Tonight marks the Winter Solstice, the moment when the earth is furthest from the sun in its orbit and night is at its longest. Little wonder that this moment falls close to the point where we mark the end of the year. Throughout man’s history, this has been a time to note because after this, night grows shorter, the days grow longer — and the promise of spring and a new growing season is at hand. That’s still a ways away, but we know it’s coming.
But it’s a hard time as well. The stresses are piling on us as the 25th approaches, and we can keenly feel the weight of expectations. We struggle with diets, schedules, relatives (do not get me started), balancing work and family, struggling to carve out time for ourselves. Nor is the news we hear good. 2015 seems to be a litany of misery with disasters, terrorism, tragedies both personal and global, and a lead-up to next year’s elections that often seems like a very bad sitcom. Personally, I’ve had major upheavals in my home and work life that have long term impacts and both of which are contributing significantly to holiday stress. And, as always, there are empty chairs in the circle which we know will never be filled again and the loss pains us.
At this time of year, we are also bathed in lights that hold back the darkness, even if only for the moment. There is kindness, often unexpected gestures that warm our hearts and make the day a little bit brighter. There are moments to make us smile. It is a time to keep those we hold most dear close to us, whether in person or in the warmth of memories. If we open ourselves to it, there is joy and hope. We have to reach for it, though.
So, as we face this longest night, light a candle against the darkness. Let other candles be lit from yours. As long as we keep the flame going and do not surrender to the night, there is hope, both big and small.
Light a candle, for we know that spring will come again.
“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.” ― J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret
The past week has been a week of choices around here, ranging from small to large. I decided to reknit the rows I lost when the cable broke on my Advent Shawl, thereby pushing other knitting aside while I pushed to catch up with the latest clue. That affects almost exclusively me and what I’m doing in my relaxation time.
Choices were made at work to go one direction in a new process rather than another. This affects me and my duties, and I was fortunate to have a good deal of input into the situation, so managed to avoid some pain points, even if I’m not happy with the direction itself.
My father-in-law made a choice about medical procedures that has a big impact on our household — and then changed his mind. Both actions have consequences.
Choices are on my mind a lot lately as I face some decisions and prepare for a new year. Go right, one thing will happen. Go left — it’s an entirely different course. Right now, it feels as if every move has to be weighed and measured, looking for the impact downstream. I spend time on my writing — it’s time I don’t get to spend with my husband. I work overtime due to end of the year insanity, I don’t get to spend as much time on my writing. I spend time on social media doing all the things writers are supposed to be doing — and that means I don’t get to hang out on Tumblr dissecting every frame of the Captain America: Civil War trailer or arguing over who’s in that grave on Arrow.
The important thing is once we make our choices, we take ownership of them and their consequences. Far too often, I see people who always insist the responsibility doesn’t lie on them, that it was always someone else’s fault, always a mitigating circumstance as to why they shouldn’t take the blame and other people should pay the price. I don’t want to be one of those people, and I’m lucky to have some good friends who’ll smack me up one side of the head if they see me falling into that trap. And that trap can be so, so tempting at times.
It’s December and the world will soon finish another rotation. We start a new year and give ourselves a clean slate. What choices are coming up for you and what do you hope to take ownership of?
(And, I’ll take ownership of this one thing — there’ll be a cheerier topic tomorrow morning.)
Sooo… remember how on Monday I said hiding under the bed wasn’t an option? Yeah, I’d like to revise that.
The cuff I finished on the cardigan? Didn’t switch to the smaller needles, so had to rip it out and am reknitting it.
My Advent Shawl that’s been going so nicely? Cable broke on my circular needles last night, and I lost both Day 8 and Day 7, so those have to be re-knit.
And the row I’m trying to start from has the incorrect stitch count so I have to figure out what’s going on there.
My father-in-law is going in for a surgical intake meeting today about the pacemaker his doctor wants him to get — which he might be getting before Christmas.
There’s more — a lot more — I could whine about here, but I won’t because it’s not attractive. It’s been a fun and interesting few days, so much so that I nearly did pull the cover over my head this morning, mumbling to myself that I’d walk later, knowing I probably wouldn’t because we’ll be dealing with other things this evening. So, I grumbled, got up, got out later than I wanted because somehow I’d managed to put my walking things in a different place from where they usually are, but I went. I did my walk, and was rewarded with the realization that I’d made seven days in a row and got to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise. For that moment at least, I could forget the list of complaints and felt a little better about facing the day.
We’re not going to talk about how late another area at work is in getting information to me I desperately need. That’s something to face after I get off the computer. But at least I know there was a moment today when the world was quiet and good.
