Ten Resolutions For All You Writers In The New Year

1. Write Everyday

Time is a valuable resource. Make it work for you. Writing everyday moves you closer to project completion and chips away at the distance between conception and goal. You are adding value daily. Don’t wait to feel like writing; develop the disciplined habit of setting aside time everyday. If you are stuck, then review previous passages that may provide an additional word or phrase that gets your story moving again.

2. Stay Alert for Distractions

They are dream killers. Fight back by tightening your focus on the work in front of you before moving on to something else. Focus eliminates distractions and makes it easier to spot mistakes. It will move you forward despite challenges. Focus fosters boldness in support of your struggles by concentrating attention on the goal of completing your project. Distractions only live if you feed into them. They have no power without your consent.

3. Remember to Keep a Writer’s Notebook/Journal

Having a specific place to keep your ideas helps to strengthen your creative endeavors. It jogs your memory. It helps in developing projects. It becomes a beacon of light during times of struggle when you feel like giving up.

4. Write Right

Improve your writing skills with any writing you do. Whether writing a thank-you note, an invitation to a gathering,  a letter to an old friend, a social media post, a response that must be documented and sometimes even a text message, use appropriate grammar, punctuation and style. When you do, your writing ability becomes stronger.

5. Remember You’re Telling a Story

Whether you’re writing a novel, poem, script, musical project, play, essay or a biography, you are telling a story. One of your goals is to have the readers join you on the journey. Not only must you keep their interest in the present but they want the back story. They want a resolution of conflict between past and present. Are you keeping them hopeful?

6. Engage Your Readers’ Emotions

If you want them to take the journey with you, they must be emotionally involved with words and phrases that reach out to them. Remember Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere? Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. In this poem, from the beginning readers know Longfellow is telling a compelling story. He is speaking to a special group, children. He calls them to attention, listen. He makes them feel special by setting them apart, my children. These words draw the readers to him to hear the important message that is about to unfold. The children, like all readers want to hear the story.The words evoke heightened curiosity of what is to come. Think about books you have read that touched your emotions. Then answer the question: how were words used to engage your interest and emotions?

7. Watch Out for Hidden Barriers

They are not always obvious. They hide behind normal everyday existence. One of the barriers you don’t recognize may be limiting your efforts and progress. Barriers are often erected by past experiences, biases, nurturing, trust or methods you learned to use in resolving issues around strong emotions.

8. Your Characters Will Tell Their Stories

If you’re writing fiction, let your characters speak for themselves. If you’ve developed them by including specifics about their environments, families, friends, what they think about the most important aspects of their lives and why, their culture, fears, proudest moments and any personality quirks that affect them; then they will tell the readers what they want them to know.

9. Be Prepared When You Reach a Plateau

When you seem to be standing still despite all your efforts you’re at a plateau. Plateauing is a dangerous time. Your enthusiasm may flatten. During this period you’re not receiving the positive feedback you want because your disciplined actions appear not to produce progress. Patience is required. Check your idea book, notes or review what you have already written to jog your creative flow. Maybe its time to take a break. Know the difference between break-time and procrastination.

10. Tell, Tell, Tell 

Don’t be shy. Spread the word. Use the power of social media. Never stop marketing your project even as it is still in the process of being written. Let your readers know about your progress. Develop a short concise statement that encapsulates the story you’re  writing.

 

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Resources

As you advance your literary efforts, harness the resources available to you. One of the most valuable resources is time. It is a gift. Respect its limitations and opportunities. Protect your time by budgeting it wisely. Time is with you at the start of your journey. It will walk beside you every step of the way if you give it respect, but will slip away if you don’t.

Eliminate distractions. They hijack focus and weaken commitment to completion of the literary project. Distractions include unnecessary noise, clutter and sometimes people who try to hand over their problems to you.

