book.
The importance of author solidarity is something I’m only just beginning to really appreciate. I’m going to help other authors as often as I can, and in every way I reasonably can. Not by telling them that their work’s great even if I think it isn’t, or by spamming on their behalf, but by just generally being helpful and respectful and ‘paying it forward’.
Never be completely satisfied. ‘Good enough’ is not good enough. Strive for perfection. You’ll inevitably fall short, but at least you’ll have aimed high, and hopefully achieved more than you would have if your ambitions had only been mediocre.
If Platonic ‘forms’ or ‘ideals’ exist anywhere, it certainly isn’t on this earth. The ‘perfect novel’ will never be penned, by me or anyone else. However, if I keep the idea of it in my mind, it will hopefully help me to write something that is, if not perfect, at least pretty damn good.
On the other hand: Be forgiving, of yourself and others. Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes. I’ve made some hideous blunders in the course of my life, but I’d hate it if I was to be defined by those blunders. Occasional lapses and failures, in writing and in life, are to be expected. Telling somebody that you think they’ve made a mistake is one thing – if I’m doing something wrong, I want to know about it – but holding it against them is quite another.
Have you made any writing resolutions, or indeed any non-writing resolutions? One way or another, have a great (and productive) 2013!