Resolved :: Be a Writer

New Year’s Resolutions, a 1915 Postcard

The first of the year is traditionally the time to reflect over the past year and consider the upcoming year.  

For my writing, I never can wait for January 1st—or even December 31st.  The holidays have so many distractions that I want my coming year planned long before the first day of the New Year.

Typically, I do the thinking part of my reflection throughout the month of November.  After Thanksgiving, on the first Sunday of the Advent Season when I am appropriately grateful for all I’ve received, I create a written plan for the next year using a calendar, generating a series of deadlines for my writing from the beginning of the year to the end.  (The plan is a little nebulous from the end of the Summer on, but I keep firming it up at the start of October and November and December.)

The first day of Spring is another good choice for reflection and planning.  Spring is rebirth and renewal, the beginning sprigs of new growth shooting up from the newly warmed ground.

Others wait for Summer.  Conditioned by many years of traditional public schools, they view May as an ending.  June becomes an opportunity to re-launch.

Whichever time you select: Advent or New Year’s or Spring or Summer or even any other time of the year, Be Resolved.

The # 1 Resolution

This is your Resolution:  I will think like a writer.

Author, poet, blogger, dramatist:  all writers should have the same thought:  “I am a writer.”

That’s the mind-set you need to snatch up and ingest so that it becomes part of your DNA, mutating through your being like a beneficial virus.

How do we change our view of our writing from mere hobby or escape to profession?  Take three actions.

Be Devoted

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” the commandment requires.  This doesn’t mean that other gods ($$$, celebrity, bling, shopping, gossip, salacious viewing, etc.) aren’t out there;  it means that nothing else comes before God.

We need to view writing with the same eagle-eyed focus.  Be Devoted to writing.  Don’t worship it, and don’t let petty distractions and time wasters get between you and your pursuit of writing professionally.

Keep your WORKSPACE professional.
Butterfly Cupcakes

Turn off all distractions:  the BoobTube, Solitaire or Mahjongg, social media in whatever iteration currently distracts you, and email.

  • Do you really need to watch every minute of news or that reality show or house-flipping or soap opera? Have you noticed those shows repeat?
  • Do you really need to post that cupcake to Pinterest? Do you need to see every image of cupcake? Why are you even looking at cupcakes?
  • The twit who’s tweeting you can wait. Help him learn patience.

“But my email?” you protest.

Turn that off, too.  You can answer anything that came in while you were writing after you finish the writing for the day.

For those of us holding down a full-time job, our crucial need is to avoid these distractions.

Social media has its place—for marketing your work.  Make an appointment with yourself—once or twice a month or once a week—to spend the necessary promotional time on FB or twitter or Pinterest and others.

Nibbles & Families

By the way, FOOD is also a distraction.  Clean out the candy, popcorn, chips, the incessant mugs of coffee, and the sweet drinks.  None of that is helping your brain.  They start up sweet cravings for more sweets (and remember that starches turn into sweets).

Giving into those cravings merely sets off a ticking bomb for a system-depresser that will implode in about an hour.  We need to write, not stare at the screen or blank paper because our brains are befogged.  If eating is essential, carrots and sliced cucumbers and apples will give the body what it needs and can use.

Basically, anything that interferes with the work of writing goes away.

PARENTS may have to squeeze writing time into their day:  get up earlier or stay up later.  Write sitting on the bleachers.  Sneak ideas into a journal in 10-minute or 20-minute increments.

Make the SIGNIFICANT OTHER pull equal weight with household chores.  By the way, the house doesn’t have to be spotless.  Ironing is not a necessity, but clean clothes are.  Rinse the dishes as you use them;  wash them every other day or slide them into the dishwasher.

Be Professional

To think like a professional, observe professionals.

Un savant dans son cabinet, avec lecon de vanite :: Jacob van Spreeuwen, 1630
In Behavior

Observe professionals at the organizations they attend.  Distinguish among the people who attend these meetings:  professional, wannabe, and newbie.  (A wannabe is someone who claims to write but never actually does.  If writing occurs, s/he never actually finishes.  Finishing is BIG.)

Only occasionally will professionals come out of the woodwork, primarily for seminars and special events (more about this behavior below).  They will teach at these seminars;  listen to them.  Those of us who have been writing for years can spot the newbies and wannabes.  These hobbyists and escapists ask obvious questions, and we cringe for them.  They don’t cringe.  They don’t even know they should be cringing.  Here are more things that newbies and wannabes do.  

  • know nothing about genre.
  • monopolize everyone’s time with what they do know.
  • lurk around professionals because—as everyone knows—merely breathing the rarefied air of the professional will lead to success.
  • claim to be writing the next bestseller, but they can’t state the theme in one sentence (or even 6).
  • show up for programs on children’s books then horror books then Christian books . . . and then tell everyone their book is a genre-bending breakout destined to be a classic.
  • tell us all how it’s done and been done and will be done . . . and haven’t published because only traditional publishers matter.