Recognize procrastination in all its disguises. Procrastination is a dream killer. There are many ways we procrastinate: over-scheduling, delaying making decisions, lying about the true nature of our time, grandiose and magical thinking, daydreaming and giving into unreasonable fears. Unless you have an authentic answer for why you are not reworking that weak paragraph, tightening the description of a character, writing the next stanza of your poem, reconsidering the beginning sentences of your project or putting in the changes and corrections you made last night, you are procrastinating.

Commit to completing the task in front of you before moving to another. Remember time keeps moving forward; don’t let it leave you behind.

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Bookstore

All of you know how much I love perusing bookstores. Recently, I ran across another one I like, Books With A Past, a new and used independent bookstore located in Historic Savage Mill, Savage, Maryland. Savage Mill is a quaint old cotton mill full of small shops. The store is cozy and welcoming with comfortable seating spaces that invite you to stay awhile.

If you also like browsing and possibly coming across a book someone else enjoyed, that you find interesting, then Books With A Past is a great place to spend some time and maybe purchase a book.  I did.

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Thanksgiving story

One of the missions of this blog is to encourage each of you to tell your story. In the telling, you have the opportunity to practice your writing techniques, thus increasing your skills. Since we’re into the holiday season why not share a memorable tale. I have one about Thanksgiving.

I grew up in a traditional family home where we shared dinner every day around the dinning room table. The table was always set and we were in our seats before my grandfather was called. These were the times when black men did back-breaking work their entire lives. So, when they came home from work, they expected a calm and predictable routine. These men reigned supreme in their households. At dinner no one ate a grain of rice until my grandfather sat down at the head of the table and said the grace.

On Thanksgiving, like the rest of America, we always had a beautiful roasted turkey, just like the ones you see in magazines: crispy golden brown. Then one Thanksgiving my Grandmother decided to alter the menu. I remember it to this day. She decided we would not have turkey.

My godfather, who often went deep sea fishing, always shared his catch. So my grandmother decided to surprise us by serving a large barracuda he’d given us. This new feature meant nothing to my sister and I because we were not big eaters anyway. But when my grandfather came to the table and saw, not a turkey, but this big fish on a platter in the middle of the table, the normally quiet grandfather we knew turned into a stranger. He was so upset, his round eyes grew rounder and wider. For a moment he was speechless. When he finally spoke, it was to demand that on the next day when he arrived home he expected to see a turkey on the table. We carried on with dinner, but I don’t remember anyone eating the barracuda.

The following evening we had a proper Thanksgiving meal with a picture perfect turkey as the center piece.

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Excerpt from Sloane

Some people call it luck. Others will say I’m blessed. But the truth is, I had a chancy start in life. My options, however, improved when I landed in a place, at a time, in the care of a woman who had an intimate relationship with luck and his close relative, chance. “luck will lift your dreams,” Grandma Neetha would say. “Chance is indifferent to them.” How she was able to fine-tune the difference between these road signs, as she called them, I never understood. But one of these possibilities was the reason I started my life with her. It was,however, pure luck when I met Billy and we began our life-long friendship.

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Beginnings

When we open a book and begin to read, our emotions immediately engage with the words, characters and settings. These beginnings are reminders of past experiences, hopes, daydreams, even old fears. They provide vivid mental pictures.

As writers, we’re often told to provide a hook for the readers that will keep them reading. This started me thinking about books that ‘hooked’ me at the very beginning. One such book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It was published decades ago, but continues to show up among readers’ favorites, certainly one of mine.

The very first word in the book is the name of the main character, Okonkwo. Over the first three paragraphs we learn he is a man of power and influence in his village, with a large compound comprising three wives and many children. With the author’s words a picture of him begins to emerge in our minds of a tall muscular man with attitude. Briefly we learn he has a beef with his father, even though, at this point, we don’t know the reason, but the author has aroused our interest. We want to know more. In these paragraphs we also begin to see the nature of Okonkwo’s culture which adds to our interest in his story.

 

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NOLA – French Quarter

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