It’s a new year and a good time to reflect and create a new path, using writing as a tool. As writers everywhere are frantically pressing toward finishing their works in progress and fretting over whether their book babies will ever get to the book shelves and reader hands they envision them in, it’s always important to remember that the healing powers of writing therapy can offer continued writer rejuvenation to help you meet your goals. Here are a few creative prompts connected to healing, motivation and completing your dream book in the New Year.
1. Choose an ideal reader
This step is an important first step in any writing process. Choosing your ideal reader means that you actively consider who you’re writing to. Is your target reader a YA audience or a reader looking for self-help? What kind of tone, experiences and writing styles would appeal to them? It can even help to ask yourself, if you were to encounter your ideal reader on the street, where would they be and what would they be doing? This can get your ideas flowing and you’ll find that the ideal reader will shape up in your head fairly easily.
Once you know who your ideal reader is, you’ll know how to shape your thoughts and your words to better speak to them. Without knowing who your ideal reader is, how will you ever know how to reach them? Take this important first step by getting to know who your target audience is. Be meaningful in your quest to get to know them, what they need and what you can offer them through your writing. Then, once you know exactly who your ideal reader is, it’s always helpful to use one as your beta reader. As you write your book, have your beta reader read your pages for you. Because they are a member of the target demographic you’re looking to speak to, they’ll be able to give you invaluable insight into and advice on your book that will propel your dream book forward faster and more profoundly.
2. Choose a topic to write about that means a lot to you
Choose one that you feel confident you could write about for days, weeks or months—because that’s how long you and your book baby will be together. You’d be surprised at how often writers start out with ideas that fizzle out because their heart just really wasn’t in it. What may sound like a cool idea to write about at first may not be an idea that can actually sustain itself into a full-length book. So, make sure you’re choosing a topic or plot to write about that really excites you and moves you to write it. Choose a topic that you’re an expert on already or that you’d love to become an expert on. Choose an area of focus that will fully and actively engross you in the writing process and bring out the best of your writing skills. Sometimes, all we need is the perfect topic to explore and write on or the perfect plot to engross ourselves in. The rest comes naturally.
As you embark on the process of writing therapy, you’re likely to find that the therapy is in speaking the truth about your story, your feelings and your opinions. This is especially true if you’re writing a memoir, self-help or a plot that doesn’t feature common tropes and themes. This kind of authoring requires you to be brave and dig deep inside yourself. Prepare yourself to be honest in how you tell your story and write your book, even when it’s hard to do because you’re afraid that you’ll upset, embarrass or offend someone with your truth. If it’s your truth, it deserves to be told your way. And there’s so much therapeutic power to be found in that form of writing.
Now that you’ve harnessed your inner writer powers and found your dream topic and audience, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dive into the goodness that will be your writing experience. As we all know, the hardest part to writing anything is getting started. So, start with just writing one page. Whether this page is an outline of the story to come or the beginning of your book baby, it’s the first step in creating what’s to come. Once you have one page, write another page and then another. Keep this cycle going until you’ve created a pattern that your lifestyle falls into as a natural rhythm to your writing. Create a schedule for yourself and aim to stick to it. That way, whether your goal is a page a day or a page a week, you’re making continued and measurable progress on your book. Once the ideas start pouring out, it’s easier to turn a grain of sand into a full beach of ideas and words.
5. “To be, you must do”
A huge part of getting better at anything is to do it more. With that in mind, whether you cozy up with your new writing project and a mug of coffee to stay focused or a blanket on the sofa to get in the cozy groove of things, make sure that you’re creating a consistent routine for your writing that is frequent. You’ll be surprised at how restorative writing therapy can be when you incorporate it into your daily or weekly schedule. The craft of writing is like a muscle; you have to use it over and over again in order for it to be better and stronger. As your writing muscle improves, your ideas will come more freely and will more quickly take shape into the caliber of writing you’re aiming for. The New Year is a great time to set the goal to improve your art and finish your book by simply applying the method of doing it more.
