Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Does Your Year Start?

When does your year start?  January 1 or in September?  Spring? Or some other date?  Do you follow the agricultural calender, where Oct. 31 is the final harvest, and the New Year begins on Nov. 1?

Why does it matter?

Because the sense of “new year” means “fresh start.”  We all get bogged down in life and other obstacles.  A new year, a fresh start, gives us the chance to make everything better.

What does it means in terms of writing?  Starting a new book?  A different direction?  Letting go of writing habits and situations that no longer work for you?

That’s entirely up to you.

At least once a year, it’s helpful to sit down and really think about where you are, where you’re going, what you want, and where you WANT to go -- because sometimes, these go in very different directions.  I don’t like to use the word “evaluation”, because that sounds like a performance review in a corporate environment.  I like to think of it as “re-envisioning”, much the way we need to re-envision our stories during rewrites.

Finding the right questions is an important part of the process.  Look back on the past months.  See what made you happy, and also what frustrated you.  Where did you fall short of your expectations?  Why?  Be honest with yourself about the “why”.  There are times when life insists we put certain life situations first.  There are times when we use life as an excuse -- the situation doesn’t really call for all our time and energy, but was a good way to wiggle out of a writing commitment.  If you do the latter, ask yourself why?  Did you get yourself into a situation and discovered it wasn’t as good as it seemed?  Are you under contract?  Did you discover that the idea wasn’t as exciting as it first appeared? 

If you’re contracted/committed, and your procrastination hurts someone else, you have two choices.  You can withdraw gracefully, in time for them to find a replacement.  Or you can meet the commitment, learn from what didn’t work, and not put yourself in the position in the future.

You also have to take a hard look at yourself and figure out if you’re performing acts of self-sabotage.  I’ve had plenty of students who are afraid to finish a project, because that means they are out of their safe cocoon of showing up at the page every day.  They’ve mastered the art of daily commitment, but they don’t want to go beyond the writing to the editing, the submission, and the business aspects.  It could be fear, it could be concern that they don’t have “a business head” or “aren’t outgoing”.  Showing up every day to write is necessary if you’re going to be a working writer, but it doesn’t stop with the writing.  It STARTS with the writing.  There are also plenty of people who like the idea of being a writer, but don’t actually want to write.  They want to “think”, to spin ideas, to talk about what they’ll write someday.  Maybe they’ll sit down for ten or twenty minutes once or twice a month, but then they stop, claiming they need more time to “think.”

I have a caveat in my classes geared to working writers:  You think for an hour to write for a week.  You don’t think for a week to write for an hour.

There are plenty of days when you’ll be thinking about your book all day long while doing other things -- but then you sit down and apply all that thinking. You don’t think INSTEAD of writing. You think IN ADDITION TO  writing.

If you’re performing acts of self-sabotage, ask yourself why.  Maybe you’re burned out.  Maybe you need a break.  As long as you’ve met your contracts and commitments, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m going to take three months off and NOT write.”  At the end of the three months, see how you feel.  Do you miss it?  Has the creative well refilled?  Are you ready to go back?  Do you need more time?  Or do you need something beyond writing? 

There’s also nothing wrong in deciding you no longer want to be a writer.  You tried it; it worked; you’re growing in a different direction.  What’s important is that it is a conscious choice, not a slipping away.  If you don’t want to write, don’t write.  There are many other fields that require skilled, passionate practitioners.  Find your passion and follow it.

But if you want to write, sit down and write.  No excuses.

Take the time every year, every three months, every six months to see where you are and where you WANT to go.  Make active decisions on active steps to move you in that direction.  If it doesn’t work, you’re free to change direction.  If your interests change, you’re free to do something else.

Regularly give yourself a clean slate, a fresh start, and you’ll be surprised at the positive effect it has on ALL aspects of your life.

--Annabel Aidan is a full-time writer publishing under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction.  Her paranormal romantic suspense novel for Champagne is ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, combining witchcraft, theatre, and politics.  Website:


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very thoughtful advice. We used to have spring and/or fall house cleaning. It was a time to also reset priorities and plan for the following season.

Nowadays with the hectic, demanding less structured lifestyle, we've lost those periods of re-examination and rejuvenation. We must give ourselves permission to reorder our lives.

Big Mike said...

Interesting post. How about starting a new framework. I know my adjusted big time after going through hell with cancer.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Pat said...

I usually start a new year the first of the calendar year. I find that after the holidays are over I now have the time regroup and more time to write with the older weather. However, my creative time is definitely spring.

Rejections and family issues have hit my writing hard this year so you've given me a lot to think about.

Great blog post.

January Bain said...

With teaching comes the rhythm of the school year as a new beginning. I find I am most creative in the fall after the summer break, but, thank goodness, January is a good month for me too! Lately I've been incredibly creative which is rewarding but exhausting at times. Really enjoyed the post! Thanks, January

Suzanne said...

I like the idea of re-envisioning every couple of months. Or maybe even the first of the month would be a good place for me to remember. Thanks for the post.