From A to Z: A Writer’s Guide to the New Year

From A to Z is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that examines the nuts and bolts of the writing (and publishing) process.

chrys

As we head into the last few weeks of 2017, I’m here with a quick activity to help put your writing year in perspective before we hurdle into a brand new one.

When I feel at a crossroads in my professional life, I use a similar process to think through my accomplishments and goals, and the guide can be adapted to reflect on anything else that’s important to you. The goal is to take some time to quiet any voices of self-doubt, acknowledge your accomplishments, and set the stage for what comes next.

1. Prepare your space.

Put on some relaxing music, pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, maybe even set out a small snack tray. Grab a notebook and your favorite pen. This should be a fun activity rather than a daunting one! And be sure you have at least 90 uninterrupted minutes: no need to feel frazzled for something so important.

2. Set a timer for seven minutes. Write down your “shoulds.”

“Don’t should yourself,” one mentor used to tell me. She meant that dwelling on the things I wished I’d done better or the things I wished I’d said wouldn’t help me undo the past—but would certainly make me feel worse. While the core of that message is true, sometimes it’s healthy to get out a little heartache so it doesn’t niggle at the back of your mind. So indulge for a few minutes by recording all of your “shoulds.” I should’ve read more books. I should’ve gotten up at six a.m. to write every day. I should’ve been published by now.

3. Now shake it off. Take a breath. Set your timer for 45 minutes and fill in this list:

  • Write down every writing project you started, even if you didn’t finish. Revisions count too. Take some time to fill out these bullets by describing what you enjoyed about these projects, what you learned, and what you think you did really well.
  • Write down every trip you took, and how it enriched your life. Maybe you had a fantastic vacation and learned about Italian history. Maybe you visited family, and they reminded you of little moments that truly matter. Or maybe you didn’t travel much this year, but you did have a fantastic summer day on the beach of your local lake. These are the moments that help make up our memories and that contribute to our writing.
  • Write down every book you read, and follow it with a note for any podcast, article, movie, or poem that has stuck with you, too. For me, reading is one of the first things to go when my schedule fills up, and then I beat myself up for reading so little—but an exercise like this helps me realize that I’ve actually consumed many perspectives over the year (and, often, that I’ve read more than I realized).
  • Write down anything else that contributed to your writing life. Note the queries you submitted, the research you completed, the conferences you attended, the contests you applied for. No matter the outcome, it takes courage to put yourself out there, and you deserve to recognize yourself for it.
  • Write down the communities you participated in and how. Writing can feel very isolating, but we often have more support systems than we realize. Take some time to remember your brunches with writing friends (shout out to the ChiYA community!), any manuscripts or query letters you helped a friend hone, and any online communities you’ve contributed to or felt supported by this year.
  • Write down any other accomplishments that come to mind. Once you get started, your writing mind often takes over: indulge it. If there’s anything else you feel proud of doing this year, take some time to note it. Maybe a project went well at work or you made the best pie of your life. If you’re remembering it now, it’s meaningful enough to make the list.

Your timer may have gone off by now. If you’re on a roll and have the time, turn it off and keep going. Just don’t let yourself stop before it rings.

4. Take some time to reflect.

Revel in the knowledge that you did a lot this year—probably far more than you realized before you started this session. Be kind to yourself as you consider all of the things you managed to fit into 365 days, in addition to feeding yourself and occasionally doing dishes. This is also a good time for a ritualistic trashing of your “should” list. After all, look at everything you actually did do! That means far more than your eccentric inner perfectionist.

5. Jot down 1-3 goals for 2018.

Make them achievable but ambitious. And make them while knowing that this time next year, they might be on your “should” list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And that certainly doesn’t mean you won’t achieve a hundred other amazing things.

6. Take some time for yourself.

Finish your beverage. Take a walk to clear your head, or do some gentle stretches, or write a letter to your future self if you’re into that sort of thing. Just don’t plunge right back into daily life: let your mind wander and let all the words on all those pages be enough.

