I’m often delightfully optimistic at the start of a brand-new shiny year. What will it hold? What will I do? What plans will I make—and which ones will I fail, change, or wildly succeed in? And in so many ways, this year (2020, wow!) is no different.
I’m excited about, and beyond grateful for, all that has occurred in my work life over the past seven years, especially that one little decision, so long ago now, to write a romance novel as an “exercise.” I did (do!) writing exercises all the time. Who knew that specific one would spark the type of writing destined to become my one great love? Book 8 in my River’s Sigh B & B series is just about to launch (eeeeeeiiiii!!!!), which means I will soon have 12 published novels out in the world (still can’t really believe it!!!), and my brain is bursting with ideas for my next series.
In my personal life, my adult children are healthy and self-sufficient, things I don’t take for granted and feel exceedingly relieved and happy for. I have two little grandsons (a fact that still blows me away: my baby is old enough to have babies—and really, they’re not even babies anymore. They’re small children!), who bring me so much joy and laughter that I can’t even put it into words.
I’ve been moving more, getting outside lots, and have taken a few trips (all things that were goals for 2019). We have three feet of snow right now, but as I look across my yard, I’m imagining this upcoming year’s garden (including a green bean fort!) and daydreaming about kayaking jaunts.
There’s always a flip side to my grateful looking back and sunny looking ahead, however: shadows from past months. What year, after all, doesn’t hold hard times or carry some bad news? And 2019 was no exception.
In my personal life, there were (are) tough things to face and hard facts to reconcile with, none of which were fully resolved (because some things can’t really be, or at least not quickly), so no doubt they’ll rear their ugly heads again.
In the world at large, it’s a terrifying, tumultuous time in a lot of ways. I can find it excruciatingly difficult to not get overwhelmed by the news and/or social media, to not just feel . . . afraid.
On January 3rd, contemplating my work in light of current world happenings, I was blasted by insecurity. Is writing stories about healing from personal hurts and wounds and finding love, creating your own family (whatever that looks like), seeking home—such “small scale” ideas, as a renowned author at a conference once said to me about “most” women authors as criticism—meaningless at best, or worse, utterly shallow, in light of “large” concerns?
Even a few years ago, I don’t know if I would’ve had a concrete answer. (But I’m getting better at kicking my inner critic and neuroses to the side.) Today, for now at least, I feel I do.
I’ve always believed that the small things in life are actually the big things—the things with the power to change us, to sustain us, to help us grow and to be a comfort in hard times. Remembering that encouraged me.
Politics change. What we as nations fear might finally, permanently, wipe us off the globe changes decade by decade (and, to date, thankfully, never has fully materialized or succeeded). What society holds dear—and demonizes—morphs radically, for better and worse, back and forth. Atrocities continue, yes—but there also continues to be people who stand up against them. (And may that ever be true, the latter numbers only ever growing stronger and larger, while our collective willingness to quietly accept the horrific mistreatment of others diminishes.)
But from time immemorial, what doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, and is true the globe over, in every culture, regardless of small variances in what the following “looks like,” is that we want our children to survive and thrive. We care about our families’ wellbeing. We value our friends. We want (need, crave) meaningful relationships. We long for connection. And sometimes, when there are no easy answers (and are there ever?), no fixes possible (corruption, illness, death, loss), we need stories that remind us that despite all seeming lost, awful, hopeless, or unredeemable . . . that’s only ever part of the story. The rub of human existence is that it’s all true: the ugly, awful, heartbreaking, atrocious . . . and the beautiful, awing, joy-giving, absolute sweet glory of . . . so many things. I feel challenged to write stories that explore such things, and I’m honored to have people respond to them, be encouraged by them.
On the heels of that rumination, in the lovely way things sometimes appear just when you need them to most, I happened upon two very helpful, affirming reads. One long. One short.
The first, by Anne Lamott, was (is!) a piece I’ve long loved and derived much comfort and encouragement (and laughter!) from: 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.
The second was a tweet by author Sam Sykes on Twitter: “Sometimes creative endeavors in times of turmoil feel a bit like playing the spoons while a city burns. You don’t feel helpful and maybe kind of stupid, but god damn if art can move the hearts of humans, then you owe it to everyone to play the spoons until the fires die.”
Reading it was like a good cup of strong coffee in the morning. “Buck up, Ev. Get back to doing what you do. It’s the only thing in this life you have any unique sway over.”
I don’t know how you’re feeling as we go into this new year, but I hope your optimism, drive, and hope are strong.
Cheers to 2020, my dears! Let’s all strive to be the change we wish to see in the world, this year and beyond. (I know that quote is used to the point of almost being a cliché nowadays, but I still believe in it so much and find it so personally challenging.)
Wishing you much joy, love and peace—and a whole bunch of fun, too! Happy New Year!