Fresh and New

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I can’t seem to keep them.  I used to resolve to lose a little weight, spend less time worrying about things I can’t control, take better care of myself, and eat a healthier diet.  Secretly, I’d also hope that the new year would be the one where my writing career finally took off, and I’d get a nice big contract for one of the children’s book manuscripts I was trying to get published. 

Sadly, none of those things actually happened, at least for very long.  I’d diet for week or so, and then go right back to my love affair with all things sugary or fried.  I’d still worry far too often about far too many things.  The only children’s book I ever managed to publish was sold to an educational publisher for a one-time payment of $2,100…..and the check came three months late.  (If you Google “rich and famous children’s book authors,” my name does not appear on your screen.)

Still, there is something about a new year that feels like a fresh start.  It’s not that the previous year was a bad one, because in my case, it wasn’t.  I was able to travel again, which meant visiting friends and family I haven’t seen since before the pandemic began. My husband’s scans and blood tests revealed the wonderful news that his cancer is still gone.  We finally got the floor in our back family room leveled, and my husband began his partial retirement just last month.  (Never mind the fact that so far, he seems to believe that being partially retired means working lots of overtime.)  

But whether the previous year was good, bad or a mixture of the two, starting a new year always seems like a good thing. I see my house with new eyes once the Christmas decorations are packed away, and I always recognize a few things I’d like to change.  And while I might not make major changes to my diet, once the holidays are over I do stop having Christmas cookies for dessert after every meal.  I no longer write children’s books, but I do write a blog (yes, the one you’re reading) and I’ve come to enjoy that very much.  I don’t get paid, but it is a creative outlet and it’s put me in touch with some wonderful people from all over the world.

So instead of resolutions, I’ve decided to start the new year by simply appreciating whatever gifts the previous year brought and being willing to make at least small adjustments that could result in a better year ahead.  It’s my way of trying to embrace the best of the old and carry it on into the new year, while letting go of the things that it’s time to leave behind.  Because a new year can represent a chance to look at things in a new way, without all the baggage we accumulate through the years.  I guess that’s what “seeing through the eyes of a child” means….  

Happy New Year, everyone!

Yes I Can

Back when I was writing children’s books, I had a pretty simple formula I used to create my stories.  I would create a main character and place him or her in a situation that they desperately wanted to change, which would give me the main plot of my story.  If I were writing a longer book for older children, I would then plan out a chapter-by-chapter timeline to help me keep track of everything as I wrote.  (Details have never been my strong point.)  Finally, I would begin writing the actual manuscript….and that was usually the point where my creative confidence began to drain away and the paralyzing self-doubt crept in.

The problem was that no matter how passionately I believed in the story I was trying to write, a part of me was always thinking, “Will an editor like this?  Is my main character interesting enough?  Is my plot believable?” and so on and so on.  And those are valid concerns.  As all writers who hope to get their work accepted by a publisher know, finding an editor who wants to buy our manuscript is an absolute necessity.  But the constant presence of the critical editor in my mind basically squashed my creativity and made it impossible to write from my heart.  And the result was often a competent, but flat, manuscript that lacked a unique and creative spark.

Sadly, that internal critic isn’t limited to my writing.  I can look back on my life and see many times when I allowed that little voice that says “you can’t, you shouldn’t, you’re not good enough,” to dictate my choices and my behavior.  There were too many times when I turned my back on an opportunity, didn’t want to take a risk, or stayed silent when I should have spoken up. There were too many times that I held back when I should have stepped boldly forward.

The simple truth is, when our internal dialogue turns too negative, we aren’t really able to live our lives to their fullest potential.  And that’s a tragedy that none of us should allow.

I believe most of us get better at self-acceptance as we get older, and I’m no exception.  As the years go by, I find myself learning to tune out that negative “internal committee” and to replace it with one that is so much more compassionate and encouraging.  I find myself being willing to risk simply being myself by following my dreams, voicing my true opinions and in general, doing what feels right to me.  It’s a journey, but I am moving slowly and steadily forward.

If I had the chance to go back in time and speak to my younger self, I would have so much advice I would want to share.  But if I was limited to just one thing, it would be, “Believe in yourself and follow your heart.”  Because if we can learn to do that, everything else will surely work out.