“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
—Louis L’Amour

Why You Should Do a Year-End Review for Your Writing

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a restful and joy-filled time with the people you love most. If you don’t, then my warmest holiday wishes to you.

The year is nearly over (can you believe it?), and I’d like us all to take these last few days to breathe in what we’ve accomplished in our writing over the last year and do a year-end review of our writing.

year-end review

This is usually a time of release. We’ve finished the manic shopping before Christmas. We’ve eaten more than we should but we haven’t started our workout/dieting regiment until January 1. We are relaxed, satiated, and so this is the perfect time for a year-end review of our writing.

What Is a Year-End Review?

The purpose of a year-end review is to experience gratitude.

We usually move so quickly through life we forget where we’ve come from, what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished. This is especially true for our writing. We become desperate to finish that book, we write pages and pages as fast as we can, we outline and plot and capture new ideas on scrap pieces of paper and napkins. This is necessary and righteous even, for those of us who want to be writers.

A year-end review, though, is about surprise, about looking back and saying, “Oh yeah, I did that. I nearly forgot!”

A year-end review is not about editing or revising. It’s not about critiquing or judging our work good or bad.

A year-end review is about experiencing gratitude, gratitude toward ourselves, gratitude that we made the choice to write instead of watch television or procrastinate. It’s about experiencing gratitude toward the creativity inside us that allows us to put words together in just the perfect way so as to create new meaning.

It’s important to note that this isn’t just a feel-good exercise. You can’t move forward—with your writing, your life, or anything else—if you haven’t made peace with where you’ve been.

How to Do a Year-End Review of Your Writing?

First, collect all your writing in one-place. You will need a lot of room. The preferable place for your review to take place is on the floor, but a very large table will work as well. If most of your writing is on your computer, you might consider printing it out. Year-end reviews are best done in print. Collecting everything into one place may perhaps be the most difficult and rewarding piece of this process. Simply the act of handling your work from the last year will do magic for the next.

Next, read. Read a little of everything. Feel free to skim or to dive deep into one piece or other. The goal is not to read everything, which for many of us would be a huge burden, but instead to simply become familiar with what you’ve written.

Enjoy. “You are your own worst critic,” the saying goes, but this is not a time for critiquing. Instead, read your writing out of a place of appreciation instead of judgment.

Categorize. As you read, you may notice themes in your writing, images that come up again and again, or moods that you seemed to slip into often. If you like, you can use highlighters or colored pens to visualize these different themes, but simply noticing is enough.

Consider. Why did you write what you did? Why these pieces? Why these forms (e.g. why these blog posts/poems/novel chapters)? What motivated you to write over the last year? Why were you drawn to this theme or that image? Who are you as a writer? And what are you about?

Forgive. You may find that you are unable to give up judgement and truly enjoy your own writing. In this case, you must say to yourself, “I forgive you.” You must let yourself out of the expectation of genius and perfection. You must accept that the year is what it is and choose to be content with it. Do not allow yourself to say, “I forgive you, but I know next year will be better.” No buts! No strings! Only complete acceptance. (You may have to repeat this step a few times.)

This Will Make You a Better Writer

If you don’t appreciate your own writing, how can you expect others to. (Share that on Twitter?)

Now that the weather is cool, the presents all open, and the year nearly finished, this is the perfect time to look over your writing and do a year-end review.

I hope you’ll give it a try!

What did you accomplish in your writing this year? Share in the comments section.

PRACTICE

For your writing practice today, follow the steps above to do a year-end review of your writing. Let us know how it goes in the comments section!

See you in 2015!

The Write Practice’s Year in Review

By the way, want to know how our 2014 was?

Comments and practices = 10,940

Commenters and writers = 1,741

Articles posted = 235

2014 was also the year we published our 1,000th Post and hit 200,000 monthly readers for the first time! It was such a wonderful year, and I’m so grateful for all of you. Thank you!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Joe, I loved this post and have found myself in the middle of this exact thing over the last few months. I have over 35+ stories , poems scrapes of writing which were destined for one thing or another, for the many characters and story lines I have created over the many years I have been writing, I have created a character cafe where these characters gather and ‘party and chat with each other. This way I know what I’ve written the themes and setting with which the stories are set in and if it was complete or worth completing.

    Right now I have two files in my drop box called already decided to finish and one still debating. There are some of these pieces that have joined together to form one story. Currently working on one such story.

