It’s the first day of the year and the first day of your resolution to write in 2020. Hopefully, you’ve got that day-one excitement flowing through you, pushing you to hit your goals, making the first day feel exciting and, with any luck, easy.
I love New Year’s Resolutions. I tend to make a lot of them. But there’s one resolution I make year after year:
The resolution to write.
Then again, it isn’t really one resolution. Some years my resolutions are about word count. Sometimes they’re about establishing routines, carving out time–my “writer’s life,” if you will. There are dozens of ways to resolve to write, and that resolution can be regularly renewed or revamped. I’d say there are so many ways to resolve to write, that the blanket statement isn’t enough: we need to focus on a more specific, more concrete goal.
Since I’ve been resolving to write for so long, I thought I’d share some of my more specific resolutions. You’ll notice that they all come with a common theme: Don’t expect too much of yourself. I don’t want you to underestimate yourself, either, but it’s better to set yourself up for success than for failure.
Last night, I was watching A Christmas Story with my kids when bedtime hit. Right as I had to turn off the TV to start the bedtime routine, the narrator (adult Ralphie) uttered one of my favorite lines: “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”
At first, I thought this would be a great opening line–for an exercise, perhaps, but not for an actual story. So I thought, perhaps I could use it as a last line–sort of like reverse engineering. I’ve heard of writers thinking this way (the one that comes to mind is Gilmore Girls and the six words Amy Sherman-Palladino swore would finish the series–six words she didn’t get to write until the follow-up episodes a few years ago) and while it might not be the very best way to work, it’s something I hadn’t tried.
Read my attempt below (there is sooo much more work to be done!) and share yours in the comments!
Have you ever made a toast? I mean, a real one–not just “to us!” but a long, thought-out, possibly memorized speech. It’s an embarrassing prospect, especially for those who fear public speaking, but it’s also a nice idea, isn’t it? So I thought this year, though I won’t be standing up in my dining room making everyone listen to me prattle on, I’d write a toast–just for the heck of it. And then I thought it’d be more interesting to write a toast from one of my characters’ perspectives. Even if they, also, would never stand up and orate.
From the perspective of a highly introverted, possibly autistic sixteen-year-old girl, to her very large family on Thanksgiving:
In my third year of college, we read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I believe it was a fiction workshop, though the book is considered a nonfiction novel. As we went around the room discussing the book’s setup and the way Capote presented the characters, I said something that made the class erupt.
I said I didn’t like the daughter–a young girl who was brutally murdered in the book and in real life.
I was insensitive. I was brutish. I was completely out of line.
I gravitate toward poems about the domestic: families, food, small moments at home. I wouldn’t call myself a great appreciator of poetry, but I think there are poems out there for each of us–even those who think they despise the genre. These five are all written by women, all found as I wandered the internet, looking for something to read.
Do you ever get words stuck in your head? I’ve heard it’s a symptom of OCD (though if you look up a full list of OCD symptoms you’ll probably un-diagnose yourself). There was a time in my life when these words plagued me. I’d read the name of a chemical on a shampoo bottle in the morning and it would play over and over and over and over, whenever my mind was quiet.
This morning, for no reason at all, I thought of the word “flamingo.” Flamingo, flamingo, flamingo. And just as it was starting to get annoying I though, “Maybe I could use this.”
So the challenge this week is to write something using a repetitive word. I know it can work when wielded by the right writer–just read something by Robert Lopez and you’ll see what I mean. (Seriously, though, read Robert Lopez anyway. He’s amazing.)