by Colleen M. Story
If you want to start the New Year off with a bang, there’s one thing you have to have: hope.
Hope that next year will be a great year for your writing. Hope that you’ll be able to accomplish more than you did this year. Hope that you’ll become a better writer and find even more fulfillment in your writing life.
But after a tough year (like this one!), hope can be a little hard to find. Most of us are feeling tired, wrung out, stressed, and unsure about what the future might bring.
I would encourage you to take some time, perhaps over the coming weekend, to inspire your sense of hope. It could be the key to a successful year to come.
But first, let’s see if your supply of this critical emotion might be running a little low.
What is hope, anyway? The dictionary describes it as a “feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen.” When you hope for something, you expect “with confidence,” Merriam Webster states. You have trust in your expected outcome.
Hope is critical to your writing success because it creates that positive state of mind you need to accomplish your goals. You may hope to publish a book next year, become an Amazon best-seller, or expand your newsletter subscribers by 500. Hope helps you look forward to this outcome with excitement, which fuels your efforts.
Hope also helps make any of your current struggles or challenges easier to bear, because you have hope that things will get better in the future.
Hopelessness, on the other hand, is a lack of hope, and leads to all sorts of negative outcomes. Writers who feel hopeless lose interest in their writing, are likely to lack the inspiration they used to have to write, and may feel powerless to change those feelings.
Ask yourself if any of these statements sound familiar:
If you recognize yourself in any of these statements—or if you’re just not all that excited about writing this year—it’s time to spark some hope in your spirit.
Choose one of the following activities, give it a try, and see if you notice hope returning. You’ll be able to tell—it feels bubbly and sparkly.
Take an hour to list all the good things that happened in your writing life this year. “Like what?” you may ask. Put on your rose-colored glasses. You’re looking only for the good stuff, and you’re going to treat yourself like your best friend. Write down every single little accomplishment you had.
These could be as simple as completing a draft of a book, even if it’s terrible. Maybe you wrote at least three times a week most weeks, or you blogged more consistently than last year. Maybe you put together a plan for your next book launch, or you outlined your next nonfiction book.
Maybe all you did was complete two short stories or update your website. Whatever it was, write it down. Just thinking about it isn’t enough. Make a list.
Once you finish, look it over. Pin it to the wall or refrigerator if you like. This can help you realize that even in a bad year, you got some stuff done. That can give you hope that next year will be at least as good, and most likely better.
Hopelessness walks hand in hand with isolation. You can inspire new hope inside yourself by using your writing strengths to benefit someone else.
Your job: Come up with a writing project that will make someone else's life better. Write a hand-written thank you note to someone who deserves it, create a blog or guest post that uplifts readers, or host a writing contest and give away a small prize.
Write a poem for someone you care about, or put your writing skills to work for a project you care about (grant writing?). There are all sorts of possibilities.
A few months ago, for instance, my young nephew asked me for help with his research paper. It felt really good to use the skills I’ve developed to help him, and it inspired me at the same time. (Teaching always does that, right?)
Use your imagination, then follow through and complete the assignment. See how you feel.
It's easy to lose hope when you're stuck in your small little world, so hop onto your imaginary plane and get some altitude. Imagine yourself high in the sky looking down on yourself and your life. Fly so high that you can see yourself five, ten, even twenty years ago.
Now plot a line chart of where you were then, where writing is concerned, and track your progress to where you are now. Write down your key writing accomplishments for each year.
This sort of overview can help you see that the year you’ve just completed—long as it’s seemed—is just a blip on the radar. Your new point of view diminishes the challenges of one year and accentuates your accomplishments over a lifetime.
If you focus on the progress you’ve made long-term, the challenges of this year fade away into the distance, leaving you with renewed hope for next year.
What inspires you? You have a few weeks before the year is over to read your most inspiring books, listen to your most inspiring interviews, watch your most inspiring movies, visit your most inspiring locations, and visit your most uplifting friends.
Write down a list, and then make a point to schedule at least two inspiring activities per week (more is better) until the year has come to a close.
Get a print of your favorite painting for yourself for Christmas. Put on your most inspiring music and listen to it at least once a day. Schedule a family home movie night and put on the ones that rev you up—preferably those that show characters overcoming great odds to win. (“Rocky” is a great option.)
This isn't an indulgence—it's hope therapy. Write down your list, adjust your schedule, and enjoy. You should be feeling more hopeful by the end of the year.
Right now, you may not be thinking too much about what may be possible in your writing life next year. Yet hope is found in possibilities.
Using your journal or pad and paper, write down your answer to this question: What is one possible improvement you can make to your writing life next year?
Just one. That’s all you need. One possible improvement. It can be as small or as large as you like.
Once you have your answer down, answer this question: What writing project could you possibly complete next year?
Could be any project. A short story, novel, poem, nonfiction book, new website, new blog, book launch, new course…your choice. Any project at all.
Now for your last question: What would you like to do next year in your writing life that you think is impossible?
Go ahead—what do you dream of doing as a writer but that right now, seems impossible?
What is it? Write it down…
Ah, there’s magic in that answer, because it’s those things we think are impossible that often inspire us the most. Some examples: get an agent, sign a traditional publishing contract, become a bestseller, win a contest, start a podcast, speak at a writer’s conference, or have a sold-out book signing.
Once you’ve answered all three of these questions, you should begin to see the possibilities for next year—which is often inspiring and can give you hope. On top of that, it’s just fun.
“Hopefully” one of these exercises will help get you excited about your writing future. If not, don’t give up. Keep looking for that new inspiration you need. Odds are once you start seeking it out, you’ll find it.
Do you have ways to nurture feelings of hope? Do you want to share any of your answers to the questions above? We'd love to hear about it down in the comments!
Get help setting inspiring goals this year with Colleen’s FREE “Start the Year Off Right” bundle, available here!
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Colleen M. Story inspires writers to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment in their work. Her latest release, Writer Get Noticed!, was a gold-medal winner in the 2019 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, a 1st-place winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards, and Book By Book Publicity’s best writing/publishing book of 2019. Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers. Find more at her motivational site, Writing and Wellness, and on her author website, or connect with her on Twitter.
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