Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

R is for Resolute

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Feb• 13•17

It’s  the third week in February, the moon is pearly and full, spring is awakening, and days are stretching longer. Across the globe people are falling asleep, waking up, being born, dying, making love and plotting wars, cooking, dreaming and taking a wobbly first step. Writers are penning romances and thrillers and memoirs, poems and lyrics, fake news and investigative journalism. Actors are owning the stage, singers are crooning and blasting out tunes, orchestras are tuning up, and designers are putting in the finishing touches and flourishes. Pundits are pontificating, preachers are preaching, weathermen are predicting. Parents are tucking children into bed, reading them stories, spooning soft food into babies’ mouths, holding hands with a kindergartner on the way to school. Their backs bent, workers are picking avocados, strawberries, and lettuce. This teeming planet is the stage for billions wandering and marching and running and plodding.

Some days the planetary noise, the joy and movement, the grief and laughter, and just daily getting by is deafening. At the same time, the energy and inventiveness and potency of humanity is inspiring. I don’t know about you, but I’m tapping in to all the creative energy because I’m in the midst of a reboot, a do-over, a reordering of priorities.

These days I’m brainstorming, creating plans, and filling a notebook with jottings and possibilities. It’s equal parts daunting, fun, and scary. It also means I’m stepping away from the noise and spending more time at my desk. More time quieting myself and trying to ignore the happenings in Washington. It means I’m analyzing partially-completed manuscripts, evaluating ideas, and planning new courses and workshops. I’m discovering how much I missed teaching after taking time away from it and how my typing fingers are sometimes cranky. Or maybe the word is creaky. No matter, I’m at it.

I want to tell you about a small habit that I believe is useful for writers: Every year I choose a word that amplifies how I’m going to focus my energies for the year ahead. My word for 2017 is RESOLUTE.

Resolute means moving forward with unwavering determination and focus. It also refers to backbone, stamina, digging in and not surrendering. Unwavering attention even when the effort feels like a weight too heavy. Resolute means unfaltering and unshakable. It’s a mindset that still leaves room for creativity and inspiration. Resolute means digging into specifics. Handling the details. Creating systems. Planting seeds and tenderly thinning them, watering and protecting the tender shoots.

For me resolute means defining all the parts of a process including the mop-up; making lists, and crossing off action items. Resolute means squared shoulders and sometimes late nights. Unflinching . It means your game plan is nonnegotiable. However, it also means your game plan can be tweaked and improved on. Resolute means hanging on. Because some days it’s all you can manage.

Resolute is my plan, my backbone, the doorway I’m humping through. It’s an approach that melds badassery and my inner warrior. Resolute is whole-souled and obstinate and clear-eyed. Diligent as a long-ago monk bent over a manuscript in a scriptorium. It’s my strategy against political worries,  difficulty, and inner resistance.

Throughout this year you’ll find me studying the playbooks of authors who take risks, who succeed against wildly-discouraging odds. I avoid play- it-safers. No interest. Bring on the intrepid. The mountain climbers of the literary world. The authors who rip off scabs and write about their griefs and scars. The critical thinkers who clarify complicated issues. The political columnists who set things straight.  The fantasy inventors who bring us wonder. The Dystopian world builders who scare us.

Steadfast is another beautiful, full-throated word. Kin to resolute, it’s a quality I value in friends and partners. Steadfast people are everywhere. The single mother up late folding laundry and making lunches. The teacher spending her free time grading papers and lesson planning. The waitress with the warm and genuine smile who makes your day better. The immigrants plucking up their courage and leaving their homelands.  The lonely hearts risking at love. The full-time employee who carves out time to volunteer,  sing in a choir, pursue a passion, write a novel.

How do you define resolute in your daily life? What is your North Star? What traits do you already possess that can help you remain steadfast in the months ahead? Can you muster your resources and courage? Choose goals that are attainable? Set up systems?How will you track your progress? How will you fuel your imagination while you’re focused and the word count grows? How will you use the quieter winter months for mapping your course or progressing on your current project?  How will you remain loyal to yourself? Choose yourself?

Keep it lit

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