on dreams and course corrections
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” ~Neil Gaiman
Happy New Year my friends!
We have a natural inclination to set big goals at the beginning of each new year, to come up with resolutions aimed at self-improvement. Though time is a human construct and doesn’t really exist, January 1st still feels delightfully like a fresh, clean slate. A chance to atone for the sins of the year before. An opportunity to approach our writing life as a goal-setting and goal-achieving enterprise.
Maybe going forward in 2024, in this milieu of achieving and attaining, those of us who need it can afford ourselves a measure of grace.
But not everyone can do this. I’m thinking today of the immense privilege involved in taking this approach to life and art. It requires stable good health, for one thing. “I’ll write 500 words a day, every single day” means you won’t be felled by a migraine, or your autoimmune disorder won’t flare; that your mental health cooperates; that you’re not called away to caretake an elderly parent. It means you enjoy some degree of financial security, a more or less stable home life.
To be clear, I’m not anti-ambition or anti-success at all. If setting the goal of twenty or thirty published stories motivates and inspires you, go for it! Do what makes you thrive! Many benefit from regular writing practice, waking early to scribble for an hour or two. These daily practices keep one in the game, keep the writing muscles lithe and limber. If this works for you, great! But please know you are not lazy or undisciplined if it doesn’t.