Writing in the new year

Happy new year!

As we all know, a new year is the perfect time for such resolutions as writing. Whether it’s getting back to an unfinished project or starting a new one, we can all use a little inspiration to get our creative energies jump-started in 2022.

Fortunately, many of our wonderful Ashland Creek Press authors are busy writing, and they have wonderful advice for us all. Read on to learn how some of your favorite authors are staying inspired!

After finally admitting to myself that I cannot make time for writing during the day, I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. to write before getting to work at the sanctuary—and it is working. I’ve made a deal with my dad, who’s in the UK, in which I call him to check in just after 5 a.m., or I have to pay him $25! That’s good motivation.

— Catherine Kelaher
Catherine Kelaher

Catherine Kelaher is the author of Saving Animals: A Future Activist’s Guide and the novel Amanda the Teen Activist. She is the founder of NSW Hen Rescue in New South Wales, Australia. 

Write your passion. My experience has taught me that if I care about my topic, characters, or premise, the writing process is personal and the writing journey is pleasant even on the hard days. If I don’t care about it, the entire process is a struggle and my words feel hollow. Explore and write the things that you care about, the things that scare you, or anger you, or fill you with joy, and you can’t go wrong. 

— Olivia Chadha
Olivia Chadha

Olivia Chadha’s novel, Balance of Fragile Things, was published by Ashland Creek Press in 2012. Her YA debut, Rise of the Red Hand, was published by Erewhon Books February 2021. Forthcoming from Olivia is its sequel, FALL OF THE IRON GODS, in May 2022; a  short story in THE GATHERING DARK, a YA folk horror anthology edited by Tori Bovalino, also in 2022; and a short story in the YA desi anthology, MAGIC HAS NO BORDERS, edited by Sona Charaipotra and Samira Ahmed, in 2023. 

Surprisingly few details are needed to animate a story. Choosing these images is like shopping for jewelry: some pieces catch the eye, others hold no magic. The right details in the right places bring the reader close.

— Jean Ryan
Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan is the author of the short story collection Survival Skills. Her poem, “A Christmas Poem,” will appear in Issue 9.4 of Star 82 Review, and other recent news includes the publication of her narrative “My Best/Worst Birthday” in Easing the Edges: A Collection of Everyday Miracles and her poems “Terminal Lucidity” and “What Is Wild” in Red Eft Review, and a reading of her nature essays from Strange Company on the Mark McNease Mysteries podcast.

One of my characters needs ambient music to block out the world, so I started listening to it while writing him, and wow — I’m a lot more productive with the right kind of music in the background. It helps me forget the 5,000 other things on my To Do list, slide into the flow, and stay there longer. Here are a couple of YouTube channels with great ambient music to try: Deep Focus Music — piano-centered with nature sounds — and Space Ambient — synthesizer-based electronic feel.

— Mindy Mejia
Mindy Mejia

Mindy Mejia is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Dragon KeeperEverything You Want Me to BeLeave No Trace, and Strike Me Down.

Set a goal to write one sentence a day. It’s tiny, it’s achievable, and it gets you in the chair. Once you open the tap, you may find the words begin to flow! 

I also know writers who swear by the Twitter hashtag #5amwritersclub. You can interpret 5 a.m. however you want — anytime before 6 a.m., or 5 a.m. in some other time zone — though getting up early does seem to be part of the deal.    

— Katy Yocom
Katy Yocom

Katy Yocom is the author of the award-winning novel Three Ways To Disappear, and her new book is a collaboration with co-editor Kathleen Driskell: Creativity & Compassion: Spalding Writers Celebrate Twenty Years, an anthology of Spalding MFA faculty blog posts.

Before I begin a writing project, I arrange objects on the table in front of my writing space as a kind of altar to the process itself. It always includes a candle that I light when I start writing each day and blow out when I’ve hit my word count or time limit. This allows the writing to be sacred, apart from other quotidian tasks, and keeps me anchored to the commitment I’ve made to the writing itself.

— Cassie Premo Steele

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of Earth Joy Writing and has recently had poetry and nonfiction published in Appalachian ReviewMinerva RisingRoanoke ReviewSamfiftyfour, and Wild Roof Journal

Thanks so much to Catherine, Olivia, Mindy, Jean, Katy, and Cassie for these fantastic tips! I’ve got my own brief bit of advice to add: Be an everyday writer. By this I mean: Find a way to stay connected to your work even when you’re not able to sit down in the chair; everyday writing refers to paying attention to your writing, or simply the creative process, as you go about your regularly scheduled life — for example, by witnessing the world around you, by eavesdropping (I’ve gotten the best story ideas this way!), by closely observing people and places and atmosphere, and — most important — jotting it all down where it’ll be available to you when you need it.

Wishing you a happy new year of writing!

5 thoughts on “Writing in the new year”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I agree with the background, ambient noise. I use the brainFM app on creative flow mode and I do find it helpful. The other thing I do with my 5am writing routine is to use an app called Beeminder. In addition to having that agreement with my Dad, that I’ll pay him $25 if I don’t call him at 5am (see above), I also have the beeminder app set that if I don’t write 1000 words a day in a certain Google doc, that I get charged $5 to a charity that goes against everything I believe in! It works, I will never allow them to get any money, so I will never skip my 1000 words.

  2. Catherine, thank you not only for your contribution to this post but for that final amazing tip! Being charged $5 to a charity that goes against all that you believe in is a STRONG motivator! And I too love Mindy’s advice about music and ambient sound … I can’t focus on writing if there are lyrics, but soothing instrumentals, or the sounds of nature, are wonderful.

  3. I agree completely, Katy … though I haven’t gotten the app Catherine mentioned, when I think of donating money to a cause/campaign I loathe, it’s so terrifying that this is inspiration enough. 🙂

    And I love your suggestion about writing a sentence a day … this I’ve been doing! So often I feel as though I have no time or energy left to write (next, I really need to try the 5 a.m. plan, before the day is done), but then I tell myself to just try a sentence or two … and I always end up writing a few paragraphs or pages.

    I’m so inspired by all of these fabulous ideas!

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