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Look Back and Marvel

You’ve achieved so much more than you think.

I know the beginning of January is when people take stock and set goals for the new year. Short stories to write and novels to finish. Drafts to edit and completed manuscripts to submit. Lists, goals and deadlines.

Now, I’m all for deadlines (in fact I thrive on a very short deadline) but I think sometimes we’re so busy thinking about a new year’s lengthy list of new projects that we forget to consider and be proud of what we’ve achieved this year. Which is why, in this week’s blog, I want to ask you to reread all the writing you have done during 2022. Open notebooks and computer files, take out those scribbled-on receipts that sit in the bottom of your bag (you never know when a great idea will pop into your head) and full-length print outs and see everything that you’ve achieved this year. And then read it. All those complex characters you’ve created or are in the middle of creating, the emotional story arcs that will make readers stay up all night to find out what happens next, the surprising twist to the tale that no one would ever guess.

Think of the killer opening lines you wrote, that poetic verse, that scene of dialogue that was so good you kept acting it out… Yes, of course you want to finish the story, the poem, the novel, that screenplay…and maybe you’re not there yet…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate these small triumphs. Words and characters and scenarios that didn’t exist until you came up with them and wrote them down in your own unique and wonderful way.

I love comic fiction and feel most proud of myself when I think I’ve written something funny. If I make myself laugh (and I do, often) I consider that a successful piece of writing, finished or not. When I go into my very messy bag and fish out those receipts and napkins and eventually decipher what I wrote, it makes me happy. I’m on my way to producing a story or a poem and I love that feeling of creativity in action.

Some things, naturally, don’t work, but don’t throw them away. Keep them, instead, in a box of ‘out-takes', if you will, and come back to them. You’ll be surprised at how many times you can place an unsuitable-for-this-story character in another one, or how you might place that scene that didn’t fit in your novel, in an entirely different story (or genre).

Reading lines and scenes afresh often results in a reappraisal of your own work. What did you write back in January and February? Go back and have a look and see how it makes you feel now. That line you discarded was quite good, after all. Your description of the landscape you struggled with, was, you can see now you have a bit of distance, sublime. In fact, you’re going to write an entirely new story around that description.

Over a year there will be so many pieces of writing – from lessons, prompts and plans, your various beginnings and endings of chapters, the children’s story you started and forgot about, the poem that was an assignment, the song lyrics you wrote with a friend – all of them worthy of a reread. You wrote them all! Are you amazed? You should be.

So, yes, plan and make goals and lists for 2023 if that makes you happy but don’t forget to read and love all the many, many things (and parts of things) you’ve written this year.

Huge, massive well done!


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