Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

2016 Beckons us Forward: Notes to Writers

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 01•16

Snowdrops in the snowAround here the sun has made a welcome appearance and 2015 zipped past at a blazing pace. If I was the pinching-myself type, I’d have been pinching myself these past few months.  Where did all the hours and days and weeks fly away to? Some mornings I woke feeling robbed by time’s velocity, but then most days I’m just too grateful for another 24 hours, for another chance at whatever lies ahead. And, of course, there were moments this past year when time seemed to stop. Moments that are seared in memory.

As this year ends I’m thinking of my mother a lot and her final days and what transpired between us. I’m thinking of my granddaughters and all I hope for them; about my future and plans that are percolating, about words and books still unwritten, friends I’m going to spend time with, plants I’m adding to our garden come spring, classes I’m going to teach.

My life circles around writing. I have a family and many loves and passions, but it always comes back to words, and the need to say what must be said. I’ve been penning ‘keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart’ in this blog and my previous one for years now. To expand on those sentiments I wanted to offer a few reminders about the writing life or whatever you call this delirious habit that possesses us. Without further or noisier ado:

  • The inspiring and wise Deb Stone has been urging people to choose one word each year that will be their focus and mantra for the months ahead. It’s best to  post this word in places you will see it often. Burn it in your heart.  I’m still puzzling over mine, but am close to deciding. One year it was steadfast and remembering it helped me through some difficult times.
  • Speaking of inspiration. It lurks around every corner, in every conversation or chance meeting or chat with a cashier. Notice. Expect it. Meet it.
  • Same for enchantment.pink enchantment
  • Curate meaningful images. It doesn’t matter the form, Instagram or an art journal or an old-fashioned scrap book. Just keep building your collection and take time to peruse it.
  • Keep a word list, always on the lookout for new gems. “Words belong to each other.” Virginia Woolf
  • If you’re the self-sabotaging type–I know I can be–January is the perfect month for figuring out how and why you do it. Well, maybe you cannot figure it all out, that’s what therapy is for after all,  but do make a go of it. What fell through last year? Did you set a goal and then it  just didn’t get accomplished? Did your energy fizzle? Did you start to doubt yourself? Did you log too many hours on the couch?  What seduces you? What are your avoidance methods? What price did you pay in 2015 for sabotaging yourself? What emotions do you associate with your less-than healthy behaviors? Once you start sleuthing into your dark side, then start devising a single step or one simple action you can do day after day to beat your darkness. Say you’re the over-committed or cannot-say-no type. How about taking one obligation off your list and replace those hours with writing time? Have you served on the same (fill in the blank–school, neighborhood, cultural) committee for years and have been secretly longing to hand over the reins? Do it. Put writing or health or whatever needs to be your priority first. That toxic committee head who makes you break out in hives as the meetings progress? You’ve served your time. Seriously. Move on.
  • Uncover and work with the rhythms of your body, your hungers, sleep cycle, need to stretch and move. Keep your body humming along via your rhythms, especially capitalizing on your peak hours.
  • books in a colorful stackKeep a list of books you read. Same for books you plan to read.
  • Celebrate even the smallest occasions and successes.
  • This one is simple: There is never a reason to suffer alone.
  • Boredom is impossible.
  • Never lose faith in yourself, in your words and visions.
  • Never forget that your powerful and true voice can change a person’s heart or viewpoint or purpose.
  • Don’t fear desire, but don’t confuse it with addiction or obsessive or compulsive behaviors. Desire is fuel; addiction will spiral you too far from your true self, will mask pain that could fuel your best work. Compulsion saps your strength, keeps you spinning away from your own center.
  • Nap.
  • Be fascinated by what can go wrong in a person’s life. Apply it to your stories.
  • Preserve all your notes.
  • Solitude woman in shadow on a beachNurture a capacity, better yet, a longing for fertile and nourishing solitude. Drink from within.
  • Be willing to be disturbed,  pissed off, saddened, insatiably curious.
  • For writers and artists of all kinds, the devious and intrusive inner critic will always be with you. But it’s not  your breath, not the person who nagged you most or didn’t believe in you when you were a child. And you don’t need to listen to it. Ever.
  • Tea.
  • No matter where you are with you writing or your relationships or your health there is always room for growth. Where you’re at this January is merely a placeholder; you can improve, learn to love harder, adapt healthier habits.
  • Let go. Brim over. When you laugh do it with your whole body. laughing boyWhen you grieve surrender to the loss. When  you love, take risks. Notice sensations, small joys, always savoring. When you eat, taste every bite.  When you drink wine, taste the grapes and earth and sun. When you’re in the forest, smell the honeyed or damp air, the ferns, moss and whatever else permeates wild places.
  • The world is full of unspoken love, but it’s there nonetheless. It’s the heartbeat beneath this vast planet. It’s the music often not heard. Believe.
  • Simply slow down whenever possible.  Accomplish one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not efficient, it’s a stressor.
  • Trust in the writing.
  • moon with veins and branches beneathWhen you feel your mood slipping or doom descending go out into the nighttime and look up. If you’re in a rut, make it a habit. Follow the timeless moon it all its shades and shapes and moods. That gorgeous, faraway pearl is a reminder of all that’s mysterious and cyclical and potent. And there is simply more consolation in a night sky than all the songs in the universe. Well, now that I think of it,  cellos get to me every time–they haunt and move me and if I could pay a group of cellists to play for me while I sat in a dim room in a comfy chair, next to a fire, sipping a lovely red wine, all would be right in my world. If it’s not the moon or cellos where does your consolation come from?
  • Kick it in. You are so, so fortunate. Writing has chosen you. Choose back.



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