It’s that time of year where you might be gearing up to start a new writing routine or setting some goals for your writing this year.

Maybe it’s a novel, a chapbook of poetry, or short memoir pieces that you want to finish this year. Or maybe it’s polishing and finally sending some pieces out to literary journals for publication. Or maybe it’s a whole new genre you want to explore. Or perhaps you’re ready to finally start an ambitious writing project you’ve had on your list for years.

Starting new writing projects can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time.

As writers, we get a tingle of excitement about our projects in their early days, even as self-doubt and fear lurk in the shadows. We have to risk failure for the possibility of success with our writing.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that can be damn scary.

None of us want to fail, face rejection or criticism, or to feel like our writing doesn’t matter.

It takes a whole lot of courage, patience, and self-trust to show up to our writing practice, and as hard as it can be to get started, sometimes it’s staying the course that’s hardest.

By the way, I’m right there with you. This year I’m starting an ambitious new writing project, which feels oh-so-scary because I have no idea if it’s going to be any good or not. I’ve been so hit-and-miss with my writing practice ever since I published my first book that my confidence is still really shaky.

Not to mention that this year, I’m also planning an international move that both petrifies and excites me. The new location comes with adventure and will inform my writing—both in terms of research and new experiences, but it also means packing up a family with two little ones, sorting through all our stuff (konmaristyle). I have to confess, I’m dreading the potential distraction from my writing.

So, I wanted to start this year by reminding myself of a few things in the face of the fear and unknowns ahead. And just in case you’re facing similar fears in pursuit of new writing (or life upheavals), I wrote the following manifesto to share with you today to encourage us both to keep on keeping on this year:

I can make fear the headlights, not the steering wheel
What we’re scared to try in our writing can show us where we need to go. Let’s grab the wheel from fear, but let it be a light to help us see the direction we must take in our writing this year.

I am enough
The tools and resources we have in our heads are all we need to write our life’s work. We don’t need to be someone else or take on some other voice or persona to create brilliant, compelling, meaningful work and to make our mark on this world.

I can be a beginner and also brilliant
Some of the most glorious writing in the world is raw, unpretentious, hungry, and provocative because it was written by beginners who didn’t “know better.” We don’t need to be experts and sometimes knowing too much about how things “should be” can be a detriment to creative writing.

It’s a writing-life, not a writing month (or day or minute)
Let us choose to enjoy the journey and not get too focused on the destination. Let’s take it bird-by-bird, word-by-word, image-by-image. The value in our writing life is a life of paying attention, being astonished, and telling about it (RIP Mary Oliver). We can be alive and amazed on this path, because “we write to taste life twice” (Anaïs Nin).

I can make envy a compass, not an anvil
When we find ourselves envious of our writing peers, we won’t shy away from the feeling. Instead, we’ll take it as more information about where we want to go in our writing lives. As we allow the envy to be present, we’ll remember that everything the object of our envy has can be ours, too. They’re showing us what is possible if we show up on the page.

I will do it in my own time, in my own way
Even as we use envy to guide us, we will remember that this is our journey and we will do it at the pace that works best for us.

I will let go of expectations (and breathe, breathe, breathe when I feel I can’t)
There are so few guarantees in writing. Even if we work hard and want something badly, it still might not happen in the way we want. Writing requires we bravely show up, heart exposed, anyway, and trust that we’ll survive the experience. (Deep breaths.)

I need (and love) my writing community
We write alone, yet our writing lives needn’t be lonely. We will seek out others who share this passion—this thing we’re all willing to suffer for (the true definition of passion)—and we’ll grow more connected, weathering writing ups and downs with our community.

Whatever you’re working on this year, whether it’s a new writing project or staying the course on a work in progress, my hope is that you can find all you need to keep showing up and moving forward—all in a way that works for you.

May you find both the self-trust and the connection to community that makes your writing life and journey amazing and truly yours.

Warmly,
Rachel

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