6. Write like it’s your job
You go to work every day to make a living, so why shouldn’t you focus the same amount of attention and devotion to your own projects? Once you get in the mindset of being more intentional about your writing—committing to it even when the going gets tough—you’ll see immediate and lasting results. And, keep in mind that writing like it’s your job doesn’t have to be gruelingly tiresome—in fact, it shouldn’t be. Remember, this is a job you want and one that you’re in full control of. This is a job you can have fun with! And, if it’s your goal for writing to really be your fulltime job in the future, then this creative method will get you ahead of the game. Writing like it’s your job is about fully committing to yourself and your project and taking it just as seriously as you would your 9-5.
7. Actively prepare yourself to be the best writer you can be
Writing therapy means enthusiastically preparing yourself daily to be a good writer. Think about how you prepare to do other meaningful things in your life. Do you meditate beforehand? Write out a plan of action to organize you for the road ahead? Take an outdoor hike to clear your mind and get your blood and ideas flowing? Well, you can apply that same method to your writing! Every day, prepare yourself for the phenomenal writing you’ll do that day, and see how your writing quality and frequency will improve.
8. Motivate yourself each time you sit down
We all need a little motivation sometimes, and it can be the key to throwing yourself fully into your dream book. Motivation can come in many forms and can be different for every writer, so take a little time to think about what motivates you the most. There’s nothing like a little pep talk to get those gears moving or promising to reward yourself with a little treat once you hit an important milestone in your book. Whether you motivate yourself by reminding yourself how much your writing means to you, with inspirational quotes of the day or with physical gifts you buy yourself to propel you into your next goal, a little motivational push before you start writing can go a long way.
9. Reflect, Rethink, Repeat.
Reflect on the past methods you’ve used for writing and how they have or haven’t worked for you in the past. Then rethink those methods. How can you tweak your previous technique, process or routine to make it better moving forward for your dream book? Then, repeat until you have the ideal plan, schedule or idea all laid out for your book!
Make sure you’ve fully ironed out your new method and plans for writing moving forward so you’ll have a great foundation to start from in the New Year. And, “Reflect, Rethink, Repeat” can be used throughout the process of writing your book—not just as the start. Anytime you need to reimagine the direction of your book baby and re-motivate yourself forward with it, pull this method out of your hat and see just how well it can work for you.
10. Embark on a writing retreat
A writing retreat can help you to get that book dream from inside your heart and your head out onto that page. A writing retreat is a set period of time where you put aside all the responsibilities of your regular life and focus on just eating, sleeping and writing. It’s a decadent lifestyle of writing therapy that can be just what the doctor ordered! Writing retreats, whether you do them in-home or at a retreat locale, put you and your writing face to face—every day! By eliminating the everyday obstacles to your writing that you would usually encounter (doing the laundry, sitting in traffic and shopping for groceries, for example) you can focus completely on getting your words on the page in a meaningful—and therapeutic—way. Plan to do you retreat in a manner and location that is the most comfortable for you where there will be no distractions. A retreat from the everyday world is a great way to fully immerse yourself in your book, so that there’s nothing at all between you and your page.
11. Use the resources you already have!
The people around you can be the root of your success! Think about the cheerleader in your life. Whether that is your family or your friends, use them to keep you on the path to creating and finishing your dream book by soaking in all of the motivation, ideas and feedback that they can give you. Sometimes, what we need the most to finish our writing is project is already right in front of our face. And those resources can be the most powerful motivator and inspiration there is.
12. Never stop believing in yourself, your words and your dream.
The world can be filled with so many distractions and detractors, but always believing in yourself is a sturdy armor against those obstacles. Your dream book can and will come to life as long as you believe that it will. Your words have power and your dream is important, so go for it—without doubts, without hesitation and without fear!
The New Year is a great time to incorporate a new regimen of writing therapy into your daily life. These twelve creative methods, prompts and therapeutic activities can be used for any book, any writer and any lifestyle. By taking the time to reflect on the writing that lays ahead of you, and taking advantage of the opportunity to create a winning path forward to writing your dream book, there’s nothing that you can’t accomplish! This year, pledge to use writing as a tool to your own therapy and as a daily part of your routine. The healing powers of writing can offer continued reinvigoration to help you meet your writing goals. Let writing therapy be your way forward to the book you always envisioned you could write in the new year.
Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.