‘January, month of empty pockets!… let us endure this evil month, anxious as a theatrical producer’s forehead.’Colette, Journey for Myself (1922)
Poor January, arguably everyone’s least favourite month. Coming straight after the festive warm and fuzzies of Christmas and the anticipatory excitement of New Year’s Eve, we inevitably wake up on January the 1st brain fogged, tired and still in the dark. The resolutions we make to exercise more, scroll less and generally try to be a more organised human will be abandoned by January the 19th (the average ‘Quitter’s Day’) and it will probably snow. Your pockets will most likely be quite ‘empty’ and there isn’t a bank holiday until the end of April.
For writers in particular, January could indeed be an ‘evil month’. When someone with such a prolific output as French author Colette (who penned over 30 books during her life-long career) is so scathing about the start of the year, what hope do we mere mortals have? How do we find our muse in the month of, as Percy Bysshe Shelley puts it, ‘grey’? How shall we ever conquer that dreaded blank page? Well, fear not, because I have put together some Writing Resolutions that a) help you to reboot and rediscover your literary mojo and b) you can actually stick to for the whole of 2022.
Resolution #1: WRITE
Ok, so, this may be the most ‘Captain Obvious’ of statements but if you want to write you need to, well, write. Stop looking for the perfect time, place or stationery set up. A quick Google of ‘famous writers’ routines’ will bring you to one common factor: they all write. There is no magic formula. You just have to put the words down. Try free writing for 10 minutes each day, whatever comes into your head. It could be what you can see out of the window, describing the dream you had the previous night or an idea for a scene, don’t get focused on the detail (that’s what editing is for). Just write.
Resolution #2: SET ACHIEVABLE TARGETS
You wouldn’t wake up on January the 1st and decide that on January the 2nd that you were going to run a marathon, if the only exercise you do is walking from your laptop to the fridge. Similarly, you are not going to bash out a 90,000-word magnum opus in four weeks. There is no point in setting such lofty ambitions that you are doomed to fail before you’ve typed ‘Chapter One’. Smaller, achievable targets will keep the words flowing: set yourself a weekly word count; find a competition in your genre in which to enter your work (search online or check out the @officialSNWFest Twitter); get a new copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook and find five agents to submit to; apply for that writing course – short term or MA – you’ve always dreamed of. Find a target that is going to motivate you but also be measurable.
Resolution #3: READ
You cannot write if you do not read. Reading helps to fuel creativity because it offers the writer exposure to the well-crafted line or sentence – and to the exact opposite. This is not to say that you are reading purely so you can turn yourself into a copy of your favourite writer, more that you need to see what other people are doing with words too, to continue to develop the possibilities and potential with your own writing. Try breaking away from your usual, preferred genre or format. Look at Indie Press releases. Go old school with a long-forgotten classic (I recommend the Backlisted podcast for ideas). Highlight/make notes on extracts that you liked, or didn’t; don’t be afraid to be critical. Stop reading something that hasn’t grabbed you. You don’t get any prizes for persevering with writing you are not enjoying; there are literally millions of other options available.
Resolution #4: PUT YOUR PHONE IN THE BIN
This is a joke. Sort of. When you are reading or writing, hide your phone. Procrasti-scrolling will kill your writerly flow. You can use your phone to make ad-hoc notes on the bus if you hear a snippet of conversation you think is dialogue gold, or you suddenly find yourself with a line worthy of Wordsworth whilst you’re queueing for a flat white, but THAT IS IT.
I hope these suggestions help you not just to ‘endure this evil month’ but to embrace it in the true spirit of its namesake Janus; the Roman God of beginnings and transitions. Now, about that blank page…
About the Author
Vicki Rendall is a first year PhD Creative Writing student, focusing on Neo-Victorian Fiction, women, feminism and the embodied experience of spaces. She also writes at theladyranter.com and can be found on Instagram @theladyranter