Monday, December 30, 2013

Wordcraft --Resolutions for writers, in brief

The thing that makes New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep is their too frequent vagueness. Or maybe it’s their habit of being just too open ended. Or too painful. It doesn’t have to be so. One year I resolved to kiss my loved ones and tell them every day that I loved them. I recommend it. And for this last post of 2013, I’ll list a very few resolutions for writers that are short, sweet and joys to keep.

Number One -- Get a library card! To write, we need to read. And we need to nurture other readers. So don’t just get a card for yourself, but for every member of your household.

If you’re an adult living in my town--Dallas, Texas--all you need to get a library card is a current government-issued photo identification and proof of Dallas residency, which can be as simple as a utility bill. If you’re applying for a card for a child, you as guardian, will need your photo ID and proof of Dallas residency, or the child’s school registration (within the city of Dallas) and/or ID. Teens may apply for their own library card with a current Dallas school or government ID. In some cases, you may even get a Dallas library card for limited use if you’re not a city resident (although you should check with your local library about its requirements). For specifics, see

Number Two -- About that reading thing. . . . The more I wrote, the less time I thought there would be to read. But in Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he notes that he reads sixty or seventy books yearly. If King, who releases a new book practically every hour, can find that time to read, can’t we? Consider shoehorning in reading time with audio books, which King likes as much as I do.

And (although this is anticipating resolution number three) consider keeping a record of books read. Since I sometimes feel uncomfortable about not having read whatever the book of the hour is, I fall back on the wisdom of my newly favorite author, Pierre Bayard and his How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Bayard marvelously organizes reading in cultural contexts. And speaking of cultural contexts, I’ll be searching for new reads from around the globe, via

Number Three -- Keep a record of progress. Writing is hard lonely work. If we don’t keep track of our milestones, who will? So, let’s keep logs of stories, poems and articles we’ve written. And of stories, poems and articles published. If we write blogs, notice how many posts we write and how our writing improves along the way.

Number Four -- Make a collection that doesn’t cost anything, which in some ways is also a record of progress. I have a tiny notebook of first sentences from books I love. Or we can collect last sentences, such as the lyrical passages Cormac McCarthy typically ends with to compensate for his blood-soaked prose. Or worst sentences, to make us laugh. Whatever we collect, it should be something that gives us joy, such as this short and lovely first sentence from my recent reading, “It began to snow.” (The Samurai, by Shusaku Endo). (RIP, Leonard Elmore. Sometimes it’s okay to write about weather.)


  1. These are wonderful resolutions, Melissa. Don't forget to keep us updated throughout the year!

  2. You mean, see if I keep them? First I plan to work on persuading my daughter to get library cards for her kids.