Want to know something I loathe almost as much as winter? A sentiment currently making the rounds on social media: “If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”
People who love winter and snow and being outside in that sh*t are not shy about trying to convince the rest of us that we’re missing out. They believe they can make a compelling case.
Winter lovers want the rest of us to think we’re standing in the way of our own happiness, but I know what’s actually getting in my way: winter! LOL I’m partially kidding. While winter does impact my mood and makes it much harder for me to function (and I’d prefer to skip it entirely), I have sources of joy that have nothing to do with weather. My disdain for the season and its gross weather — which, here in Upstate NY, can easily last 5+ months — is part of who I am, but it’s not the only thing I am.
I’m also a light seeker — as in literal light — and I find it just as easily in winter as I do in summer. But just because I can see these “bright spots” (how and where the light falls) in winter doesn’t mean I like winter itself.
I contain multitudes.
As you likely know because I talk about it all the time, I’ve fallen out of love with the way I’ve been approaching writing, particularly the pressure I put on myself. Somehow, the structures I’ve always relied on to cope with chaos have started to suffocate me and shut me down.
And I’ve been stubborn. Persistent. Buying a version of you have to learn to love the snow. What propaganda! I kept trying to convince myself to love the prescribed process I’d used/tried for years, but the should’s and could’s were no longer motivating me.
There’s something else asking for my attention.
I’ve been documenting productivity-based writing goals every year since 2016. However, since I read the “what we measure” installment of Nancy Reddy’s Substack over the summer, a gentler form of accountability has been on my mind. She writes,
“Counting should be a kindness to yourself, a way of noting your hard work and seeing how it adds up to something big. … Counting works best when it makes you want to do more. Count in a way that makes you want to keep going.”Nancy Reddy’s “what we measure: on writing and counting’
A way that makes you want to keep going. There’s so much light in that!
This fall, as I’ve been revisiting The Artist’s Way (the morning pages book), that same theme has been emerging. Julia Cameron talks about encouragement as a “rudimentary nutrient” for creativity, so that’s the direction for my new approach to writing goals: How can I support the work (instead of forcing winter, documenting all the ways I fail expectation)?
I am a light seeker, after all. How could I forget?
Before I get to that new approach, I want to do a quick accounting of what I accomplished in 2022, just to close that loop. It feels necessary in order for me to move on. Typically, when I recap or check in, I remind myself of what I set out to do (see my POETRY ACTION PLAN* for 2022) and then focus on where I fell short (never “enough”).
But in the new spirit of encouraging myself, I’m going to celebrate what I achieved in the last year *without* comparison to the arbitrary quotas/standards I’d set:
- I drafted approximately 50 poems, including new poems for my Gertie manuscript.
- I also discovered a few new things Gertie has to teach me. Paying attention in this way (listening!) has opened me up to a critical new element for the manuscript that I’m excited to explore.
- I had a couple of delightful publishing successes. One of my sonnets was selected for The Path to Kindness anthology, and Moon City Review published one of my Gertie pieces and later went on to nominate it for 2023 Best Microfiction.
- I attended seven or eight online poetry readings, each with special meaning and significance for me, including supporting pals in my writing community. I also had the honor of being a featured reader at the April 30 edition of Kayla Sargeson’s Lasercat reading series.
- I participated in three glorious workshops/classes: Madwomen (online, spring semester), Poets on the Coast (online) and Ellen Bass’s Living Room Craft Talks.
- I created a solo 3-day DIY writing retreat at a beautiful Air BnB in Hoosick Falls, NY.
- I published 16 blog posts, including this one. Two posts are run-away successes in terms of blog traffic (50+ List Poems for Writing Inspiration and 30 Poetry Prompts for NAPOWRIMO 2022), and it’s great to see because I love gathering these kinds of resources to share (and to use myself).
- I revisited — and am still doing — Morning Pages as a daily practice.
- After *years* away (or almost entirely away) from visual art, I painted a mural on my garage and took a multimedia/painting class visual art.
Through this accomplishments lens, it seems as though I had a decent year creatively. No breakout successes or wins, but lots of groundwork. In addition, I learned more about my process in 2022 than in any other year. As a result, I have a clear understanding about what makes it worth it and how to cull the rest.
So what does the new approach to writing goals look like?
I think part of the point is that I don’t need to know exactly. I’m simply going to focus on positivity and pleasure. I’m aiming for encouragement, support and satisfaction. I’m interested in building on what I’ve already learned about who I am and where I can imbue my process with possibility.
And so I’m going to start with what I want (with the caveat that this list is only what I know currently; I’m open to additions/changes).
- I want to finish and submit my Gertie manuscript and find a publisher.
- I want to apply for and secure a residency or grant.
- I want to make art.
- I want to submit and publish individual poems, micros and flashes.
- I want to publish blog posts that mean something to me and have value to other writers.
- I want to continue to be part of my online writing community and return to local in-person readings.
- I want to create rituals around my work — candles, incense, mantras, prayers, gratitude.
- I want to keep up with Morning Pages (as needed).
- I want to explore the local art community (it’s been a while) and maybe possibly perhaps dare to submit work to group shows.
Though many of those things are not new, what’s new is that I’m no longer interested in white knuckling any of them. So! In support of these things, instead of quotas, I’m setting intentions based in joy and delight:
- I will follow the scent of something that captures my imagination ’til i find the thing, finish the thing or lose interest.
- I will get lost in the work as much as possible. I crave the trance that hits when hours pass and I don’t even know because I’m just in it, an alternate space.
- I will do something small each day to support my creative projects and my creative spirit (note that this doesn’t *have* to be “producing” anything).
I’ve formalized the last thing on this list by signing up for the 365 Journey, an exciting new offering by local-to-me artist and poet D. Colin. I’ve watched for years — and been so enamored with — how she’s used the “do a little something each day” approach to reach her own dreams, to pursue her passion and purpose, as she says in a recent YouTube video:
So much of this effort will be framed in “what is possible,” and returning to discovery mode — letting a process or project surprise me — is the perfect medicine right now. I can easily see that in any given day, the list of wants above will come in handy in a very practical way. I’ll just need to pick a small thing that supports something on the list… and do it. And celebrate it.
More to come on that once we get underway in January!
There will still be snow then. (Probably lots of it.) But also maybe more writing and art.
The kind that comes from joy.
I know some creative people see all this as overkill, and you’re right about one thing: Yes, I overthink. Everything. But that’s me. I’m a process nerd who processes and processes and craves knowing how others process. If this is not you or your experience, I’m happy for you. But this is something I need in order to get my head right, and some others out there need it, too.