Clearing the Deck
This morning I got around to writing my last holiday card. Many people will be surprised to receive anything from me. I’m pretty hit-and-miss with correspondence around this time of year. I’m ridiculously insistent on writing personal notes, so sometimes I can’t even get started, since the task seems daunting. This year, though, has been more contemplative in nature. I took the time to do it. I’m ending the year on a good note, so that I can begin the next with an empty slate. No odds and ends left undone.
I wrote up my work plan for 2019 yesterday, but I’ve been churning things over in my brain for the last month. I rearranged my study, got a new rug to spruce things up. Cleaned up my computer and did back ups. I now have a work calendar separate from my duties as mom, spouse, and household maintainer. For weeks, I’ve been listening to motivational books, thinking through my daily routines, writing lists, and basically getting my shit together.
It’s been the undercurrent to an uneven season of grieving the loss of my mother-in-law and holiday rituals. For the last year, our family has been in a holding pattern, where death seemed imminent, but not quite possible. And then it happens and it feels like a surprise. But the surprise is not just in the absence of the person, but the absence of the routine built around the person. Life collapses inward a bit.
The shift in time and energy, being snapped awake by a reminder of impermanence, the new year on the horizon – all these things have propelled me forward. I have to live my days differently. I’ve been practicing a long time, trying on and discarding habits that work or don’t work. I’ve been making my life more about writing than laundry. I’ve reached out and connected with other writers. The time for practice is over. Batter up!
That isn’t to say that I won’t have to make some adjustments to my grand plan. Some things will still be untenable, no matter how good it looks on paper. My schedule and work plan are written in pencil for a reason. I think it’s going to be a slog, to shift into a writing work schedule from just “writing when I feel like it”. Moods tend to be a bad barometer for productivity, so my goal is to work anyway. Hello Excuse. I see you. Now go sit in the corner while I work.
So I prepare for the new year not with a burst of unrealistic goals, but with a sense of determination and an understanding that it will likely suck for awhile – the discomfort, the tension and pull of old habits, the voices in my head that tell me I’m ridiculous or untalented or incapable. Change is difficult, even changes that are simply a shift one way or another. What I do know is that this time next year, I want to have a different story to tell.
What do you want your story to be in 2019?
Some resources that give me a mental boost:
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro
I just started reading this book and had trouble putting it down. Compelling narrative, but also some immediate great lessons about being a writer. I’m going to have to take notes.
This isn’t a magic pill, but she draws from a lot of useful sources and I enjoyed listening to the audiobook.
Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold
I’ve recommended this one before. Important because she writes about how to create a workable goal for yourself and what that process entails.
Sometimes I just read things like this for reinforcement of what I already know. Occasionally there’s a tidbit that sticks and I add it to my own personal motivations.
The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
The audiobook is great for those who love classical music, as it breaks each chapter with music. But there were a lot of ideas that I wanted to write down, so I bought the book as well.
“The Power of Vulnerability” by Brené Brown
Hillary Rettig on “Overcoming Procrastination and Perfectionism“
“Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” by Tim Urban
The Good Life Project with Host Jonathan Fields
The Life Coach School with Host Brooke Castillo