Post by Jenny
As we reach the end of another holiday season, I’ve been thinking of all the things I do but once a year: toast with champagne at midnight, send heart-shaped cards, drink a green beer, lie on the summer grass as fireworks burst open overhead, blow out the candles on my birthday cake, carve a pumpkin, cook an elaborate turkey dinner, set up an evergreen tree in the house and decorate it. It’s ritual, it’s tradition, it’s fun, and I don’t want to quit doing any of it.
But it’s the everyday things that really define our lives and shape who we are, so I’ve also been thinking of the things I do on a daily basis (unless I have the kind of illness that causes my body to become one with my mattress). I eat, I drink, I walk (for exercise or necessity or both), I laugh, I brush my teeth and my hair, I pet the dog, I hug my family, I clean/launder/straighten something. All these things sustain me and improve the quality of my life. So, why isn’t writing on the list?
Truth be told, I don’t write every day. I think about writing every day. Sometimes, they are good, energizing thoughts, and sometimes they are rather bleak, self-defeating thoughts. Quite often, I engage in mental pre-writing, which I try tell myself is as good as sitting down and writing. Except that it’s not, especially as I get older and my memory becomes a little more…what’s that word?...porous. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “commit your thoughts to paper.” Well, that commitment part is what turns almost-writing into real, honest-to-goodness writing.
Ugh, that word, though. Commitment. So often, we use it in unpleasant contexts, such as, “I can’t believe I committed to helping with the elementary school’s annual Mud Puddle Festival,” or, “I’d love to join you on your hot-air balloon safari adventure, but I have a commitment I just can’t break.” It sounds so obligatory. But there are other words we can use in its place: promise, pledge, vow, and (so appropriate this time of year) resolution.
The one I choose is dedication, as in, “I dedicate myself to the task of writing at least a little bit every day for the duration of 2016.” The shiny new calendar brings 366 (it’s a leap year) opportunities for me to become a better, more dedicated, writer, and I will keep in mind these words of wisdom from essayist David Sedaris: “Write everyday and read everything you can get your hands on. Write every day with a pen that’s shaped like a candy cane.” (I think that last part is flexible; the important thing is to write.)
What is your writing plan for the new year?