It feels too “typical” to be writing this on New Years Eve, and I apologize. For the most part, I’ve unfollowed/deleted/ditched all the usual NYE “new year, new you” blathering in my various feeds, and I promise you won’t get that irritating pep-talk here. I’ve confessed before that I have a long history with out-of-control (and failed) New Years resolutions. I pretty much live 24/7/365 with a brain that says I should be self-improving… so a hard push for a “new me” at the turn of the year is redundant and ridiculous.
To paraphrase one of my favorite (coincidentally New Years Eve-y movies): It’s not because I’m angsty, and it’s not because it’s New Years Eve…
… but this turning of the year does naturally make a good time for a “reset.” It’s not about the calendar; let’s be real, 2021 is not going to look much different from 2020, at least for a long while. My approach to 2021 is to have zero expectations; anything good that happens will be a Bonus.
So… what are we doing here?
In my life, New Years turns out to be an appropriate time for reflection and reset, not because of the arbitrary turning of the year, but because we are downshifting from the high energy of holiday-ing into a quieter, hunkered-down season. We’re cleaning house, putting away the holiday decor and gifts, tidying up, clearing the literal clutter. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming of school and work days.
I’m not interested in the flip of a calendar page; instead, I’m thinking about clearing away the mental clutter, and how I want to reenter “real life”—such as it is—after the highs and lows of the holidays.
What follows in this post might look like resolutions, which is admittedly ironic now that I’ve said how I don’t like or need the NYE push. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks, and I’ve realized that the things I want to do in this season aren’t new at all… they’re the things I keep saying are important to me, but that I never seem to get around to.
I struggle with the balance between being too loosey-goosey and too hardnosed. I need plans that are specific enough to be helpful but open-ended enough to be realistic. A bullet journal full of checkboxes will get ignored the minute after I’ve spent hours setting it up (ask me how I know). But I’ll also bail out tomorrow if my approach is simply “do whatever feels good at the time.” (What feels good at almost any time is knitting and watching old movies.)
So I’ve settled on a big-picture intention, and a small-everyday intention. Both have space for variability and both take seriously the things I say are important, but that I never seem to actually do.
1) My SFD Year(s).
In her book about writing called Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott coined the phrase that is now a core practice of (it seems) almost all writers: the Shitty First Draft.
I’ve never been a writer of drafts, even as a student. I write meticulously, and edit and nitpick every step of the way. But after the writerly experiences I had in 2020, I’ve realized that if I want to shape a real, vocational writing life, I simply must start amassing SFDs.
Over the past few years I’ve been learning about self-publishing, feeling anxious about needing to build a platform, wondering if I could really hack it in an MFA program, and on and on. What I haven’t done over the past few years is learn to write.
Or, you know, actually practice writing.
I’ve read books about publishing but not on the craft of writing, and I’ve examined the curricula of MFA programs but I don’t even have a portfolio of work for an application.
I haven’t been reading—much less studying—the types of books I want to write. For that matter, I don’t even know what types of books (or poems? or whatever!) I want to write. And I don’t have a drawerful of lousy-but-with-potential manuscripts ready for revision. AKA SFDs.
I don’t have a goal number or even an intended genre to focus on, but I want to go deep into the practice of writing (likely mostly fiction). It’s the only way to figure out what kind of writer I am. So I will test-drive writing for different ages and in different genres, study the craft of writing through books and focused workshops, and consume fiction not just as a reader but as a student of writing.
2) My 3M Days.
SFDs are my big, arching goal for the year(s) ahead.
3Ms are my small, immediate plans for the days ahead.
These are the things I always say I want to do, or do better, but they are also the easiest things to put on the back burner. They’re little things that, if I did them with consistency and intention, I believe would affect my life in big ways. And they all happen to start with M. (Yay, alliteration!) They are:
- Meditation (and prayer): praying the Daily Office, doing lectio divina, sitting in silent or guided meditation, practicing yin yoga, or even trying out MedKNITation.
- Movement: walking, running, strength work, yoga. Or something else… but some movement that feels joyful.
- Music: violin, piano, or even ukulele practice.
I’m a SAHM of kids in virtual school, in a new hometown where we have no connections or commitments; there is no reason why I can’t (or just don’t) do each of these things every single day. I’m keeping it loose. I’m not setting timers or scheduling out the whole year. Along the way I may use books or programs, or I may decide to DIY it, but the simple goal will be for each day to include some kind of expression of these three Ms.
I thought about including a fourth M for Making, but the truth is I am going to make things no matter what. I would like to get my Etsy shop breathing again, but it is definitely a “supporting character” among my goals and plans for now.
To be specific…
I’m planning to use a few structured approaches to these practices, at least to begin with. I’m looking specifically at January, but some of these will last longer, and I’ll reevaluate every few months.
- Immediate priority is work-for-hire: a curriculum unit to study for and to write. (Five Sunday School lessons on worship—my favorite topic!)
- SFDs: While I concentrate on the curriculum, in January I will participate in StoryStorm, and build a solid list of plot ideas to set me up for the year. I’ve also marked my calendar with a few writing-craft worships through SCBWI.
- Meditation: My baseline for January will be the book Yoga Mind by Suzan Colón. I have many other resources for prayer practice, and I’m keeping them close at hand, but this book will (I hope) be a starting place for developing a mindset and settling into long-term rhythms, in just a few minutes a day.
- Movement: I’m continuing the BigFitGirl strength program, and I’ll start (again, argh!) None2Run, now that my toe feels mostly better. I can’t believe I’ve actually missed running training. I’m aiming for 30 minutes-ish daily of some kind—any kind—of movement.
- Music: I’ll focus on violin and recovering the ground I’ve lost after weeks (and weeks) of not practicing. I’d also like to spend time at the piano. Piano is my “first language” (even if much-forgotten) so I find it a bit easier to get my head around music theory at the keyboard.
Along for the ride?
I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I’ll use this blog space for the next… while. I’ve never been clear about what this blog should or could be, whether I’m keeping it for your sake, dear reader, or for my own. Over the years it has been—very inconsistently—a home for my craft project photos, weekly or seasonal devotionals, and a brain-dump for the random stuff I’m pondering. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m always pondering something.)
If I were smart, I’d choose one path and concentrate on doing it brilliantly.
Apparently I’m not so smart. Shrug. Instead, my plan for this space going forward is a two-parter. Look for:
- A weekly (or more, or less) “pondering” post. It maybe about SFDs or 3Ms, or about moving, or what I’m reading or what I’m making or how I’m keeping up (or not) with it all.
- A weekly lectionary-based faith-y reflection. I want to build a “catalog” of prayers/poems/devos, and for the foreseeable future, this is where they will live. They’ll be lectio-divina-ish—like the Advent devos I’ve shared recently—gut-level reactions to and meditations on scripture, not researched studies or sermons.
I hope you’ll stay along for the ride, and feel free to share links to the blog if you know people who might be encouraged by it.
Thanks for reading along, and thinking along, with me here. I wish you peace-full moments throughout the days (weeks, year) ahead… whatever they may bring. Stay well, friends. 🙏🏻