“So . . . did anyone write a word over the holiday?”
It was a tweet that in pre-2020 times would have made authors panic. By now, the routine is familiar: the annual guilt drive where we recommit to editing, revising, starting a new book, publishing the one we just wrote, or desperately thinking of things to drive sales.
We all know someone who just keeps driving forward—a writing and publishing machine that humbles us all by comparison. For authors and writers, it’s like the publishing version of people perfecting gorgeous artisan sourdough loaves while the rest of us can barely manage toast.
But this January, allow yourself a new year where you don’t vow to be more, produce more, make more. In 2022, let’s just be.
Look, publishing is a business, and a lot of writers and authors have mouths to feed, rents and mortgages to pay, and food (including someone else’s artisanal loaves) to put on the table. But some of us are tired. The stresses of the pandemic have hit us all, especially those who are balancing demanding careers, family, caretaking, volunteering, and more on top of writing and publishing.
The idea of “new year, new you” is a marketing drive that has existed for decades, intended to spur postholiday sales in the self-improvement fields. Whether it’s what we eat, what we drink, how we look, how we feel, and how we measure up to everyone else, the new year has been instrumental in making us feel worse about who we are and what we’re doing.
Do you know what doesn’t help you meet your goals? Feeling like everyone else is doing better.
So let’s take self-improvement out of January and put it where it belongs: small shifts in our daily and weekly routines that get us to our goals.
Didn’t finish NaNoWriMo in November? It’s OK. You still have the rest of this year to work on that book. Didn’t work out a marketing plan for your book’s release before the end of the year? That’s OK, too. Ask yourself if you can afford to shift your release date. Maybe there’s a month that works better.
There are a lot of books in the world and a lot of people reading them. And lucky us, a pandemic seems to be the perfect time to create more books, more short stories, more film and television scripts. This is a time for creativity to not only thrive but to genuinely help folks through the hellscape that 2021 left behind.
If you truly want to keep writing, become a better writer, or even sell more books, you don’t have to reinvent yourself. The best thing you can do is to let yourself enjoy writing again.
Want to get back into the practice of writing? Start small. Don’t tie yourself down to a desk if that doesn’t make you feel creative. Maybe grab a tea, curl up in a chair with a cozy blanket, and just journal. Write some terrible poetry. Write something that makes you feel like a human being again.
Change up your office space so it feels fresh and inspiring. Announce your writing intentions by playing your favorite song at top volume before you begin. It can even be as simple as plotting out a book while you are doing dishes or taking a shower. Have kids? Instead of reading to them before bed, make up some stories starring your little ones.
To improve your writing practice, try and figure out why you’re not writing right now, or why you don’t feel motivated. Dollars to doughnuts that a big part of it has to do with the fact that right now, in this moment, writing just doesn’t feel fun. If this applies to you, give yourself permission to write with fun intentions rather than business-oriented ones. Switch genres, play with styles, or even create the kind of adventure that you wish you could experience right now.
For 2022, you don’t have to be a new version of you. All you need is to feel better about your writing—and a big part of that doesn’t come from placing more demands on yourself. Creativity might thrive under constraints, but exhaustion, depression, and anxiety can stifle it unless you create a safe place in your life for writing.
Right now, what we all need is to be gentle with ourselves after two brutal and long years. Our lives and psyches have changed, and it’s OK to look at ourselves, see those changes, and embrace them.
There is plenty of time in the year ahead to drive ourselves harder, to chase and pursue, and to demand more.
But for the beginning of January, don’t stress about it. You’re doing great, and you’re going to be OK.