Setting Writing Intentions 2022 - Diane Lee

2022: Setting Writing Intentions

A couple of days ago, I took an online writing workshop run by American writer, Vanessa Martir. I did a free workshop of hers a while back (and meant to double down with the paid version, but got distracted) and when this one popped up in my feed I signed up, not least because it wasn’t expensive (US$30) and I like the way she structures her classes. Vanessa sends through pre-class readings, which are discussed in the workshop and there are timed writing/thinking sessions to prompts (maximum of five minutes). Given that I’ve pretty much lost my mojo, I figured taking a class titled Master Manifesting: Setting Writing Intentions for 2022 couldn’t hurt. It was was two hours well spent, and I’ll take you through the big picture process of setting my intentions, what I achieved and why I have a house as the feature image for this post.

Prompt #1: Why am I taking this workshop?

Good question indeed, and here was my response:

I need to get unblocked. I think about writing, but I don’t do much (unless it’s income related). I feel like my ideas have dried up OR the ones I have aren’t worth writing about OR my ideas are too painful to explore, and I don’t know where to start. I used to be a prolific writer a couple of years ago, but my mojo is missing in action.

Setting intentions #1 for me

Start an ideas notebook, along the lines of James Altucher’s Guide to Becoming an Ideas Machine.

Prompt #2 : Who is a writer I admire?

This question was asked to identify mentors and help with a framework around practice. Here’s my writing idol.

In my main genre (creative non-fiction/personal essays), there are many great writers, but one reigns supreme. Cheryl Strayed, and this is why:

  • Her writing is deep, connected, raw and cathartic
  • She’s not afraid to dig deep, get into it and reveal intimate, painful, private details
  • She examines and dissects the human condition, and what it means to be human and flawed
  • She taught me that you can “sit with your stuff” and  still find peace
  • She discusses and explores without sermonising
  • Her vulnerability is her strength.

Setting intentions #2 for me

Read more of Cheryl’s work (or reread) and study how she formulates her pieces.

Prompt #3: What do I like about this writer?

This question was asked to identify areas to work on with our practices. Here is why Cheryl Strayed is my writing hero, and this is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination:

  • She plays with structure and form, semantics and word choice to support what she is writing about
  • I admire her use of repetition to lead draw the reader into the rhythm and flow of the writing
  • She creates a safe space for the reader even though what she writes about is uncomfortable
  • She uses visual cues to create an emotional connection.

Setting intentions #3 for me

Explore structure and form. Read more lyric, braided and collage essays

Prompt #4: What self-talk is sabotaging you?

This was an aside in the workshop, but the important topic of self-sabotage came up. This is what I tell myself:

No one cares what I about my writing therefore there’s no point writing about anything therefore I won’t write because there’s no point because no one cares.

(This feeds into the Your own mother didn’t love you, so why should/would anyone else message that I’ve lived with most of my life. Writing The Mother Wound was the first class I took of Vanessa’s. And in 2017, I took her 52 Personal Essays challenge, although I wrote 26ish.)

Setting intentions #4 for me

Turn this around and when I write change the perspective to: Why do I care? 

Prompt #5: What’s your writing metaphor?

Using interviews with writers about their process as the jumping off point, I created a metaphor that I can use for my own writing process, and it’s a house. This metaphor works for me because:

  • I’m essentially a homebody and love being at home
  • I love to travel and explore but I always have a stable, secure, familiar and safe base to come back to
  • Houses have strong foundations on which everything is built
  • Houses have basements that can contain dark secrets
  • Cupboards are places where things can be stored or compartmentalised to be used later
  • Nourishment is there, in your pantry, fridge or garden
  • My cat is a source of unconditional love, and part of my home
  • Windows let in light, and the breeze through open doors and windows is cleansing, cathartic
  • My house keeps unwelcome visitors out, and I can invite people who I choose in.

Setting intentions #5 for me

When I am writing, use the house as a metaphor to help with the process.

Prompt #6: Finding my hum

Using Shonda Rhimes’ TED Talk, I created a list of things that makes me hum, where I’m in the moment, where I feel effortlessly energised, where I recharge:

  • Running and riding my bike
  • Getting lost in a story (film, series or book)
  • Learning about and exploring different ideas and perspectives
  • Deep conversations and connections
  • Photography
  • Travelling solo to new destinations and different cultures
  • Being connected to my community
  • Making things/crafting
  • Music from my childhood through to my forties
  • Road trips
  • My cat, chickens and garden.

Setting 12 intentions for 2022

So out of this work, came a number of doable and feasible intentions for my writing in practice in 2022:

  1. Experiment with different kinds of essays
  2. Read one book a month about craft e.g. Creating the Personal Essay, Tell it Slant, Guide to Writing Flash Non-Fiction
  3. Read more of what interests/inspires me in terms of what I want to write e.g. Catapult, The Rumpus, Havok
  4. Read and write more poetry, learn more about using poetry in my writing e.g. CalArts’ Poetry Workshop
  5. Choose readings that demonstrate the common literary devices, and write using/experimenting with each of them
  6. Create a vision board
  7. Create a bucket list of publications, and actually pitch and submit to call-outs!
  8. Ideate daily
  9. Take more writing classes e.g. Wesleyan University’s Coursera
  10. Go somewhere unfamiliar once a month and photograph it.
  11. Publish every two weeks from 4, 5 and 8
  12. Dream big! Publish my novel and memoir about living in Vietnam.

I will come back and visit and amend this throughout 2022, to see how I’m tracking and remind myself that I might be treading water – bearing in mind I am going back to university this year – but there are still things I want to achieve with my writing.

Picture credit: Pixabay


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