For those of us living in colder climates, there’s nothing more hopeful than when winter eases its icy claws and begins to retreat. As we invite spring into our homes, our thoughts turn to cleaning and organizing for the year ahead: putting away our winter wardrobes, giving our homes a deep clean, or preparing our gardens for the growing season.
Even you, dear writers and authors, have a little spring cleaning you should think about doing.
Why would I ever think about spring cleaning beyond wiping down my desk and vacuuming stray popcorn husks? you might be asking yourself.
Because every writer and author should take some time to dust off their works, so to speak. Here are a few ways every writer can clean house:
Shake off that bad writing rut.
We all have one or two bad writing habits we know we shouldn’t be doing. Whether it’s procrastinating, ignoring our goals, or just being sloppy in our writing routines, this is as good a time as any to shake off the cobwebs in your writing practice. Maybe it’s as simple as getting up a little earlier, or following up on that marketing plan for your last book release. Perhaps it’s buckling down to meet your writing goals. Whatever it is, take a moment to look carefully at how you’re writing these days, and ask yourself (honestly), “What can I improve here?”
Get your taxes sorted sooner rather than later.
I will be the first to admit I am—at least from time to time—guilty of a “do as I say, not as I do” approach in this blog. There are times when I’m writing to you, dear readers, and giving you some really solid advice—and cringing the whole while from the secret shame of knowing that yes, I am guilty, too. When it comes to taxes, I am admittedly quite the procrastinator.
That said, use this time to not only get your taxes organized for this year’s return, but to even (I know, I know) start thinking ahead to next year. Are there ways you could make filing your taxes easier? Are there ways to set up your taxes and receipts that aren’t just a box on your desk where you stuff receipts and sad little sticky notes that read “paid for X”? Tax time may be horrible, but it can also be a means of preparing for the year ahead and making next year a little less of a last-minute panic.
Give your backlist a fresh new look.
Some people overhaul their wardrobe for spring. Authors, I invite you to consider doing the same for your backlist. How are your covers holding up? Are they striking and fresh? Do they look professional? How about that copy? Maybe you inserted a few buzzwords that sound dated. Or maybe you got an amazing review and you need to blurb it on your marketing materials.
Take a careful look at your backlist and how it’s being marketed right now, and see if you can’t find some way to liven up your books’ looks—or even create a little extra revenue by offering a special promotion or a giveaway. Be bold.
Freshen up your desk.
I’ve mentioned it before in this blog, but one way to doom your writing practice is to ensure that you haven’t made room for it . . . literally. Ensure you have committed to a good space for working, even if you are dealing with space constraints. Whether it’s finding an inspiring new café or library to write in, updating your desk area, or rearranging some of your furniture so that you really do have a dedicated place for writing, make space for yourself. Make sure the area is well lit and comfortable, and that it gives you the feeling of wanting to sit down and write. After all, your muse isn’t going to want to stick around when you’re crammed in a cobwebby corner surrounded by mops and cardboard boxes.
Go through your abandoned writing projects.
Most writers and authors have a folder (or a million) filled with book ideas, scribbles, partial manuscripts, and more. Why not go through some of them with fresh new eyes and a little perspective?
Something that once inspired you might give you a new burst of creativity. Maybe that book idea didn’t make it as a book, but it could be an amazing short story or screenplay. What about taking two unfinished ideas and putting them together as a mash-up to create something new? Or even that thriller you were working on and quit after seventy-eight pages—maybe it’s a great idea for a fun romance or comedy. Just because you didn’t follow through with the idea doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic. Go through your old work and see if there aren’t a few golden nuggets hidden in there. You might just find your next hit book.
Try something new.
It’s easy for us to feel comfortable with our routines. After all, life feels easier when we can follow our usual habits. But we grow most when we push ourselves out of our comfort zones. And since we’re shaking off the cobwebs a bit this spring anyway, why not make some room for an adventure or change? Think about submitting a piece of poetry for publication, or entering a writing contest. Book yourself a writing retreat in the summer. Approach that agent you’ve been following on Twitter. Take a creative writing course to nudge you out of your routine a bit.
There are lots of ways to shake things up, and the change of seasons might just be one of the best times to do it. Maybe nothing will come of it. Or maybe your entire writing career could change. This spring, step into the unknown. I promise you won’t be sorry.
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.