Here we are, writing in a brand new year once more.
If you read my post from last New Year’s, you know I don’t love resolutions so much as choosing a word of the year. One thing from that post that bears repeating is this:
No matter what the commercials say, there is nothing wrong with who you were last year, or with who you will be even if you don't stick to your resolution! There is so much pressure to be perfect. We're all living in extraordinarily difficult times; being kind to ourselves and one another seems like the best way to keep moving forward. Think small, manageable goals that lead to an evolved mindset. A word, rather than a resolution, feels like a small, manageable goal.
My word for this year is savor. I like the word because it reminds me of enjoying a meal or even just a bite of something delicious, but also because it suggests a slowing down. When we savor something, we take our time experiencing it. We don’t rush; we revel.
I need to slow down. Every time I say “2023,” it sounds futuristic, like a year that, as a child, would’ve sounded impossibly far away, a time that would never come. And yet. My son turned 10 years old a few months ago. I changed jobs this year, made a move with a mind toward his college opportunities when it seems like five minutes ago, I was evaluating preschools. Between work, his swim and art classes, appointments, and all the other obligations and urgencies that pop up, every day is a game of scheduling Tetris.
For years, I thrived on a hectic pace; but lately, it seems like staying busing is a coping mechanism, a way of life, that I’ve outgrown. Instead of running, I feel the urge to stretch out with a book. To hold a bite of my stepmom’s million-dollar fudge in my mouth until it melts completely. To curl up with my kiddo and let him show me every detail of a video game I couldn’t care less about except that he cares about it. To look for the red-headed woodpecker that visits the walnut tree at the edge of our yard every day—to stand and watch him root in the tree knots and call for his mate, as if this was the only thing happening in the world right now.
I think writing can be a great way to slow down, to savor. Writing demands presence of mind, attention to details, a full immersion into an experience so you can authentically translate that experience to a reader.
So what does writing to savor the moment look like? I have a few ideas to share with you.
Process over product.
I think it’s great to have goals (even resolutions, if that’s your thing!). If you have a large project you’re working on, goals are going to help you structure the work and track your progress. But you do not have to have a goal for all the writing you do. Practice daily writing, free writing, journaling, meditating then taking notes on where your mind went, morning papers a la The Artist’s Way, or any other mechanism for getting down thoughts without any preconception of what they might become. Set your mind on processing rather than producing and see what happens to your creativity and mindset.
Engage the five senses.
This tip will be my forever advice to any and all writers, no matter their level of experience. Whatever you’re writing about, find a way to incorporate touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound. Center teacher Shawna Ayoub teaches the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method to writers who experience anxiety while exploring trauma or difficult topics: Identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It’s a great exercise whether you’re writing about trauma or not. Practice doing this more in life and you will end up doing it more in writing, and vice versa.
I don’t necessarily mean revise, either. If you are completely stuck, don’t let it be an excuse to not write. If you can’t write something new, rewrite something old—dig up an original story you’re proud of and type it again, or write it out longhand. You might make small changes, or you might rewrite it verbatim. Flex the writing muscle and immerse in a piece of writing that makes you feel good about yourself as a writer.
Carry a notebook everywhere.
If you haven’t already, investing in a small, high-quality notebook to carry with you is a great, tangible goal to set for yourself. You never know when you’ll see or hear something you want to remember—and you won’t remember it, or why it struck you as interesting, so write it down. In the moment. Wherever you are.
I hope these small tips help you savor the coming year, writers. If you have your own practices for slowing down and being present, in writing or in everyday life, please share with us in the comments.
Related reading: Writing is wellness! The process of writing “well”
Be a better writer by doing and noticing more
Writing as a journey, not a destination, in 3 steps
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