After an end of the year hiatus, I am happy to be back to my writing routine. November was filled with lots and lots of writing (30,000 words in my Young Adult novel), and when I reached December, the end of a successful but long year, I found myself in desperate need of friend and family time. My writing lay dormant for a few weeks, as is healthy for most things in the winter months.
However, now that 2020 has rolled around, the writing life has picked up once again, and all of those seeds of ideas are beginning to awaken. I love the beginning of a new year when there are still 12 months left to accomplish who knows what. While we are still in the midst of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, I did see daffodils in a neighbor’s yard today – a reminder that growth and renewal is already beginning.
I’ve been gearing up for the new year by refocusing my writing intentions. My personality dictates that I am constantly interested in approximately fifteen projects at a time, and this year, I am making an effort to pare down my efforts to work on one project at a time.
Last year, I found myself balancing a full-time job (including commuting an hour each way from home), writing and editing for several organizations, keeping up this blog, writing my own short stories, and working on a YA novel. All of this was done while balancing my everyday life of taking care of my lovely dog, striving to be a decent girlfriend, keeping in touch with friends and family, maintaining a garden, etc. Yet still, at the end of many nights, I would think, But I should have done more today. I need to get more done.
Was it a great year? Yes. Did I do more writing this year than I have in the past? Definitely. Is Queso the best dog in the entire universe and all of its infinite parallels? Of course.
But I needed to calm down a bit. I was doing too much. Hence December became my recovery month, devoted to relaxing. I’d spent far too many weekday mornings flying down the road almost late to my day job, simultaneously applying mascara, eating plain grits for breakfast that I’d had no time to season, while listening to a writing podcast because I felt obligated to squeeze in some writing work. All the while, I would go through my mental list of people I’d forgotten to text back or call or set up dinner plans with. At 6:00 AM, I already felt behind most days.
Needless to say, not the healthiest of lifestyles.
This year, I am going to take a more natural (and less caffeinated) approach to my writing while incorporating more self-care habits.
One Project at a Time
As I mentioned, I’m going to work on one project at a time. I have selected a project to work on this month, which is a creative non-fiction one to submit for a women’s writing contest through Women on Writing. I am hoping by focusing on this submission and not doing any editing or proofreading on other people’s work while I am doing so, I can create a piece I really connect with.
I know “self-care” has become a bit of a buzzterm, but I wholeheartedly support the concept. American society is so bloated with expectations and responsibilities that I often want to disappear for an extended vacation for weeks at a time. This pressure cannot only affect my writing but also stem from my writing tasks.
While repeated month-long vacations are not possible in my current financial situation, there are so many things I can do to chill out for a while. I’ve recently begun journaling again, which I have not been doing regularly the last year. I told myself I wanted to work on focused projects instead, but it turns out, the unstructured chaos of my journals are a great way to find structure, not to mention being a source of inspiration.
I’ve also been working to include more mindfulness in my everyday life. I downloaded the Plum Village app which has a lot of resources for resting your mind and helping relieve anxiety. My favorite feature is a mindfulness bell I’ve set to go off every hour throughout the day to remind me to take a few deep breaths. It takes a bit of time to get used to the gong crashing out of nowhere – my boyfriend loves when I forget to turn it off in the middle of the night – but I do think it has reminded me to relax throughout the day.
When I relax, I can write more. Not to mention, I feel less tense at my day job and throughout my everyday routine, which helps prevent burnout.
Of course, I am constantly my own work in progress, so I will be seeking out more ways to feel content and balance my priorities in life throughout the rest of the year. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a proponent of continual reassessment of habits. My writing scheduled that worked for me last year may not be the best fit this year.
Do you have thoughts to share on new writing habits this year? Feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear your advice!