The end of December and beginning of January is a thoughtful time of year for me. I think back on the previous year, the highlights and achievements, the setbacks and lessons learned. Then I turn to the year that’s beginning to unfold. I ask myself, “What can I accomplish by the end of the year? What do I want to do? How can I continue to embrace the projects and ideals that matter most to me?”
This year, I’m taking that goal-setting to a new level by trying a New Year’s ritual that my friend Leanne Sowul practices. Every January, she chooses a word to guide her decisions, intentions, and actions for the next 12 months. In that way, it becomes a sort of theme for her year. And knowing what I’ll be up to in the near future, I’ve chosen my own word to be my touchstone for 2019.
Before I share that word, let’s put 2018 into perspective.
Every Monday evening, instead of writing for 60 to 90 minutes at my laptop, I spend that time on my yoga mat. It’s a habit I’ve consistently maintained for 2 years, though I was first introduced to yoga about 5 years ago. Sometimes it’s with a class, led by a teacher who has become both mentor and cheerleader to me.** Other times it’s at home, thanks to the TV awesomeness known as YouTube OnDemand. Regardless, yoga has become an essential part of my life, much the same way that writing has.
Maybe that explains why I came to this conclusion recently: Yoga and writing sessions have a lot in common.
I’m sure some of you might be thinking, “Um… OK…. But how?” That’s what today’s blog post is all about. 😉 Here are five ways in which yoga and writing are similar, and how I’ve benefited from having both in my life.
I haven’t touched my novel-in-progress since the second week of July.
Yeah. There’s no way of sugarcoating the truth. The good news is, I haven’t stopped writing altogether. But the first draft of the manuscript I’ve been working on for the past year? The desire to open the Word file isn’t there right now. In fact, I think it had been gone for a while, but it took me several weeks to realize it.
Maybe this has happened to you. At some point during a writing project, despite the passion you felt early on, the fire goes out. You might not know the reason why right away. You might not even recognize what the feeling is at first, so you keep pushing on. But once you do… well, depending on your personality, you might have a hard time accepting it.
Today, I’m here to tell you something important: It’s OK. You’re not alone in this, and maybe something in this post might help you get through it and figure out what to do next.
When Victoria Grace Howell nominated me for this tag (thank you, Tori!), two thoughts went through my head. The first one: “Wow! This should be fun.” And the second one: “Crap. I threw out most of my old journals when I was reorganizing last year.” (*lol*) I still kept some of them, though, since some of their pages were still empty. Because, really, how awful would it be for a writer to let blank sheets of lined paper go to waste?
So I went through the oldies-but-goodies I still have and chose three to share with you today. Oddly enough, none of them show much of my early creative writing projects. But each one is unique in design, purpose, and personal meaning to me. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed looking back through some of the pages of my past, literally.
Of course, since this is a blog tag, let’s kick things off with…
First things first: I miscalculated how old the blog is. We’re celebrating its ninth birthday today, not its tenth. (*face turns red*) Sorry about that!
Regardless, a ninth blogoversary is impressive. I launched this site in 2009 mostly because blogging seemed like fun. (Not to mention I was always happy to find a new outlet for writing.) Since then, I’ve grown so much as a writer and as a person, and the blog has evolved as well. So, from a perspective of reflection, it’s appropriate that this year’s blogoversary post centers on all-time favorite writing advice. (Thank you for the suggestion, Zezee!)
It was challenging, but I narrowed it down to nine favorites to coincide with nine years of blogging. I hope you find these tips as motivating and inspiring as I did when I first came upon them.
If you’ve been blogging for a period of time, you’ve probably kept at it because you enjoy it. You’re passionate about your subject, have a strong desire to write about it, and find joy in communicating with like-minded people. Maybe you’ve blocked out time in your schedule for writing your posts, responding to comments, and catching up on friends’ blogs. In short, blogging has become part of your routine, and it’s impossible to imagine your life without it.
