Erin O'Riordan has been writing compulsively since she could hold a pencil, and professionally since 2006. More than forty of her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous magazines and websites. Beltane, her first novel, is the first in the twelve-part "Pagan Spirits" series. The literary character she most closely resembles is an untamed Shakespearean shrew.
Every December since 1995, I have bought a new spiral-bound calendar/appointment book for the new year from my book club. I use it to jot down notes about my day, which I then use to write journal entries. Since I’m often behind on journaling, the calendar helps me keep track of what I’ve done, seen, read and written. This year’s One Spirit Book of Days 2010, with text by Joan Duncan Oliver and Duncan Baird Publishers, arrived today. Before the calendar pages begin, there are a series of reflections for the coming month, a kind of New Year’s resolution meditation. It contains four points:
Be Here Now
Set Your Intention
Practice Coming Down to Earth
Welcome What Is
There are the New Year’s resolutions we make in our everyday lives: to eat fewer cookies and more green vegetables, to get to the gym more often, to spend less money on lattes at Starbuck’s…then, on another level of our existence, there are the New Year’s resolutions we make as writers. Whatever your writing goal is for 2010, here are some writers’ resolutions you may want to ponder:
I will refer to myself as a writer. This one is especially for those of us still in the early stages of our writing careers. Maybe you have yet to have one of your pieces published. Maybe you’ve had pieces published, but the outlets for your creative weren’t “big” or “important” enough in your mind. Maybe you’ve had three novels published, but you still consider writing your sideline while you work at your “regular” job. Whatever your situation, if you make letters on actual or virtual paper, and especially if those letters form intelligible words, you are a writer. Know it. Claim it. Make it more true every time you say it. This is one way of setting your intention, as the calendar suggests.
I will make time to write. If you write one page a day, then you’ll produce one 365-page book a year. So often, there are multiple demands on a writer’s time, whether they come from family commitments, the job that puts bread on the table, spending time with friends, or running a household. No matter how hectic your schedule, if you are committed to being a writer, schedule some writing time into your day, even if it is only one day a week. Then, honor your commitment to yourself. Follow your schedule.
I will promote myself online…without wasting all my time. This is a hard one. To be a successful writer today, whether you’re promoting the family cookbook or the next best-selling thriller, it helps to have an online network of friends and supporters who share your interests and, in turn, are interested in what your writing has to say. It can be a valuable way to network with other writers and to make connections with readers. However, some of us are tempted to spend too much time in the virtual world. How many times have I found myself sending my friends a round of virtual drinks when I should have been working on my research, or on an editing project? Too many. Promote yourself, but strike a balance that still leaves you time to write. Otherwise you’ll end up with nothing new to promote!
I will continue to seek new markets for what I write. Last month, I made a list of resources for writers; use them (or your own list) to find new places to share your work. Remember, it’s great to get paid for your work, but sometimes getting your name out there in a medium, such as a small-circulation magazine or a local newspaper, that doesn’t pay can be as valuable as money in your PayPal account. Introduce yourself to readers who have never heard your name before through your writing. If all else fails, go to your library, check out the most recent edition of Writer’s Market, and flip through it. You may be surprised how many markets are looking for someone with your knowledge and skills.
I will encounter defeats, but I will not be defeated. I paraphrased Maya Angelou here. Rejections large and small happen to all writers…look at J.K. Rowling. You may write a piece you love, but it never finds a good home in the public eye. No matter: readers come in all tastes, and if you like your stories, chances are someone else out there will like them, too. Keep trying, and try not to be discouraged by rejection. Accept constructive criticism; if you need to work on your craft, and/or find an editor to help you with the details, then do so. Don’t let one editor’s, one reviewer’s, one reader’s opinion of your work cause you to throw in the towel, though. If all else fails, will your writing to the college or high school you attended, and some future generation will discover your unappreciated genius.