This time of year many writers begin to evaluate their progress to celebrate wins, grieve losses, and reset for the year ahead. Here are two questions to guide your reflection and help you build better habits for the coming year (and maybe even some writing resolutions).

2 Questions Every Writer Should Ask (Instead of Writing Resolutions)

My students leave today for winter break, done with class for the year. This week, we’ve spent some time reflecting on all we’ve learned from our reading and writing time together.

As they shared, I was reminded that the simple act of reading and writing and sharing together that makes the greatest impact on us. No one cited a course they paid thousands of dollars for. No one said they were glad they’d invested in technology or software (although those things are certainly nice!).

The thing that came up again and again was reading, discussing, writing, and feedback.

Two Questions for Reflection

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” My students would certainly agree, and we used his words to guide our self-assessment.

1. What did you read this year?

Sometimes students ask, “What counts as reading?” My answer? Everything! Don’t discount the reading you complete outside your genre, the reading for classes or work, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Do audiobooks count? Of course! What about podcasts? Yes!

I don’t know where we get the idea that if we aren’t reading the classics, the reading doesn’t count. Anything exposing you to words and ideas is a kind of reading.

Take a minute to list the books, stories, and articles that have stuck with you this year. For each, see if you can figure out why it left such a strong impression. Was it the content? The author’s voice? A new perspective?

As you celebrate the reading that helped you grow this year, think through the topics, authors, genres you didn’t get to and make a short list of three you’d like to explore in the coming year. Don’t make a big sweeping resolution you won’t keep. Simply commit to trying a few minutes each day in those new areas to see what they might hold.

2. What did you share this year?

The second question makes us squirm a little. We often don’t like to share our work, but it is a fantastic way to grow. Students discussed the stories, poems, and essays they wrote, as well as the feedback their peers gave to make the work stronger. There is real camaraderie in mutually sharing work with a supportive group of peers.

Whether you shared a comment on a blog post or your first novel with readers, celebrate the work you shared, especially when it resulted in building up your writing community. Maybe you shared a critique with a writing group or a beautiful letter with a friend or family member. Your words and influence can make a difference in the lives of those around you.

As you look to the year ahead, consider how you will surround yourself with people who will raise your writing game, who will challenge you intellectually and creatively. Thoughtfully find places to share your work by entering contests, joining a writing group, or posting on a blog or online shared writing space.

Five Minute Habits Instead of Writing Resolutions

You don’t need writing resolutions to change your habits. Just spend five minutes a day reading or investing in stronger writing relationships and see how it transforms your coming year. I find that I usually start with five minutes and spend far longer, but it’s time well spent when I know it’s building a stronger writing life.

How do you reflect and refocus your writing habits? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Today, you have two choices for practice:

  1. Take fifteen minutes to answer the questions above. What did you read this year? And what did you share?
  2. Or, take fifteen minutes to think about how your character might reflect back on their year. What did they accomplish? What resolutions might they write for the year to come?

When you’re done, share your writing in the comments, and be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Sue Weems
Sue Weems

Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveller with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.