Happy New Year!
Need a jumpstart to get through this week--or year?
Last year, I compiled a list of "write-ables" that will not take long but will improve how you write. Here it is again, back by popular demand and with a few new ideas thrown in:
1. Revise one more time. No matter how many times you usually revise something, go through one additional revision. You will catch all sorts of things that otherwise would slip by.
2. Ask one more person than you usually do for feedback (which means, of course, if you don't normally ask anyone, ask one person). Another set of eyes will give you a fresh perspective.
3. Attend one literary reading. Bookstores, the Library of Congress, and universities all schedule regular readings by poets and prose writers. I'm not suggesting weekly or even monthly attendance, unless that is what you enjoy doing. Just try one. It is very inspiring.
4. Read one book about the craft of writing. Two of my favorites are by William Zinsser (On Writing Well and Inventing the Truth). Others I go back to include On Writing by Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) and Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande (written in 1934!).
5. Write one piece in a genre you have never tried. A poem, an op-ed, a travel article--something you don't normally try. Make it short. Don't spend a lot of time on it unless you get inspired. But stretch yourself a bit.
6. Read one literary classic. Go back to an author of your choice--Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, or any other author that you have been "meaning to get to."
7. Bookmark one new reference website that you will actually use. A few possibilities: The Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online, Chicago Manual of Style Online, or the Mayo Clinic, depending on your needs and interests.
8. Schedule an artist's date that does not involve words. Those familiar with Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way know she suggests a weekly "artist's date"--a walk in nature, a museum, an interesting shop--to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, help your writing through something visual, musical, or tactile.
9. Write a letter (not an e-mail) to a friend or family member. You might even consider doing something really daring, like handwriting it.
10. Free-write 15 minutes a day. Use a prompt or a situation that sticks in your mind. React to a picture, a news headline, or a snip of music.
Nothing too bold, nothing too time-consuming. Just a few suggestions that get at both the art and craft of writing. Let me know what other ideas you have--I would love to hear them. And best wishes for a healthy, happy 2012!
Paper or Pixel?
Although I occasionally try to use the calendar on my computer or iPhone, I still rely on my DayRunner for appointments and reminders. One technological advance: I now track my hours-by-job electronically through QuickBooks. The ability to schedule meetings and place them on my calendar simultaneously might move me over to the electronic side.
An article a few months ago in the New York Times surveyed authors and editors about paper versus electronic calendars, with strong adherents of each. (Novelist Ayelet Waldman, electronic; critic and filmmaker Nelson George, paper.)
Which method do you prefer? However you organize your life, I hope you fill the year with productive and satisfying activities, with time set aside for reflection and fun.