As we come down to the last few days of the year, my thoughts circle more and more around what I want to accomplish in the 2023. I’m not alone in this, I know. But in these dead space between Christmas and New Years, it is hard to make concrete plans. I have ideas floating in my mind about goal setting and themes, starting new habits and and disrupting stale routines, trying to find a new groove in a life that seems stuck on the same track year after year, but I have found little initiative to commit any of it to paper just yet.

However, there is one thought that has been repeating regularly in my head for a few weeks: that I need to find a new relationship with my writing.

I have to be completely honest here: even though I have wanted to be a fantasy novelist since I was in fourth grade, I have always been pretty terrible at it. Not at the craft of writing — I’m a pretty good writer, and at least have managed a career as a writer even if it’s not fiction. It’s the discipline of writing that has eluded me, the ability to sit down regularly and churn out words and stories, revise and edit those words, and send them out to the world. I manage to do it with my day job (most of the time ) but I have struggled with it otherwise, even before my complete creative depression of 2011-2017. It’s been decades since fourth grade, after all, and I don’t have any completed novels to show, for all my stated desire.

Since I broke through that depression, I have been protective of my creative self, afraid that the doors would slam shut again if I was too critical of my art or of my process. Having stood at the precipice of giving up the idea of being a writer all together, I was just happy to have any part of it back at all. Nurture softly, demand nothing, accept what I have been given. Don’t push it! It’s an attitude that’s persisted through the communal traumas of 2020 and beyond: the world is hard right now, so go easy on yourself.

But now I am beginning to wonder if I have been too protective. Now I feel the need to be more deliberate with my desires, to let aspiration set the expectations and to find the discipline to live up to those demands.

Perhaps it was attending World Fantasy in November that flipped the record for me, being surrounded by professionals who are doing with their lives what I want to do with my own. Maybe it’s hearing the writers I follow on social media talk about their completed novels and the ones they’re working on next, a steady progression of accomplishment. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been at my current job for three and a half years, longer than I’ve ever worked anywhere before, and the static that separates “stability” from “rut” has me trying to tune in more clearly on the life I really want to lead.

Maybe it’s that I’m 53 years old, my kids are adults, and I’m running out future to get things done.

It’s time to stop putting things off. I’m frustrated with frustrating my ambitions.

My problem now is that I don’t know how to go about it. “Reshape my relationship with writing” I say glibly, but I’m not entirely sure what that means or what it looks like. How do I break a lifetime of bad writing habits in a way that is meaningful, productive, consistent, and enduring?

I don’t think this a question I’m going to resolve in a single blog post. Maybe not even in a year of blog posts. It’s not a problem I can resolve with a habit tracker, or a writing schedule or even a deadline, though all of those may be part of it. So might therapy.

Why do I want to write? Why do I want to write fantasy? Why does it matter that other people read what I write? What do I have to say? What do I hope to accomplish with my writing? Why do I struggle so much to just do it?

These are some of the questions running through my mind, the things I need to sort out and rearrange if I want to be better about writing. Some of them have simple answers, but maybe those simple answers are too siimple. Maybe if I dig further I will find truer answers.

I know I’m not going to find all the answers I want on the eve of New Year’s Eve. No matter how tempting it would be to simply flip the switch to “on” when the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, no set of resolutions or new routines and habits are going to instantly resolve my decades-long issues and transform me into a professional novelist. It’s going to be a process, a journey I’m going to have to take without necessarily knowing all the turns.

Here’s what I know right now though:

  • I want to spend my days writing and editing fantasy. While I’m lucky enough that I do write for my day job, it’s definitely not fantasy, and not my own creative work.
  • If I want to spend my days writing and editing fantasy, then (unless I win the lottery) I need to actually think of these activities as a job and not just a hobby that I do when I feel like it.
  • I need to stop feeling so precious about my words and ideas. Just spit them out, polish them up, and move on. I don’t get stuck in iterative nonsense on my day-job writing — there’s no point in doing it with fiction, either.
  • I need to embrace the knowledge that the more I do write, the more I will write. When the engine is allowed to run, words will come easier, and they will come better. It’s all the stopping and starting that mucks things up.

It’s that last bullet point has me on the precipice of committing to a “blog every day for a year” challenge. I’m a little unnerved about it, because I actually have quite a lot going on at the beginning of the year, and won’t blogging every day just subtract from the time I could spend writing fiction? I have wavered on that point a while now, but when I think about how much value I have gotten from blogging in the past, I think that the time spent will provide significant value in return — connecting with my deeper self; learning how to turn down the volume on the inner critic in order to get things done; building a habit not just of writing every day, but of writing well every day. As senseless as it may seem, blogging every day seems to make a lot of sense to me right now.

It’ll take some time management, some paring down of non-essential practices (social media, natch), some evaluation of how I spend my time and how I can better spend my time. I don’t want to abandon my other creative hobbies — crochet, photography, learning the lyre — but maybe, especially at first, there will be a little less time for them. It’ll take evaluation and reevaluation to Stay on Target (that’s the subject for my next post!), but I do promise that I’m not going to spend all that time blogging about blogging, or even about this quest to redefine my relationship with writing. That much navel gazing would be boring even for the one doing it.

No, I’ll continue to focus on the topics that have always shaped this blog — Magic & Ink. Writing advice, the magic that makes fantasy works, how to confront and get past creative blocks, and how I can imbue my own life with a tangible sense of wonder.

It all starts with the words. It’s time to find that new groove.

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