I am a writer that likes rituals, ceremonies, and holidays that feel like closing chapters. As I prepared to leave my current artist residency in Key West, I’m thinking of how the writing journey, if it really is a love-at-first-sight kind of thing, is endless. Having finished Book #1 last year and working through Book #2 right now as I’m awaiting news from submissions for Book #1, I have to be willing to give some advice to both help readers of this newsletter and myself as I try not to check my email too.
So here are 5 ways to get excited about writing in the new year…
#1 Reread some old writing and reminisce on memories from your writing past.
While editing a video a few days ago, I found myself scrolling through Facebook for footage. I was 15 when I went to Gambier, OH to attend a two-week writer’s workshop. During those two weeks, I came out of my shell as a writer, tried new genres, made new friends, and took all sorts of weird clips on my phone. Looking at those video clips lead me to look at old poems, stories, and parts of novels.
Sometimes looking back can be an act of procrastination. It can also be a way to remind ourselves of an era of time when we gave ourselves permission to be more creative, creative in different ways, or totally indulgent in what we made.
And if you know any teenagers that love writing, tell the check out the workshop at Kenyon College.
#2 Give weight to your writing.
This means make flashcards of plot points. Print out your poem and stick it up on a corkboard. Make a mock trailer. Attach songs to moments in your project and let those songs anchor you to it when you are not writing.
#3 Set a daily writing goal
This goal can be 400 words a day or 800 words or more than 1000 words. Or three pages a day. No matter what the goal is, make it something that is both achievable and still a challenge depending on how tired you are on that writing day.
Setting. a basic daily writing goal is a really effective way to get invested in a project. Before you do this, spend a little quiet time thinking of various plot elements. Research things that those characters may like. Ruminate on the themes and motifs of the work and think of scenes that can express them.
Or think of it this way. Writing 800 words a day for 30 days equals 24,000 words.
In this past month at this residency, I’ve written roughly 30,000 words in 30 days.
#4 Find a writing or accountability buddy.
This tip can help in more ways than one. Mining the people around for the ones that are hoping to write and need someone to be in community with can be really fruitful. In college, I studied English and tended not to vibe with too many of my classmates. Every Tuesday, I’d go to a local cafe and read at a poetry night. Over my last three years of college, this weekly tradition spread into drinking sessions at the bar after poetry night, DIY writing workshops on the weekends and eventually joining a slam poetry group.
All of this is to say that we can find literary community and inspiration in some of the most unexpected ways. Find someone willing to be in creative community with you and foster a relationship that is creatively mutually beneficial. This can look like weekly writing sessions, reading similar texts, doing Facetime calls to talk about plot details, or even collaborating on something.
#5 Start writing RIGHT NOW!
This may be a controversial tip, but maybe the most important one. Often times we get so caught up in our heads that our own thoughts stop us from literally doing the act of sitting down and writing.
So find a quiet spot, put your phone on airplane mode, set your laptop to "Do Not Disturb”, and tell yourself, “I’m gonna write for the next two hours and not censor myself. Here we go.”
Once you can start normalizing this ritual and mindset, your writing life may very well begin to change.
What’s been helping me stay creative…
This panel discussion between Jamaican writers (Nicole Dennis-Benn, Marlon James, and Kei Miller gave me a lot to think about a younger Jamaican-American trying to infuse the diaspora and Caribbean culture into my work. By Key West Literary Seminar.
A little more random, bur rapping is an art form and quintessential part of black culture, right? Well, I’ve been laughing to myself in the evenings about 00’s MTV and watching The (White) Rapper Show to soothe my moods during these coup-like times.
If you’re looking for artist or writer residencies to apply to this year, check out this listing from Alliance of Artist Communities.
Since I’m a writer on submissions for my debut book, I’ve made a “Getting Published” playlist on Spotify of useful podcast episodes.