7 resolutions every writer can use

How to get your writing back on course (for more than a day).

Did you start 2012 staring at a blank screen hoping that inspiration would come and magically fill it with your words?

To get you on the “write” track for 2012, try a few of these actionable resolutions to fill your computer screen faster and more efficiently.

Here are seven resolutions every writer can use, whether you’re a published author, blogger, copywriter, or student. (Here’s some help with writing compelling content and why your third-grade teacher was wrong.)

1. Work out every day. Think of it as daily exercise for your writing muscles. Sit down at your desk or computer, and bang out three pages of content without thinking about them. Just let them sit.

Writing goal: To make writing a habit so you can get yourself to write on command and practice translating your thoughts into words.

2. Sound like a real person. Cut out the impersonal third person. This is particularly important for professional writers in corporate-land whose writing has been edited of any word remotely associated with a living being. At a minimum, use the active voice. Add details so people can relate to you as a person. This doesn’t give you permission to over-share!

Writing goal: To sound human so your audience can relate to your writing.

3. Feed your muse. Read widely across different forms of writing such as books, blogs, magazines and other content. Also, read the classics to learn about the structure and language. (Personally, I recommend Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. It’s got amazing architecture and language.)

Writing goal: To expand your knowledge of the craft and to learn how to write better.

4. Play writing games. Construct writing challenges and exercises to push your creativity. My oldest nephew and I used to write poems in which each line started with a different letter in the alphabet. For example, try writing a column with someone else’s headline. Or select every 11th word from a newspaper article and write a sentence about each one.

Writing goal: To stretch your creativity and infuse your writing with different influences. (Hat tip to one of my writing instructors, John Yau.)

5. Experiment with other writing formats. Change up your writing. If you always write in the first person, write in the third person or second person (this is useful for business writing and blogging). If you write short-form narrative, try longer forms. Try different approaches to your subject. For example, I’ve taken poetry classes to stretch my prose writing.

Writing goal: To get out of your writing comfort zone. Maybe 2012 is the year you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo and get your first book written.

6. Start before you finish. Don’t call it quits before outlining your thoughts for your next piece or several pieces. This doesn’t mean an outline like the one your fifth-grade teacher wanted. Instead, jot down the essential points and a possible headline. If your creative juices are flowing, get your first paragraph down. The more you set up, the easier it is to jump into later.

Writing goal: To reduce the risk of showing up at your computer with no idea of what you’re going to write. Further, it keeps you focused and reduces your creation time significantly. (Test it yourself; don’t take my word for it.)

7. Find room to write. Experiment and decide what environment works best for you. Writing is difficult work. It’s highly personal and public at the same time. Although you can read books and blogs about the best way to get your groove, the reality is that writing is a journey you take by yourself. To be effective, you must learn how to craft word after word to convey meaning to your audience. Only you can tell whether a quiet room early in the morning or a crowded coffee shop is your creative sandbox.

Writing goal: To have a special writing place. Additionally, it’s useful to be able to accommodate schedule issues and to be able to write elsewhere.

Regardless of whether you use one or all of these writing suggestions in 2012, the best way to take your writing to the next level is to show up at the page on a regular schedule, preferably every day.

What are your writing goals for 2012? Do you have any challenges holding you back from being the best writer you can be?

Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

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