The truth is, the writing road is long and filled with pitfalls. Every journey is different, and it’s so easy to gloss over the things we do every day to reach our goals when we only get the highlights from other people. I hope that regardless of how many goals you think you’ve accomplished or missed in 2017, this exercise will help you be kind to yourself as you reflect and set goals for the year ahead.

From all of us at ChiYA, may the rest of your December be restful, and may 2018 overflow with good news and grand adventures.

headshot-anna-200x200


This post is brought to you by Anna Waggener at ChiYAwriters.com.

Finding the Write Place: Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

Finding the Write Place is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that highlights some of our favorite places to write here in the Windy City.

Chicago Athletic Association Lobby

12 S Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
Open 24 hours, small bites menu & beverage service begins 11a.m. The Milk Room serves coffee and pastries beginning at 7a.m. that you can bring to your table.

(Hours subject to change. Check the hotel’s website for up-to-date info)

Noise level: Quiet in the morning, but fills up and gets noisier throughout the day and best for those who don’t mind activity around them or wearing headphones. Music generally unobtrusive and varies–seasonal, 80s, etc.

Availability of space: Wide variety of seating, again, more available during the morning hours. There is one library-style table with outlets that seats 10 as well as small round tables that seat 2 along the windows. Large chairs and sofas are grouped together throughout the lobby and seating by the three fireplaces is always popular. On a Sunday afternoon, three of us were able to find spots at the library table.

Bathrooms: Yes (but hard to find–ask the front desk or a member of the wait staff)

Food: Yes! There is a small bites and drinks menu. The hotel also has a number of places to eat–including a Shake Shack on the ground floor and the Game Room next door to the lobby that you can step away to.

Wifi: Free

Outlets: Yes at the long table and some along the walls by the small round deuce tables.

When you enter the hotel, head up the stairs on the right of the ground floor entrance and you’ll be transported to old Chicago as you arrive in the lobby of the hotel. I love writing at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. In fact, I wrote and revised a large chunk of my debut novel here. It’s perfect for folks who want to feel like they are writing in a Hogwarts common room or love a clubby feel amidst beautifully preserved gothic architecture. Also excellent for those who want to treat themselves to a cocktail after they hit the day’s word count.

Great for small groups or for solo writers . This is one of ChiYA’s favorite haunts. And the hotel holiday decoration game is on point (and excellent for selfies). They even serve glögg.

headshot samira


This post is brought to you by Samira Ahmed at ChiYAwriters.com.

Ask ChiYA: How to Find a Writing Group

Ask ChiYA is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com in which we answer readers’ questions about the world of YA writing and publishing.

question markQuestion: 

Hi! I’m interested in writing a YA novel, but I’m a senior in college—there’s no writing group on campus, and I’m not friends with anybody who wants to write. Is there a writing group related to Chicago YA writers I could join? Thanks!

Answer:

Hi Reader!

Thanks so much for reaching out. ChiYA doesn’t have a writing group, but here are a few suggestions from our bloggers:

  • The NaNoWriMo forums are a great community, and I found them super helpful and supportive when I was starting out. There’s also a local chapter called ChiWriMo. It’s not specifically YA focused, but writers for all ages/genres participate in their chats, meetups, etc. They have a Facebook group, as well.
  • The 88 Cups of Tea Facebook group is very supportive, and I know some folks have found critique partners through that.
  • The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) offers lots of resources for new writers, including local critique groups and mentorship programs. There is a fee to join the organization, but there’s a student rate if you’re interested. Also, the “Blueboard” discussion forums are open to everyone, even if you’re not a member.
  • You might try starting a writing group on campus by reaching out to creative writing professors or posting a flier in the English department. There’s a good chance some other students at your college would also love to join a writing group.

Finally, a word of caution: as always, be careful when using forums or other online resources. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or requests to meet up in person (outside of a group-sanctioned event in a public place), contact the forum moderator immediately.

Best of luck!

The ChiYA Writers

P.S. If you know of any other good resources for new writers, please leave them in the comments below!

P.P.S. If you have any questions for ChiYA, please reach out via our contact form. We’d love to hear from you!

Chicago YA Writers
This post is brought to you by ChiYAwriters.com.