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6 Fail-Proof New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Cross, Eliza
By Eliza Cross

As 2007 winds down, people everywhere will be making – and breaking – New Year’s resolutions. Here are a half dozen ideas that are so easy to implement, they’re guaranteed to help 2008 be your most productive writing year ever.

1. Earn More. Resolve that 2008 will be the year you politely ask for more money. If you’ve been freelancing for a publication at the same rate all year, ask for a pay increase. Do you write for a magazine on a sporadic basis? Ask for a regular gig. Paid by the word for your online articles? Ask for more per word. If your editor can’t budge on your fee, ask if your expenses can be reimbursed; long distance telephone calls and mileage are good candidates. Suppose you ask every outlet for which you write to pay you 25% more, and a third of them agree. You’ve just given yourself an eight percent raise, which you surely deserve to cover inflation and pay for your increasing skills as a writer.

2. Prepare for Inspiration. Stash index cards or small notebooks in convenient places: your purse, coat pocket, glove compartment, nightstand, etc. Always have paper nearby to capture your writing thoughts, and even traffic jams and waits at the D.M.V. will be productive. When you overhear a funny conversation, think of a great plot or read a word that strikes your fancy, jot it down. Soon you’ll have a fount of story ideas and quirky details to use in your writing.

3. Stock Up. Make a list of the supplies that you use regularly: ink cartridges, paper, toner, staples, paper clips, pencils, labels, packing tape, envelopes, and so forth. Invest in a back-up stock of those items and you’ll never again have to stop working mid-project to go buy an ink cartridge. Keep a running office supply list so that you never run out of essentials.

4. Back Up. Let this be the year you invest in a good computer back-up system so you never lose the work you have labored so hard to create. Also, if you don’t have a back-up battery for the inevitable power outage, now is the time; a decent one costs about $80, and the peace of mind you gain will be worth every penny.

5. Lasso Your E-mail. There is perhaps no more devious distraction for writers than the e-mail inbox. You’re laboring away over an article and the familiar ringing tone announces a new e-mail. Is it your agent? Your old college boyfriend? Or a Nigerian businessman with a banking proposition? Eliminate the temptation to check by disabling the ‘play sound when new e-mails arrive’ option, and review your inbox just once or twice during the day.

6. Don’t Forget Your Heart. It’s easy to get so focused on earning a living, we forget why we write in the first place. I speak from experience; during one year-end review I realized I’d written a slate of published business articles and dozens of press releases, but I hadn’t spent much time working on personal writing. When I lamented about the situation to fellow CAL member Robert Root, he shared his remedy:  pay yourself first. Spend the first 30 minutes of every day working on the projects that really matter to you.

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