By Catherine Chambers
I don’t know about you, friend, but 2014 was a trial by fire for my loved ones and me. I’m sorry to say that I went weeks without picking up a book, without writing down a single word. However, in the midst of post-holiday wintertime blues, I find there is nothing more comforting than a story, read or told. The question is: why is it so difficult to keep it up during hard times? For creative types (a generally sensitive bunch), the littlest thing can set us off. I once didn’t read an assignment for a week because there was snow outside and my kitchen was dirty. To be honest, this year, my writing suffered, but I’m determined to change that.
Personally, I think people aim too high when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. My motto: Keep it Simple. Setting realistic goals you can accomplish will feel much better than drinking kale juice every day for a month only to go on a donut binge. If I can overcome cleaning a three-day-old crusted-over crock-pot, you can overcome too! We can do it together in three easy steps.
Step 1: Practice.
From writing, to yoga, to business analysis, everything we do as humans takes practice. Make writing (even if it’s an especially witty grocery list or a diary entry) a part of your life every day. To take an example from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, sitting down to write your magnum opus after a hiatus is like saying, “I can go for a run today because I stretched last week.” I’ve been particularly bad about this one lately. The stress of moving, finances, the holidays, its all added up. 2015 will be about overcoming my outer problems and easing the pain with writing every day. Granted, sometimes sitting down to write will be a pain, but as one of my fellow editors pointed out, sometimes art is hard.
Step 2: Stop Caring About What Everyone Thinks.
Trust yourself when it comes to your work. Not everything you write is a gem, but what matters is getting it out. If you don’t get your work onto the page, how are you supposed to pick through it to see what can get shined up?
Another of my favorite Goldberg-isms is, “You should listen to what people say. Take in what they say… Then make your own decision. It is your [writing] and your voice.” Personally, I struggle a great deal with putting my writing out in the world whether for peers to read, submitting for publication, or even just letting my partner take a glance at it. It’s like sending my child go off to kindergarten only to worry about bullies taking her lunch money.
People have opinions and they love to share them, but it doesn’t mean you have to listen. The same thing goes for your ego. Don’t listen to that jerk, either. The societal anxieties you picked up as a child, the need to please and be perfect, none of that has a place in your writing practice. Writing is not a good profession for prideful people. Rejection letters paper our inbox, we work mundane jobs to pay the bills, but we press on. Always press on.
Step 3: Be Present.
This is important. Take deep breaths. Go out barefoot in the snow just to see what it feels like. Document every little thing that you see and love and feel. Observe your world as it’s happening to you. Pull an Anne Lamott and carry an index card in your back pocket in case of emergency poetry. Say yes to reinvigorating your writing practice one day at a time. If you skip a day or two, don’t beat yourself up, just get back to it and write. Truth is, in creating you will find your solace.