Okay, everyone’s had a few days to recover now. I opted to spend the last couple of days reading, knitting and watching television with my husband. There were also a few things, such as laundry, which had stacked up over the last five days of November. Amazing how four days off from work doesn’t seem enough time to actually accomplish things. Except the writing we did.
Yes, you can knit a small shawl in 24 days
So NaNo has passed and if you’re a winner, you’ve at least taken a peak at your winner goodies. If you didn’t validate 50,000 words, you’re probably either swearing that you’re never going to do this again or figuring out how you’re going to cross that finish line next time. For both of these, it’s probably best not to linger on them longer than this weekend, because now we should be all about moving forward.
Reclaiming Your Life
Yes, you can watch television, put up the holiday decorations, bake cookies. It’s good to devote ourselves to our writing for a solid 30 days, but a writer does not live by the keyboard alone. They need to, well, live — connect with the world and the people in it. If you’ve been on a roll, it’s very tempting to push yourself to keep going, but we all need a break every once in a while. Take one this weekend. Put your story in the back of your mind where it can age like fine wine and treat yourself to something. See a movie, visit friends, go shopping. On second thought, don’t go near the mall; the idea is to avoid stressing yourself out.
Aside from putting our outdoor Xmas lights up, I’m planning on doing some baking and spend some quality time knitting. Wednesday, I impulsively decided at 3 PM to join Anna Dalvi’s Advent KALendar shawl. By 5:30 PM, I’d gotten home from work, grabbed two yarns and cast on. Before I went to bed, I’d gotten through both the Day 1 and Day 2 clues. Of course, I ended up deciding the contrasting yarn I’d chosen didn’t work, so last night I frogged, chose a new contrast and knit Day 1 and 2 again, then started on Day 3 while catching up on Elementary. You can see my progress on my Ravelry Project Page, and I’ll post updates through the month. I’ve got until Christmas Eve to finish this shawlette, which will be a nice little treat.
Reclaiming Your Writing
But even as you let yourself get reaquainted with the people you share your life with after chaining yourself to the keyboard, we need to not let that momentmum slip completely away. We are writers; we need to write. So, in the middle of enjoying yourself, carve out fifteen minutes to scribble down a new idea or half an hour to do some revisions on something other than what you’ve been working. If your book isn’t finished, do some writing at a pace that’s comfortable to you. It’s important to rest so the mind and muscles restore themselves, but too long isn’t good, either. If you’ve taken a day or two, get back to the keyboard for just a little bit today; you’ll find that even if you’re writing at slower pace than you did in November, it may be faster than what you were used to before. Don’t push, but let the speed come.
Here’s another suggestion: this weekend, when you write, write just for the joy of it. Don’t worry about how it sounds, if you finish or even if it makes sense at all. Write for yourself and have fun with the words. We do this because getting words done makes us happy. If NaNoWriMo left you feeling a bit stressed about your writing, time to rediscover the joy, because that joy is very much a part of moving forward.
So, what are you going to do for yourself this weekend?
Did we really just do that? Did we really just sit down and attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days? Did we worry about making our daily word count? Did we sneak in writing time whenever we could, including a few places that we would normally never consider?
One genuine NaNoWriMo manuscript, awaiting editing in January
Welcome to December and the NaNoWriMo Hangover. For the first time in 30 days, we awoke without the dreaded word count hanging over our heads. We didn’t have the need to race to the keyboard and start pounding away, squeezing in every word we could in the time we could carve out of our day.
And, like I do almost every year, I find myself missing it.
Writing is generally a solitary profession. I natter to my husband about my plot and characters and he has been known to locate plot holes directly in front of me that I’ve somehow missed — but when I sit down at the keyboard, it’s just me and the voices in my head wanting to be let out. I spend a fair amount of time in the evening holed up in the office working on the current project, coming out only for dinner or the few shows that are absolute viewing for us. Heading off to my monthly meeting of Los Angeles Romance Authors is the only time I’m guaranteed to spend time with fellow writers. Except for November. For 30 days, there are write-ins and words sprints and the very act of writing becomes somewhat social because you’re on Twitter not to mess around, but to get writing done or you’re at a write-in or…you get the picture. It’s one reasons I love this madness, even with Thanksgiving in the mix. And it’s helped me; I finished this year with 76,186 words, a personal best and a speed I never would have even dreamed of before I started doing this craziness.
But you can also have too much of a good thing and even though I miss not having words I feel I absolutely need to write, I also feel the need of a break. I’d like to have a some days where I can commit to finishing the sleeve on the my sweater rather than getting that extra 200 words done. I want to catch up on Blindspot, finish Jessica Jones and rewatch Agent Carter before the second season premieres in January. I’ve given up a number of these things in November and it’s time to take them back.
The manuscript in the picture? That goes into hiding until January 1, 2016, when I’ll start editing. Tonight, I’ve got a sleeve to knit.