Looking Back, Looking Forward

At the end of the year, it’s easy to look back on former resolutions and feel sad about those goals you didn’t quite accomplish. But author T. Michael Martin is here to tell you that it’s okay if you didn’t have the most amazing year of accomplishments ever. Sometimes those disappointments and setbacks are leading you on the road to your ultimate writerly goals:

Let’s be honest: setbacks suck, and it’s okay to feel disappointed. But writing is also a really hard career without a set path. There’s no reason you should feel like your novel has to be published by the time you’re 30 or that you have to have an agent before the end of the year or that this is the year you need to support yourself by writing books full-time. Being a writer means always having to deal with bumps in the road and insecurities and setbacks. Everyone is dealing with this–you’re not alone. Even if you see fellow writers who seem to have it all, I’m guessing they’re dealing with their own stresses and disappointments behind the scenes.

Case in point: author Jo Knowles and her post about her goals and dreams for 2012. In case you don’t know Knowles, she has several awesome and (what I consider) successful YA/MG books out. In her post, she talks frankly about financial disappointments and missed promotional opportunities. I was really relieved to see that she continues to face challenges in her writing career as well. She also mentions a lot of great things that happened this year–a necessary reminder to not forget the good things that happen, too.

So tonight, I hope you can accept any disappointments you may have experienced over the last year and remember all the good things that happened. And don’t worry–whatever path you’re on, whatever challenges you may face, there are a lot of other writers who are right there beside you.

Trying to Understand Loss

Still a beautiful way to talk to children about death and grief:

I love that they didn’t try to explain why we lose people. At times like these, it’s incomprehensible how life can be taken and how tragedy can occur. But it’s important to focus on the people lost and the memories, not just the sadness.

Even for families not directly affected by the tragedy at Newtown, it’s still a horrible situation to deal with. The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance also offers some suggestions for helping children cope with this terrible news. And that can include children of all ages, not just the youngest ones. Ongoing, supportive dialog about loss can be good for people of all ages.

Our Town and Realizing Life

9780060535254Last night, Walt and I saw the Huntington Theatre’s production of David Cromer’s Our Town by Thornton Wilder. This might be my favorite play ever and this production was stunning. In general, the show emphasizes the fleetingness of life and the importance and beauty of the everyday. Cromer’s production takes this to a new level and I’m still pretty much an emotional wreck about the whole thing. (But in a good way.)

But it also made me think about an article I read recently about the art of being still and how that can help you as an artist. It’s easy to rush through the day and never really notice or appreciate the things and people around you. In Our Town, Emily and the Stage Manager have an exchange:

EMILY: Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?
STAGE MANAGER: No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.

But even poets can get caught up in the rush of day jobs, laundry, making breakfast, paying electric bills, etc. In his article, Silas House suggests that we slow down and focus on the situation around us and ultimately utilize it in our writing:

“We must use every moment we can to think about the piece of writing at hand, to see the world through the point of view of our characters, to learn everything we can that serves the writing. We must notice details around us, while also blocking diversions and keeping our thought processes focused on our current poem, essay or book.”

I like the idea of a focused, hypersensitivity. Even if you don’t focus on a particular project, as a writer it really helps to live in the moment. You’re more likely to notice surprising details or odd characteristics when you’re not thinking about how you need milk or that you should email your friend about dinner. Not only is this important for general quality of life (it all goes so fast and is so beautiful), but it can bring a whole new depth to your writing life.

If you’re in the Boston area, you need to check out Our Town. And if you’re not, you still should check out a copy of the play. So good, guys.

A Room of One’s Own

Artist Julia Callon’s Houses of Fiction project is freaking awesome. She’s designed dioramas inspired by famous female characters in classic literature. Each diorama has two images–one representing the “passive, subservient woman” and the other representing the “madness”–in order to reflect the conflicting ideas of womanhood in these novels. I especially like her take on The Yellow Wallpaper:

Make sure to check out the full set of photographs on Callon’s website.

(image: Julia Callon)(via The Atlantic)