To all of you who have ever thought:
I should write a book... someday.
Make 2017 the year you finally set some of those words down on paper. You know the ones—the stories that come to you in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep; the memories from childhood that pop into focus while shampooing your hair. Why do they keep coming up?
It’s your subconscious trying to tell you something. You have past experiences to work though, to make sense of, or perhaps to recognize their impact on your current life. For me, memories of my dad keep surfacing even when I’m not focusing on them. We lost him to cancer a year ago, and it has unexpectedly become my way of grieving this huge loss in my life. Instead of putting it out of mind, I spend time typing up memories of him. Some of these stories become blogs, and some are for my eyes only. No matter the audience, I always feel a bit lighter afterward. It’s free therapy.
Make 2017 the year you try writing therapy. Getting started can be tough, but so is keeping up with it. Here are some tips to get over the hump of where to start and keep you writing well into the new year.
Set a writing goal with a schedule and stick to it. Write the goal down somewhere that you will see it and schedule the time in your calendar just as you might do for exercise or a coffee break. If you think you don't have the time, think again. Make your writing a priority. Some days might just be 15 minutes of free writing. Some days will allow for a longer and more focused session. Thinking about writing is not enough. As Amy Poehler once said about writing her book, “The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
Write what’s on your mind, but then think bigger. What’s the larger meaning? Is there a lesson in there? Dig it out. That’s what takes writing from journaling to deserving of a larger audience.
Don’t strive for perfection. The first draft is just that, the first of many, and a draft to be worked on in time. Don’t expect gold to just spill out onto the page from the very start. It often takes quite a bit of polish. See my piece on Editing. (To add to Poehler’s quote, I’d also say editing is the thing.)
Keep reading. You want to be a writer? Then be a reader. Read what you love, whether it’s memoirs or mysteries. It’s easy to get lost in a good story—that’s the sign of a good writer. But try and take a closer look at why you enjoy the book and what the author is doing behind the scenes. Then try to emulate the masters at their own craft.
Hope this new year brings health, happiness, and maybe even a best-selling novel!
Nora Kerr is the owner of Memoir for Me, specializing in memory books that document a life story.