Somewhere else: In Beijing, China, wearing a very warm new hat and a face mask to (sort of) protect against the air pollution. The character on the front of the mask means "double happiness."
Smith College graduate Rita Foley wrote in the winter 2011 issue of the alumnae magazine (page 29) that we all need to recharge. She’s exactly right.
After spending almost a month traveling in China – a place whose culture, food, landscape, history and language is quite unfamiliar to me beyond books, restaurants and art exhibits – I am ready to start a new year and semester. Ok, maybe I’m a little behind (it is January 11th, not 1st, after all), but, I’m ready now. (Mostly. There’s always something else to do, but I’m trying not to stress about it.)
I left my laptop at home, shut down my email and Facebook (ok – I cheated a little by using my husband’s laptop), and took notes in old fashioned paper notebooks. I haven’t done that in years. Before I left, I set up my spring 2011 online classes completely and tried to work as far ahead as possible. It was hectic, to say the least, at times, but it made the transition back much easier. The 2012 me appreciates what the 2011 me did.
We’d been planning this trip, with books, a savings account and blog, for years. Literally, years. It was no small voyage. Still, while I was in China, I lamented that I hadn’t had more time to read more Chinese poetry, study the history and better understand the religious, imperial and everyday art. (Ok, maybe I go a little overboard, but it felt like a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, considering the cost.) Except for the pollution, I fell in love with the world there and look forward to continuing to learn about it.
What does this escape from the familiar do for my writing, teaching and everyday life? It offered me a new perspective (one which I’ll probably understand better with time) and a break from the everyday work which can, as we all know, become boring at times. What’s worse for your writing than being bored?
With this break in mind, I hope to take 2012 more slowly. Sure, there are always things that seem to require rushing (laundry! work deadlines! bus schedules!) but, I hope to integrate more space to think and explore new ideas. I am excited to look over my poetry notes from the trip and write new poems in this new year. Instead of doing things because I feel that I have to (and I want to cross something off my to-do-list), I’m again excited by the professional, creative and personal life that I’ve crafted.
We love to make resolutions for the new year. The trick, as we all know, is to keep them. I’m setting time aside (quite literally writing it into the calendar) for myself every week to write and read. If I call myself a writer, I cannot put writing on the back burner. I’m also setting time aside to not write and read. Those art exhibits and energetic walks in the woods with my husband help to make the writing happen. I’m committed to taking time off – an hour here or there – throughout the year.
What will you do to make sure your writing happens? You must write, as well as do other things that fuel – creatively and financially – your writing.
If you need some help, I’m here to help as your private writing coach. And I’m ready for you.