New Year, New Vision
New Year's Resolutions Aren't For Writers
Thoughts on cycles rather than resolutions, solitude, and the art of reflection
Every January, I map out my entire year. I create a vision board, so to speak, that details out all the things I want to accomplish in that year. I open a fresh Moleskin and start pasting in it quotes and images and receipts and relics and memories and inspiration and all the things I feel like I need for the journey to come. I watch all of my friends and family chalk up the New Year to more travel, more weight loss, more time, just simply more. And I suspect that this is all good. It's good to set goals to better ourselves, to refresh with each passing year and to build on the years that came before. In some ways, we're naturally mimicking the cycle of nature--using the winter as a hibernation and incubation period before we set out to bloom in the spring.
At this point, I know what you're thinking. No, I'm not about to tell you to ditch making New Year's resolutions. But I do want to share a different path with you that I'm journeying along this year.
I'm a very nostalgic person by nature, so I've spent my entire life collecting things, mementos--pieces of broken things from the past, notes on yellowed paper, antiquated photographs, keys, pressed plants, receipts, trinkets, beads of jewelry, and I'm a sucker for broken housewares: little porcelain birds that are orphaned by a broken tail, or an old toy caboose that's ripe with dust because of a rusty wheel--and maybe all of this is symptomatic of being an only child, or it's an emblem of my introverted nature, but the point is that I have a lot of stuff. And all of that stuff means a lot to me. I could really go on and on here about how I like to connect with different times through old things, and how mementos can conjure moments of feelings you thought you'd lost, but I digress.
I know what you're thinking again. This is not going to turn into a minimalist manifesto, I promise.
I tell you all of this because, as an adult, collecting stuff has also come to encompass collecting accomplishments, reaching mile markers, and forever striving to climb onto that green grass of contentment. Like most writers, my mind is constantly swirling with deadlines I set for myself: finish the next book, update your website, pitch these publications, keep up with your work--all while simultaneously trying to keep authentic to my creativity.
But it's hard, right?
I constantly feel both pointed and lost, swimming with such determination and direction but in an ocean from which I'll never reach the shores. It's both a blessing and a curse to live in an age when publishing is at an all-time peak, with more authors than you knew writers existed in the world, with so many ideas that it's hard to feel like you can possibly think of anything original, and unless you have real social media prowess, it's easy to feel lost in the shuffle of it all. In our lifetime, it seems that there are a few big authors who are simply touched--marked for greatness at their conception. And we hear stories about how J.K. Rowling was rejected 7,645,392 times before Harry Potter was picked up, but it's not encouraging, because there's just not enough space for us all to become J.K. Rowlings.
So, where does this leave me? Back to the new journey...
I'm tired of pushing these thoughts to the back of my mind and persevering. I do it every year. And don't get me wrong. I'm super proud of my career, and I love what I do. I love being an educator, a publisher, a writer, and I've worked incredibly hard to get here. BUT.
When I sat down this year to create my goals, something different happened. I couldn't get past March. Sure, there are 2 or 3 big things throughout the year that I want to do--Pitch, Publish, Promote will happen in November, as it does every year, so that's a given. I'll plan a big retreat for us writers, too--but those are professional goals. What are YOUR goals, for yourself, Amanda? I kept asking. And that's when I realized a few very important things:
I need less of everything to create any sort of abundance.
I let my thoughts settle into a nonjudgmental place, and I wrote down my personal goals. Only 3 (that's not a lot for me, at all) surfaced:
1. Leave more time for you.Though (and because) I work from home, I struggle to keep to a schedule, because, well, I don't have to! And while that's a great privilege, being an entrepreneur also pushes you into the deep, dark abysses of procrastination and overtime. Moreover, I never feel productive enough. Last year, I wrote and published a book, adapted it for the stage and put it on in six months (+ designed all the costuming and directed), we organized the biggest Pitch, Publish, Promote writers conference yet, grew the press, went on a cross country roadtrip, conducted workshops across states, and launched tons of new authors, plus a bunch of stuff I'm probably forgetting. It gets blurry. All in 2018. But I still didn't feel like it was enough. I'll spare you the psychological banter that explains why that might be, but suffice it to say that feeling that way isn't quite fair to myself.
