by Danielle Mitchell
Make new friends. Surround yourself with good people digitally & physically. You can make friends on social media by interacting through comments and re-tweets, you can make new friends IRL by attending a workshop, or asking an acquaintance you admire out for coffee. I’ve reached an age where I’ve begun to think making new friends is close to impossible, or at least improbable. But it only takes one new exciting connection to renew your faith in friendships. Open yourself to making that connection.
Write fan letters. I have only written fan letters a handful of times over the years, but almost every time I’ve had a positive experience connecting with a writer that I admire. Sometimes fangirling someone else gains you a fan in the process. Plus, you’re making someone feel good by sharing a genuine compliment, or story about how their work touched your life.
Try it: Write a letter of no more than 3 paragraphs praising a book you recently loved. Writers almost always have a ‘Contact’ page on their websites, consider sending your letter or making it an open letter and dropping it into a post on your blog.
Create a place to store PRAISE. I know many writers who track their submissions and collect their rejection letters, but what about gathering and collecting praise? Praise can be positive comments someone has made on a link to your work that appears online, your own fan letter, an encouraging rejection letter, or positive review. Take screenshots, copy and paste, or even handwrite these instances in a notebook to have for those moments when you feeling less than 100.
Take care of yourself. Remember—love who you are more than what you do. It’s ok to need help with this. Self-care and self-love are two ever-evolving processes. One way that I’ve given light to my self-love journey is by reminding myself that I’m more than my job, more than my paycheck. Sometimes that reminder needs to come daily, and very often I forget how important it is to stay positive and cultivate my own joy.
Try it: Write a list of 10 things you love yourself for. Example: I love myself for cooking a nice meal last night. I love myself for my sense of humor.
Talk about your day job. Every writer I know (with very, very few exceptions) has a day job. When writers gather together we tend to discuss our writing, our fears and our goals, the books we read or want to read, we even sometimes gossip! But rarely do we sink into the details of our mundane every day work. I’ve already mentioned I believe in loving who you are more than what you do, but I also believe that we shouldn’t be forced to constantly compartmentalize our daily lives from our creative lives. So take away the taboo and talk about your milk-steaming prowess. Let’s applaud ourselves for being the people who work 2 or more jobs!
Save the date! How do you track your writing goals? Have you considered writing them down in your calendar? Whether digital or analog, the visual representation of goals being conquered can increase your productivity in 2018. Hot tip: look ahead! Writing down goals for the next week or two is great, but I encourage you to go further than that. Look ahead one month, two or three months and give yourself a chance to really build up to some great accomplishments.
Try it: Write down 3 writing goals that include the DATE you hope to get it done! For instance, you might submit work to 5 journals this month and 5 journals next month; schedule time in your calendar to write new work or revise a piece chilling in your notebook; attend an open mic or literary reading event; finish reading a book.
Logbooks. In addition to proposing long term writing goals, you can also track the work you do every day. Sometimes the small amount of work you do goes unnoticed. Similar to the idea of a habit tracker, you can create a space for tracking all the work you put in so that the next time you sit down with a group of writers, instead of saying “I’m having a dry spell and feel like I’m not a writer lately” you’ll have the ability to say “Recently, I finished reading a novel, attended 2 poetry readings, did research on a piece of writing, and posted 3 times on my blog!” Every little thing counts!
Try it: For the rest of this week, take 10 minutes every evening before bed to make a note of whatever you’ve accomplished that day. Example:
-walked the dog
-finished reading We Are Never Meeting in Real Life at lunch
-created an Instagram post about my self-love journey
-revised a poem
-prepared content for my blog
-completed a page of my adult coloring book
-read a few poems online and shared the links on Facebook
Let the minor things you do in 2018 add up to major things. Maybe it’s corny to think January is the time to refresh your routine, but there’s something undeniable about the cleansing energy of this time of year.
Danielle Mitchell is the author of Makes the Daughter-in-Law Cry (Tebot Bach 2017), selected by Gail Wronsky for the Clockwise Chapbook Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Eleven Eleven, The Leveler, Stirring, Four Way Review, Nailed, and others. Her essays have appeared on DIY MFA. Danielle received her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Redlands. She is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the founding director of The Poetry Lab in Long Beach, California, where she teaches workshops on craft, inspiration, and submissions. Awards and honors include the 2015 Editor’s Prize from Mary and the 2014 Editor’s Choice Award from The Mas Tequila Review. She can be reached at the poetryofdanielle.com and thepoetrylab.com.