That is, until something happens in your offline life, and you have to put your blogging on hold.
Last year I read Sage Cohen’s Fierce on the Page, a collection of essays that encourages writers to transform their attitudes and habits so that they can unleash their creativity, overcome fears, and define success on their own terms – all ways in which they can practice ferocity in their craft. One of my favorite essays from the book is Chapter 14, “Build a Cathedral,” which Cohen begins with this allegory:
… [A] traveler in medieval times comes upon a stonemason at work. He asks, “What are you doing?” The man looks weary and unhappy. He responds, “Can’t you see I am cutting and laying down stone? My back is killing me, and I can’t wait to stop.”
The traveler continues on his way and comes upon a second stonemason. “What are you doing?” he asks. “I’m building a wall,” says the stonemason. “I’m grateful to have this work so I can support my family.”
As the traveler walks on, he encounters a third stonemason who seems to be doing exactly the same work as the previous two. He asks the man, “What are you doing?” The man stands up straight. His face is radiant. He looks up at the sky and spreads his arms wide. “I am building a cathedral,” he answers.
Wow. It’s such a simple tale, but the shift it made in my perception of my writing was like feeling the earth move under my feet.
Last January, a friend gave me this New Year’s party hat. The timing for this sparkling “gift” couldn’t have been more appropriate: I was ready to send a YA fantasy novel to beta-readers, and 3 weeks into a crowdfunding campaign to help me afford a trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat. Not to mention I had a whole list of goals and plans for 2017, and if things worked out the way I’d hoped, maybe I’d be closer to my dream of being published by year’s end – a pretty good “best year ever.”
Today, that hat still sits in my writing space (a.k.a. my dining room table), and I’m no closer to being published than I was a year ago. But that doesn’t mean 2017 was “not the best year ever.” Rather, it turned out much differently than I thought it would.
Was it challenging? Absolutely. Discouraging? At times, yes. But it was also one of the most exciting, inspiring, and humbling years I’ve had the privilege of living.
For all those reasons, I can’t write this annual reflection post in the same way I’ve written those of past years. Instead of focusing on milestones, blog statistics, and defined plans that could change in a few months, I’d like to share what I learned this past year. How certain events sent my mental health spiraling and shook my faith and self-confidence. How other events and important choices helped me heal and made me look at life – even why I write – from a different perspective. How it all, in the end, reminded me that I’m intelligent, creative, and determined enough to rebound from setbacks. Continue reading
During a recent lunch-break walk at my day job, I almost stepped on a bird feather. It might not sound so extraordinary. After all, birds are part of the everyday outdoors. But unlike fallen leaves, clods of dirt, or patches of grass, it’s not every day that your foot comes in contact with a stray feather. So I stopped and picked it up.
Two thoughts crossed my mind then. First, the feather itself. Gosh, was it gorgeous. It was slender, slightly curved, and mostly brown with white horizontal bars that became indistinct closer to the tip. And at over 1 foot long from shaft to tip, it was also HUGE. I still haven’t identified what species it belongs to. (Someone suggested the wild turkey, and it seems to be the closest match.) But as I twirled the feather between my fingers, what bird once wore it didn’t matter. What did matter was how I felt at that moment: as if I’d found a piece of treasure.
Second, as I returned the feather to the ground, I thought about writing. For me, nature and writing have been deeply connected for a long time. In fact, they might be more so now than ever before. Continue reading
Last week was the launch of this year’s 8th blogoversary “party,” with a giveaway featuring ten unique fiction books I highly recommend. (Sunday, July 9th was the actual blogoversary.) Today, it’s time for conclude the celebration… with two more giveaways! And since both prizes are writing-related, I’m calling them the Writerly Wisdom giveaways, after my semi-weekly Writer Wisdom quote series.
So which books are options for the first giveaway? (Hint: Check out the banner image above.) What did I find so enriching or inspiring about each one? And, what is the mysterious second giveaway? Read on to find out!