This year, I'm creating space for myself. I often suffer from entrepreneurial guilt, which is insanely common. If I'm not working, even if I'm doing something for myself, I feel guilty for not working. It's a condition that develops in the start-up stages of business, where every minute counts. I'm going to try and dispel that anxiety while I pursue some new things, and the first step I've taken is trying to reclaim my weekends. I'm going to revert inside a little bit, create some things that I think about a lot--ideas that have lived inside for a very long time. Will this impact my lifestyle? Sure. But this is the step I need to take to create not just eventual financial abundance, but to satisfy my own psycho-emotional needs.
2. Go outside more. This is self-explanatory. And if you follow me on social media then you know how much my husband and I love to travel, so this goal might come as a surprise. However, I often fall into a trap that runs the risk of spiraling me into depression--self-sabotaging, some might say. I work on the grind leading up to vacations and big adventures. In a big way, those trips and travels are what I work for. But in those months, I barely go outside. I watch Ryan leave to walk the dogs almost daily, and I don't go with him! Can you believe that? I used to walk them every day, go hiking in the park, or even just run to the store if I hadn't taken a break from writing or editing on a particular day. But 2018 saw me inside most of the time, brooding over my work, which was rewarding, but also shot my anxiety through the roof when I did have to leave. I also forget how healing and grounding and important it is for me to simply walk in nature. So, ya, I've already been making a real practice out of this again.
3. EXPAND. This has a lot to do with #1, but by this, I mean to separate from work a bit and expand my abilities into areas I've always wanted to. I want to grow in more ways, take classes, be a part of more things, and I have a little list of new skills I plan to learn this year that I'm excited about!
I do the same things every year. My projects are different, my ideas shift, but I work in the same cycles every year, and it's time I acknowledge and honor that. 2018 was a great example of this. I wrote Blue Rooms in the winter, when I write the most--when the world is set in an icy stillness, I find my mind hot with inspiration--and then I produced the play throughout the spring, debuted it in early summer, and then left myself rest as the season grew hot and I fell sluggish. By the time fall arrived, I had the energy and determination to focus on the press and the conference, which brought me into this new year.
I let my work fall in line with my natural cycle, and it made me the most productive I've ever been. I need to continue on this trend, as all writers should. Writing is an art, with prerequisites in reflection, rest, solitude, and imagination. To foster those things, we need to listen to our bodies and to our inner dialogues--we need to satiate our creativity by letting it exapnd from us in different ways at different times. Rather than making staunch resolutions, I'm choosing to honor this cycle, and heed whatever it calls for this year.
I need things that support intrapersonal reflection this year rather than interpersonal sharing.
Part of my goals and the business I've created require me to be in the public eye, which is so antithetical to my authentic personality, so it can get a little... awkward... as some of you might already know. I'm okay with that. I love imparting knowledge and empowering writers, I love being a leader in our community, I love working with writers because it enriches my own craft and inspires me. I love all of it.
But I also hate the way I feel in the spotlight. I find it so hard to sharemyselfwith others in public arenas. I clearly don't have a problem writing to you all, but that's because this is an authentic way for me to connect. I get nervous about how I share, what that looks like, if I'm being clear or if what I think is clear is maybe sort of weird--I don't have the most conventional ideas about writing! Rather than continue on about this Meereenese knot of anxiety, though, I'll say that I've discovered this: I need to do two things. One of those is to allow myself more guilt-free intrapersonal time. My interiority is a complicated space that takes up a lot of my thought processes, and when I push it down, cork it, to try and clear space for communication, the bubbling of it--the seething of it all under compression--is what creates my public anxiety. In tandem, I realize that maybe I just need to communicate differently. If you've been to one of my talks, you know I'm a real advocate for sitting down together in a circle. That formation feels inclusive to me, and I absolutely can't stand in front of a crowd and deliver any coherent message from behind a podium. Not going to happen. So I've started to think about designing news ways to communicate with the public, and the prospects have me excited!
If you're still here with me, thank you, and I hope that this soliloquy of introspection helps you to re-evaluate your year as a writer.I'm with you, in it, and this journey of inner experience to find more creative communication is going to be a worthwhile ride.