Pay the dues to belong.  Professionals give back;  contribute where you can.  Be helpful, not overbearing.  The people you advise and counsel and critique may become your audience.

In Business

Professionals also keep business and personal separate.  Hobbyists and escapists funnel everything through their personal accounts.

Separate your email accounts:  apps abound that amass all email accounts into one place.  When you reply, the reply leaves the app as if it’s coming from the email it was directed to.

Separate financial accounts.  If the writing $$ can’t support a separate account, at least keep a ledger to track financials separately.

The local writers’ group may have 2 or 3 active professionals (pursuing writing and getting paid for it—even if only in small increments), so join it.  If it has no professionals, then drive the distance necessary to get to an organization with active professionals.

In Focus

The reason many professionals only occasionally emerge at an organization’s meeting is that they are WRITING.  We need to be writing, too.  So ask, “Do I need to attend this meeting?”  Now this is a balancing act:  supporting an organization takes time away from writing.

Focus on the writing, and this focus should include the people who see the first “public” version.  Hobbyists and escapists have friends as First Readers (they call them Beta Readers).  These friends gush about how great the writing is.  Nope.  These are NOT the first readers that you need.

First Readers

Before I talk about the readers you do need, one word:  Be nice to all of your First Readers.  Don’t give them the Beta version.  Beta developed as a term for software that still had a lot of known bugs;  give your First Readers a polished manuscript (MS), not one with bugs you know about.

While professionals want to hear the MS is great, they would rather their First Readers were “mean”.  Critique partners should look for ~~

Red Ink
  • Plot holes
  • Character dynamics
  • Character synergy
  • Continuity
  • Info Dump
  • Lack of Suspense / Pacing

They will mark all errors they see.

When they hand the MS back, be grateful and acknowledge their assistance in your published MS.

If it’s the critique you need, you may want to cry or scream or burn it or all three at once.  Avoid the last.  And learn from the mistakes they found as you correct them.

Be Intrigued

One of the hardest part of any professional career is maintaining a high interest level.  The Resolution to “BE a WRITER” is hardest at this point.

Writing is the most difficult of jobs, primarily for its very isolation.  Humans come with two wires:  amiability and curiosity.

Family, friends, colleagues, and organizations both social and professional charge up our amiability wire.  Keeping our curiosity charged is not so easy.

New projects entice us, yet before long our piqued interest fades.  How can we maintain our curiosity when we know our characters and the plot and the setting and the outcome and the twists?

When a MS is getting you down, take a break from it.  Add in a new character—or a new twist or new invention.  Try something new.  Tinker with it whenever the primary project is driving you crazy or deadening your senses.

And stay physically active.  It is amazing how much physical activity drives intellectual activity.  Move the body;  energize the brain.

It’s a Business

Finally, Being a Professional means that some days we just have to slog through the mud and grind the work out.  That’s okay.  We can always re-write it.

After all, we’re writers.

~~ M. A. Lee

For questions, comments, and philosophizing, contact us at



Let It Sleep

Every year hurries into Spring, blooming and leafing into growth.

Summer thrives greenly, burning through the long days until we are finished with the heat and are longing for chill mornings and temperate days.

We yearn for the blazing colors of Autumn.

Winter Woods

In Winter the land rests, dormant after three busy, busy seasons of sprouting, growing, and fruiting.

Nature needs Winter, her time to re-gather her resources as the fields lie fallow and

nutrients gently decay into the rich soil.

Writers hurry into projects, creating and crafting stories and blogs into growth.  We thrive on generating ideas to develop those blossomed stories, and we burn through projects as we sketch and draft and revise until our projects reach fruition.

Just like Nature, writers need to let their projects lay dormant a season before being reborn as a published work.

We need to allow some projects the time to be buried, as Winter buries the land in cold snow before the Spring sun warms it back up.

Let It Sleep

I have advised you to have “Nulla Dies Sine Linea” as your mantra.  I have spoken heresy by preaching “Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist” and by counseling you to write something, even if it’s not what you are working on.

Am I now talking out of both sides of my keyboard?  Am I contradicting myself?


I am talking about your projects.  After the seasons of creating and drafting and revising, we need to let the project sleep.  Close it up, cover it over with another project.  Walk away for a time.

“But it’s finished!” you protest.

Is it?

The benefit comes in the creative process.  The conscious mind may have cast the project from immediate contemplation.  The subconscious, however, continues to filter in new resources.

Save your final edit for after the project’s dormant season.  When editing begins, new ideas may surface that will enrich the project in ways you did not fathom as you designed and drafted then blazed through the revision.

Sleeping Awakens the Dreaming Creativity

I have urged that we should not wait on inspiration.  Inspiration waits on us.  It lurks, waiting to spring out at opportune moments.  It will plant itself where it belongs.

As it grows, like honeysuckle, inspiration may reach into unexpected and unwanted areas.  It may require gutting and inserting, reworking and re-sequencing the original.

