Writer Shares 10 Resolutions with Amateurs

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Now is the time to clean the slate, to get out new pencils, and to tackle the big, bad world of publishing.

“I always love this time of year, when I can start over,” says Dorothy K. Fletcher, author of the award-winning poetry and essay collection Zen Fishing and Other Southern Pleasures (Ocean Publishing). “Even after all my years of writing, I still find the blank piece of paper very scary.”

Dorothy K. Fletcher who has taught for 34 years still teaches creative writing at Wolfson High in Jacksonville. Her writing career has been at least as long as her teaching career, and it has had many false starts and dead ends. “I have learned many hard lessons traveling the path of the writer. These few resolutions might help novice writers find the way more easily in 2006, especially when they start the year with good writing habits.”

  •     Create a clutter-free area in which to think and to create. File receipts, organize notes, and put handbooks and computer disks in order.
  •     Buy a clean journal or notebook, and keep it handy to jot down ideas as they come. Use specially purchased “writing” pens or pencils. They are good to signal the brain that it is time to write.
  •     Find time every day to write about something that stimulates curiosity or emotion. If writing is not possible during the workweek, then set aside a time on the weekend to devote to writing.
  •     Use instrumental music when writing first drafts. Stimulating the right side of the brain with soft music often enhances the writing experience (Note: Powerful classical music or songs that have lyrics may cause a problem with concentration). Never write with the TV on!
  •     Once the writing juices begin to flow, write without editing every few seconds. No one will ever see early drafts. Take time later--a few days later, even--to correct errors. (For computer-composers, understand that there is evidence that handwriting the first draft, at least, helps activate the creative part of the brain. Handwrite one draft before going to the computer)
  •     Join a writers’ group if one has been organized in the area, and if there isn’t one, find like-minded souls who would meet in a bookstore or library where everyone can share work and get feedback. Go to “open mike” coffee houses, and listen to the work of others. Share some original pieces with appreciative audiences.
  •     Attend writers festivals and “pick the brains” of those who are successful at the writing process.
  •     Be persistent. Rejection is a part of the writer’s path. Look in the classified ads of writer magazines and see what is displayed in “Calls for Manuscripts” section. Looking here helps writers easily pinpoint places more likely to accept work. Keep manuscripts in the mail. When one manuscript is rejected, then send it immediately somewhere else.
  •     Read! Reading anything can stimulate ideas. Also, the act of reading reinforces that rare quality of “good flow of style,” which is essential in good writing. It is also a good time to join book clubs to hear what other people like and dislike about writing styles and techniques.
  •     Enjoy writing whether anything comes of it or not. Self-expression can soothe the soul, and it can also be used to chronicle the events and insights of a life. The letters and poems written long ago become priceless keepsakes in most families.

Fletcher goes on to say, "Although these tips may not make a writer’s work a bestseller this year, it certainly couldn't hurt for all writers to develop their talents first so that success can eventually come to the persistent."

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Dorothy Fletcher