    It really is amazing just to read what I have created and remember where I was in my life when I created it and wonder if things have changed, gotten better, or worse since that writing, and have I grown. Some of my writing is in various folders but I dont have the heart to toss a lot because whether I choose to do anything with these pieces they are all a part of who I was am and will be. How can you throw that away….

    But by reviewing a lot of these I can honestly say- this will work or not work and if they wont work why torture myself with keeping it to remind myself of that

    • Krithika Rangarajan

      Bravo #HUGS

    • Congratulations on finishing so much great writing, Debra! Yes, you’ve got it. The year end review idea is about taking a break from deciding whether something is good or not and just becoming familiar with everything you’ve written over the last year. Really it’s about becoming familiar with who you are as a writer and why you write the way you do. And it can open up the answers to a lot of the questions your debating right now. I hope you’ll give it a shot!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Thank you for a very poignant and powerful reminder to be grateful for being able to write something – anything #HUGSS

    Kitto

    • Right! You have to give yourself permission to write complete crap if you want to write that occasional sentence of genius.

  • This review is a good idea. It helps to look back and see where we’ve been before setting goals to go forward.
    I began a few new stories, threw away three, finished two, had one published and received four rejects on stories written in previous years. I submitted my novel to several publishers, received six rejects and at least seven haven’t responded. I had several haiku, tanka and haibun published, judged a haiku book contest and wrote a review of the winning books, came in first in a haibun contest, had my photo haiga accepted for a special feature in an online haiga journal for the spring issue, tried writing free verse, wrote 39 posts for my blog, http://www.adelaidewritewritewrite.blogspot.com and left
    comments on a few writing and haiku blogs. My plans for 2015 is to keep on
    doing what I’ve been doing. Right now, I am lacking story ideas, but I have my other
    writing to keep me busy.

    Happy 2015 to you, Joe, and to everyone here.

    Adelaide

    • Fantastic! A year well spent, Adelaide. You’re IN it, in the work, and that’s the most important thing.

  • Miriam N

    Thanks for this wonderful idea Joe! It really helped me look back and marvel at how much I’ve grown as a writer. I also noticed one important fact. I have only been a part of this community since March this year.
    Joe you have made a novice writer like myself so much more comfortable with writing and sharing it with others. You’ve gotten me to write again. I found the write practice at the end of my two years absence from writing and it has helped me beyond what i thought it would. I’ve been published twice on this website, each time getting a boost of confidence. Thanks for being willing to help an aspiring author like me. Happy 2015!

    • You’ve had a great year, Miriam. It’s been so fun watching you grow as a writer here. Here’s to another year of writing!

  • Cheryl

    What an awesome idea! I know what I’m going to spend New Year’s Day doing.

    • I hope you will, Cheryl! Let us know how it goes!

  • Beckasue

    I have only recently joined your community of writers, and am happy to be here. I’m on my third day of the 14 days of prompts from your book and enjoying the writing practice daily. It’s been years since I “laid down my pen” so to speak and it feels good to have it in my hand again. Thanks for your encouragement.

    In the back of my closet, in a very dark space there sits a plastic storage container. I put it there years ago because I couldn’t bear to throw it out. It contains pages and pages of story ideas and character sketches, some almost complete short stories and even some published pieces. I’ve been wondering lately if I should take them out, and if I do take them out what to do with them. Your Year End practice answered that question for me. I intend to sit down (giving myself plenty of space) and look them over one by one. I intend to be grateful for all of it, to read it, learn from it and most of all to forgive myself for ignoring it for so long. I believe there will be some good “stuff” there to draw from in future, Mostly, I intend to write.

    Thanks Joe.

    • Fantastic, Beckasue. It almost sounds like a story idea: a long-blocked writer searches through a dark, creepy garage to find a mysterious box. She opens it and rediscovers her life. Good luck, Beckasue, and welcome back to writing!

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  • Jeanne Frost

    Hello Joe, reviewing our year is a wonderful idea. I will do this in January. I have had a year of writing almost every day to glean life experiences to create a memoir. It was wonderful practice with much support from a small group of writers. I have a novel written, not edited yet. So this next year is the year to finally get it published along with writing a memoir. Thank you for all your support! Happy New Year!

  • Great post Joe. I reviewed my work the other day and finally posted everything on my blog. Looking back on everything definitely puts your accomplishments in perspective. I feel pretty good about what I wrote this year. I love when people read my stuff if you ever get bored and want something to read I write mainly comedy T.V. spec scripts and my own T.V. sketch show called Play it by Year. You can read all of my stuff at Pugnitup.com