Ever since I started doing this–thanks to Jo Knowles and Erin Dionne, I’ve liked the idea of picking a word for the coming year (as opposed to making resolutions, which I never liked and never kept). I skipped last year–not sure why; maybe the world was too wobbly, maybe I was foggy on where I wanted to put my focus, maybe my own life was too chaotic. This year, for whatever reason, I feel like I’m standing on a stronger foundation, and I can look ahead and think about who and how I might want to “be” in the next set of months.
So I’m picking “stretch.” I wasn’t sure at first, and I’ve played with various synonyms in my head, but this one kept coming back and saying, “Yes. Me.” Now that my feet feel more solidly planted (and not JUST because my tree pose is getting better), I am looking around and saying, okay…what are you going to build on top of that solidity? And I’m coming up with some responses.
Last year, at this time, I was drowning in yet another tangled MG manuscript and looking at my picture-book writing as a break or a distraction from the mess. This year, I am happily putting aside the MG work and coming down hard on the side of picture books. I’ll be querying agents, tentatively on my schedule for the second quarter of 2019. I’m shooting to write four new picture books as well–my goal is to go back to Big Sur next December with all new manuscripts for critique. I just registered for Tara Lazar’s 2019 StoryStorm. I’ve signed up for a four-series webinar on picture books, hosted by SCBWI Inland Northwest. All my craft work this year will be focused on improving my writing in this genre.
Over the last few years, I have felt like I had zero control over my health, my fitness, and–frankly–my clothing size. In 2018, to save my mental health, I essentially took a year off on thinking about or trying to change my physical condition. It was probably the best thing I could have done for myself–nothing much changed physically (not for the better, but also not for the worse), and I cleared my head of a lot of psychological crud. This year, I feel like maybe I can stretch into a safer, saner way of getting healthier. I am going to keep up with the simple, baby-steps strengthening and flexibility work I’ve been doing at home–I’m not adding time, I’m not adding exercises, and I am for sure not adding a gym.
The stretch for me here is that I’m going to do my best to eat (rationally) low-carb, look into what it means to also eat low/anti-histamine, and reduce my portion sizes. I am going nowhere near a scale; in fact, I’m telling nurses and doctors not to say my weight out loud when I’m in their office. I do have a goal; I’d like to lose a clothing size by the end of the year. Whether this is, for me, at this time in my life, a possibility, I don’t know. But, again, I’m ready to try.
Structure & Scheduling
Years ago, when I was working at home, I tried to set up a regular pattern of hours and days. I experimented with a bunch of things–X first in the morning, then Y before X. Leave chores until the end of the day, get them out of the way at the start. Writing before anything else, writing when I had time. Monday, Wednesday, Friday tasks; Tuesday, Thursday tasks. It didn’t work. Not only did I never discover the magical system that made everything come together, I never managed to stick to whatever scheduling path I was on that week. All I did was stress myself out and bring myself to any given task in an unhappy, unpleasant mood.
Because I’m not quick to learn, I headed into this December break by mentally stepping back on the structure treadmill–figuring I would put in hours and hours of scheduled writing time. But I wanted to sleep in. I wanted to build character charts and learn to play D&D with my son. I wanted to practice my drumming and jam with my son and his guitar on Otis Redding’s Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay. I wanted to do a little cooking. I wanted to go to Ikea with my husband. I wanted to get back into my knitting. I wanted to sit and read a book for more than 15 minutes while I had lunch. And I found out that, at least for the past 10-days, my best pattern was no pattern. And the writing time I spent was good–brainstorming to a new direction in one picture book and getting close to that for another. So in 2019, I’m going to try listening to myself. Trying to keep family and writing as my primary priorities, I’m going to stay in touch with my brain and my inclination. I’m going to make choices on a here-I-am-at-this-moment basis. That’s something I can stretch toward.
I am not actually planning to stretch much here, but it has become such a big part of my world in the past two years, that I want to acknowledge its presence. At times, like so many of us, I feel like I am not doing and will never be able to do enough to fight and resist the current administration. But there be dragons down that path. Realistically, I am okay with the time and energy I am putting into resistance, and I hope to maintain a relatively healthy balance in this area. The one change that I can see happening is that, if Kamala Harris does run for President, I will shift some political effort and time to volunteering for her campaign. Since I have done that for nobody before, this will be plenty of stretching.
Do you have a word or a wish or even a goal for 2019?