These are my two guiding principle words for 2013, for writing, for life, for anything I can think of to apply it to.
Gratitude for what I have
It’s been many years since a friend asked the question, “What seeds are you planting in your life?” and I stopped holding onto catalogues and reading them over and over, daydreaming about what I’d love to buy, thereby planting seeds of dissatisfaction with what I did have. And I’ve kept that one up. If a company is so foolish as to send me a catalog, I might flip through it once before sending it immediately to the recycling bin. That one simple habit made a huge difference in my satisfaction in my home.
All is not rosy, of course. There are areas that drive me nuts. For example, I’ve let my organization go to pieces, and the stress that induces is getting in the way of my creativity, so I’m taking time this month to get my house in order. There is a chair that bugs me and I have dropped the daydream that I will reupholster it. It’s a lovely dream, but if I attempted it, I’d come close, but it would never make me happy. So I’m trolling sales. Also, I hate my cool, modern living room rug that sheds worse than an animal without giving me the affection a pet would. I’ve given it a year and no change; the rug’s days are numbered. I’m grateful for what I have and prepared to take action on what needs it.
So now I have to continue to apply this method to my writing life/publishing journey. I’ve been carping on about this for a few months, but I think that means I’m at the tail end of my transition: the daydreaming about my fabulous success, while fun, made it more difficult to handle my lack of actual publishing success. That disconnect planted giant seeds of discontent.
Think of the body language of discontent: shoulders hunched, brow furrowed, eyes downcast. Then think of the body language of gratitude: arms open wide, or embracing something/one, face open, lips smiling. I’ll choose number two.
I have time, a supportive family, talent, drive, discipline, inspiration, resources for further education, finished and drafted manuscripts, ideas. Because I’m a religious lady, this all comes back to God and what he has given me and made possible for me. I vow to be grateful for all of it — even while working every angle I can to make my work better and stronger.
I was in just such a state of gratitude when I was writing the first draft of It Is You and it was glorious. I’ve always love big-hearted fiction, and I don’t think I can write it if I’m suffused with bitterness. So I’m going to focus on gratitude. It’ll be a discipline, for sure. But it’s got to be more fruitful than the discontent was.
According to a variety of sources, Jerry Seinfeld writes every day. He credits his calendar. Any day he works on his material, he marks off that day with a big X. His goal is to keep the streak of X’s going. In fact, the visual of the line of X’s is itself motivation for him sometimes — seeing that and knowing that he might break the line gets his butt in the chair.
If it’s good enough for Jerry Seinfeld, then it’s good enough for me. It’s simple. It’s achievable. Especially if I make it any writing-related activity: novel, blog post, potential article. Writing my prayers don’t count for this, but I can use the momentum idea for that, too: any day I do my Bible reading and prayer thing, I get to X off a day on the calendar. So today, while I’m out buying a few organizational products, I’m going to get a little desk calendar to track this momentum project.
Our landlady in Astoria, Queens, was a widow who still hung on to her Greek accent. She’d end most conversations by brushing her palms together twice as if washing her hands of something, and say, “Dat’s it.” I’m going to wash my hands of bitterness and stuckness. Gratitude and momentum: that’s it. I can do that.
How about you? Do you have a word or idea you’re focusing on for 2013? Or are you more of a concrete resolution person?