Acquaint yourself with the work of Tony Buzan and idea exploration through mind-mapping, not just at the start of a project but also after this season of dormancy.  Many writers have created collages as inspiring guides for a project.  The collage or mind-map can be just as useful when re-approaching a supposedly finished project after its winter sleep.

This link will take you to a five-minute youtube video with Buzan explaining how mind-mapping awakens creativity:

 Tony Buzan’s mind mapping

Follow the growth of inspiration, and the transformed project will be so much better that you will no longer begrudge the laborious hours birthing and nurturing, pruning and training the new work with the old.

While It Sleeps

On farms, Winter is the season for repairs, restocking, and re-considering the approaching growing season.

Winter Again

Have you a project that you abandoned because it wasn’t quite working?  Re-acquaint yourself with that project’s concept then work through a mind-map or collage or similar creative tool.  Its season of sleep may have given your subconscious time to work out the corner you wrote yourself into.

Did it have a Damocles’ sword hanging over it, something that distracted you from the project’s fruition so that you just could not focus on where you were in the project?  Perhaps after that season of sleep, you can discern exactly what was that sword of Damocles which wasted your focus.

Or pick up the next project you’re contemplating.  Do its research.  Determine the lodestone that will keep you returning as it develops from planting to growing to harvest.


While pursuing a project’s completion, we all have a stray idea or two or three that wanders through our minds.  We make a note of it then continue on with our primary focus.

Many writers keep an ideas journal.  In down-times I peruse it.  What can I use now?  What can still wait?  Which idea’s time has come?

During the project’s dormancy, return to those stray ideas and give them a home.

Which ideas spark more and start to develop into a story?

Or which ideas still must wait?

And which idea’s time has come to turn into a project?

Sketch out a chosen few of these ideas or even take them to the outline step.  Map out their start to finish, then decide how to fit them into your schedule of upcoming projects.  Those newly-homed strays are not yet a project, however.  Set them aside.  The time for their planting will come.


During the primary project’s Winter, take a look at this writing business you are pursuing.  It is a business, right?  No longer a hobby or escape, but something you are pursuing for income?

Is the business seeing growth?  Or do you seem to be digging into the same infertile ground?

TRACK the $$

Do a cost analysis.  You should see a return on the money you’ve put into the business.  If you’re not earning (making a little more year to year), what do you need to change?  Marketing?  More blogging?  More freelance work?

Were you profligate with your writing expenses?  Where did you waste $$?  I cannot resist charming little journals.  Yes, I am a paper nut, for I have over a dozen now with no immediate opportunity for their use.  I am a pen nut, too.

Our profligate expenses may be in paying others to do things that we could have figured out on our own.  However, sometimes it behooves us to pay others to do those things IF we spend that time saved in writing.  If that time saved was not put to writing . . . well, what a waste.


Count the days during the year when you actually wrote, and analyze what happened on your unfruitful days.  What time did you waste?

Another time-expense occurs with our relationships.  We do need to devote time (and money) to family and friends.  Humans are social creatures.  Just look at the most introverted people you know when they are placed with people they love, talking about something they feel in their heart:  they become gregarious.

Driving to and from major family gatherings is not a waste of time.  For these gatherings, if you feel you must write, you can always dictate into your phone.  If you’re with others while driving and can’t dictate and can’t write in the backseat because you’re the driver, how can you use this time?  Talk to them about movies:  the characters, the plot, the setting.  You are getting a layman’s view of story.  A truly helpful passenger will write down anything you dictate . . . and could possibly give you ideas as well.


Time and Money are not the only elements of your Cost Analysis.  Are you properly using your writing energies?  Refer back to the “Writer’s Block” blog, specifically in the area of Writer’s Inertia (published Dec. 10).

The End of the Season of Sleep

Crocus in Snow

Unlike the vernal equinox, we may not have a demarcation to help us know when the Winter of our project is over.  Such a Winter does not have a set number of days.  When you have repaired and restocked and re-considered and researched, you should feel a sense of completion, just as the land does not wait upon the equinox.

Sometimes Spring is reborn early;  sometimes, late.  One day you will feel the first project warm up in your mind.  Give it first frost, perhaps even a second, then you can plant ink into the editing process.

Even when you fly through with few changes, you have lost nothing to the Winter season.  When you finish this project, you have another waiting, ready to start.  Your mind can turn to it because it has let go of the first project.  You didn’t just end it;  you completed it.

That strong sense of closure can only be attained if your project has its dormancy and then re-awakening.

Let it Sleep.

~~ M. A. Lee

For questions, comments, and philosophizing, contact us at

I’m going to speak heresy:  Writer’s Block does not exist.


It truly does not.

Our goal, remember, is “Nulla Dies Sine Linea” (see the blog for November 10, 2016).  Please, bear with me as I explain.

We may claim Writer’s Block when any one of three disparate maladies are the cause of our inability to write:  Writer’s Refusal, Writer’s Procrastination, and  Writer’s Inertia.

The continuation of this original blog post from  10 December 2016 can be found in the publication Think Like a Writer: 7 Tips to Change a Hobby to a Profession, by M. A. Lee.