Resolutions come and go, but at the start of 2015, I side-stepped my traditional resolutions for a straight-up GOAL – an enormous yet startlingly simple goal to guide my way through 2015; something to hang my hat on whilst wading through my 28th year. Mixed metaphors aside, I promised myself 2015 would be the year dedicated to “Writing More.”
“Writing more” means, “Write every day,” “Write something I love,” “Write something different than anything I've attempted before” – the list goes on.
So far I'm making good on this admittedly attainable, yet daunting task. I visit my digital archive of unfinished Google Doc jottings and half-stories with a purposeful frequency. It contains nothing overly significant, but working little by little on fine-tuning whatever skills I keep in my creative writing arsenal. In dedicating myself to this sort of goal, I thought it important to look outward in order to stay motivated and you know, not give up. So, I joined a writing group; I started volunteering at a creative writing non-profit; I continued to read voraciously about writers, writing, how to write, how not to write ... you get where I'm going.
The writing group is new for me and I find it incredibly helpful. I've invested hours in National Novel Writing Month only to come up short, but not without a few thousand words, a beginning of sorts. I asked myself, “What's missing?” Perhaps I'm lazy (likely true). Maybe I'm busy, maybe I lack focus; maybe I'm prone to over-thinking, obsessing over those 50,000 perfect words. Attending this small writing group on the North Side the past few weeks clued me into a couple of ideas quickly. Don't fight it, write it – no one is perfect, so why be so ridiculously arrogant to believe that any 50,000 words I ever churn out will be anything more than a quirky, evolving, imperfect work-in-progress? That, and writing in the company of other like-minded, spirited individuals makes the solitary act of mining one's brain for words, worlds and characters far less lonely of an endeavor.
At the tail end of 2014, I signed up to volunteer at 826CHI, the Chicago satellite of the national youth literacy non-profit/writing and tutoring center/publishing house 826Valencia. Founded by one of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, I wanted to see what it was all about. This place is the real deal. It's the warmest space, complete with massive bookshelves, student work on display in every corner, even a huge wall you can WRITE ON! (Dry-erase board paint is an incredible invention.) Words do not do 826CHI justice, but I've learned so much about writing from taking time to craft poetry and stories with students of all ages in this Wicker Park oasis. This past weekend, myself and the other volunteers witnessed fourth and fifth graders write poems inspired by a musical piece, choreograph a dance based on the emotions of their writing, and perform for their parents. I am so grateful for the opportunity to play even the smallest part in some of the magic created at this place.
It's not a secret that a better reader makes for a better writer, and I'm hoping what I'm reading lately helps to write with more pizzazz, truth, sophistication, heart, etc. If you are looking for a great book about why writers write, why writers read, why writers are the way they are, peruse www.brainpickings.org. Maria Popova's curated corner of the Internet is nothing short of stunning. Read any post and find a new book to pick up from the library. It's that simple. Over the seemingly endless expanse of the Internet, there is no shortage of brilliant literary-minded websites, filled to the brim with masterful suggestions, reading lists, commentary – easy access to whatever your little corner of the world might be. I'm currently enjoying Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby, a compendium of 10 years worth of columns featured in The Believer magazine. The monthly column highlights everything he read in any given month, brought to life by his wonderfully accessible commentary. Hornby is a delight. The columns are pithy, hopeful, wonderfully funny and packed with a lifetime's worth of book suggestions.
Here's hoping that a GOAL has more staying power than a resolution ... and to spring being just around the corner.