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Heaven is Other People

January 24, 2023 by in On Writing

I hate Januarys.

You’d think it would be the opposite, particularly because I love Mondays. On a weekly basis, I relish the chance to start over–to begin a new, exciting project or at least return to an old one with fresh eyes. 

January should be my uber-Monday, a time of invigoration and recommitment to my goals and priorities.


Instead, as I reflect on the prior year, I positively vibrate with anxiety. No matter how much I’ve accomplished, it’s never enough. I always want more. This mix of dread and doubt kills my creativity and often leads to writers block — and I don’t even believe in writer’s block!

So how to cope? 

Last year, I wrote about how one of my favorite New Year’s resolutions is to do “nothing” – that is, to practice the Taoist concept of wu wei, which involves effortless action or inaction. I do this any time my Imposter Syndrome flares or I just get way too bitter about all those literary rejections. It’s the reason I took a break from writing earlier this month. It works.

But this year, I’m also doing something else. My resolution is to focus less on myself and more on other people. Here are some ideas if you want to do the same.

  1. Join or Recommit to a Critique Group

A quick search can point you in the direction of more than a dozen online writing critique groups. Some are free, some are paid, but almost any one of them is worth your time if you’re new to writing because they can connect you with people that also love to write and want feedback. I usually recommend Critters because it’s been around for years and started out specializing in science fiction and fantasy — although it’s since expanded to other genres. I belong to it and another group, but I admit I’ve been doing the bare minimum lately and I want to get more involved. There is something so satisfying about helping someone else improve their work. 

2. Join a Writers Association/ Attend a Conference 

I don’t know about you, but after the pandemic, I just want to get out of the house and meet new people. I love the convenience of online writing conferences, but one of my goals this year is to attend one in person. I also plan to join a professional association of speculative writers to connect with fellow artists. Look up writers associations in your region and/or genre and make yourself get out there. 

3. Support Small Presses, Short Story Magazines and Indy Authors 

Within speculative fiction, short story magazines have been in a so-called “golden age” that is now threatened, thanks to some changes in how Amazon’s Kindle operates. I plan to subscribe/donate to more of my favorites this year to help them weather the storm. 

4. Don’t Give Up on Social Media

I know, I know. I’m such a hypocrite. I wasn’t even on social media for the LOOOOOOONGEST time for so. many. reasons.  But even if certain universes are burning down, I’m going to force myself to participate somewhere because there’s still plenty of good and wondrous and funny amid all the toxic– and because social media remains a great way to tell people about all the authors I love. So start posting those short story/book recommendations. Gush a little, even. If nothing else, you’ll make that writer’s day.

In summary: This introvert is going to extrovert! Or at least try to, because it’s not all about me.

And even if it was, there’s that great, ancient saying:

If you’re too worried about the zit in the middle of your forehead, stop staring in the mirror.

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