Living Big in 2016

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I’m a big fan of end of the year posts, New Years resolutions, and big goals. Although most find the habit of resolution-setting to be silly—after all, what makes you more likely to stick to a goal if it’s set on the first day of the year rather than the 135th?—I find that big goals and resolutions help me to keep track of my life. They also help me to keep pushing for my dreams, even when the minutiae of every day life sucks me into the black hole of eat, work, sleep, repeat. This year has been full of ups and downs, and while the ups were really high, the lows were really, really low. I am, for the most part, happy to leave 2015 behind.

Anxiety has made my life very small in the past year. I’ve been afraid to fly, afraid to travel in general, even within the city, suddenly afraid of small spaces and crowded places, and generally afraid of the many bad circumstances that could befall any of us at any moment. My past year has been one of primarily fear, and that’s not the way that I will live the upcoming year. Instead, I will live a life that is big and plentiful, rich in friends and family, bountiful in creativity and an attitude of adventure. I don’t want to live a life of scarcity, as Brené Brown says. Instead, I want to live from a place of giving and love and faith, from a place of complete abundance (something that is especially difficult for a realist like me).

I have many lofty goals for 2016. I want to read 27 books this year. I want to become more of a leader at work. I want to run a 10k and create more healthy eating habits. The list goes on and on.

Of my many resolutions for this year, the most essential is to write daily and to focus on writing rather than on simply blogging. That doesn’t mean I’ll quit blogging. On the contrary, I’m working on an editorial calendar to keep this blog on track next year. Instead, I want to focus more on pieces outside of what I post here, something I always tell myself I’ll do but never make time for. I’ve also found myself falling into the trap of using that frilly, frou-frou writing style that so often sneaks into mainstream blogs. It’s popular because it’s easy for both the writer and the reader; using this style, the writer can easily prattle off a couple posts a week and the reader can then mindlessly scan through them.  It’s a fine style of blogging and writing—it fulfills its purpose—, but it’s not me. This year, if I’m not doing the hard work of examining and analyzing, then I might as well not be writing.

As I head into 2016, full steam ahead, my general goal is to take a page out of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic. This year, I’ll be focusing mainly on motion, of any kind. When you have anxiety, your first instinct is to stay in the place you feel most comfortable, to be still and quiet and safe. This year, I’m using Elizabeth Gilbert’s strategy for generating my own creativity and calm.

Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters…Move on. Whatever else happens, stay busy. Find something to do—anything, even a different sort of creative work altogether—just to take your mind off your anxiety and pressure…. In other words: If you can’t do what you long to do, go do something else.

Go walk the dog, go pick up every bit of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it’s procrastination, but—with the right intention—it isn’t; it’s motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.

So wave your arms around. Make something. Do something. Do anything.

Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action and—most of all—trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again.

Above anything else, my goal is to keep moving in a direction that is always positive, even if there are short failures and detours, and to trust that inspiration and creativity and Good will find me along the way.

Despite the difficult times of 2015, I’m also grateful for this past year; it was a transformative year in my life and one that helped me realize many of the things I don’t want, which I’m told can be just as important as knowing what you do want. I’m happy to have a new job and a new fiancé. I’m happy to be 30 and ready to usher in a new decade of badassery. With two weddings and a trip to India on the books, this year is bound to be anything but dull and safe. So let’s go, 2016; we have a lot of writing, reading, and moving to do.

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Settling Back Into Writing

It seems like everyone but me is writing and publishing and diving head first into their creative endeavors these days.

I follow a blogger who has a 5 month old son and a full time job and still manages to blog three times a week. Many times, the content of her posts aren’t to my tastes, but she’s a good writer with over 40,000 blog followers and every time I see a new post from her all I can think is fuuuck.

While I have much more time to write than before, I still struggle to actually sit down and do it. This past summer was a particularly dry time for creativity as I moved, changed jobs, and tried to focus on slowing down and settling in after a particularly out of control time in my life. Having a panic attack opened my eyes to a new, all-encompassing world of terror. Anxiety drains everything from your life. The only thing left after a panic attack—the only thing you can even think about—is anxiety. Every day is a never ending string of frightening thoughts. What if I have a panic attack on this bus? What if this train gets stuck in the subway, and I can’t get out? What if I don’t pass this test and I lose my job and I have to start the job hunt all over again and I can’t support myself and I get evicted from my apartment and I have to move back in with my parents and…and…and…?!

You know how it goes.

Luckily, as I settle into my new apartment and into a new routine, I’ve also been able to gradually stabilize my anxiety. And as anxiety finally takes a back seat to my regular life, I find myself turning more and more to the things that fill me up with hope and peace, including, and especially, writing.*

In my college days, I could sit at the computer and write for hours without moving. In fact, that’s how I preferred to write. If I didn’t have a long afternoon to sit and think before frantically typing my inspirations to the page, then I didn’t want to begin in the first place. Now, I can barely sit at the computer for more than 10 minutes before my mind wanders elsewhere. This is partly thanks to my adult life, which no longer offers me the freedom to sit and ruminate; I often write in the spare minutes I have before going to sleep or going to work, sitting at my desk in the dark, my eyes barely open and my fingers stumbling over the keyboard. I’m also greatly influenced by our internet-driven, ADD culture. I write a paragraph, then check my Facebook. Buy a Groupon, then scribble another half page. I change the song that’s playing, shoot off a quick email, then get back to my piece for another 10-15 minutes. It’s a type of schizophrenia, writing this way.

Ultimately, for me, part of getting back to writing is getting back to the habit of putting my butt in the chair and words on the page—no moving, no tab collecting, no coming back to it after the dishes are done or the laundry is finished, no picking it up tomorrow when I will be less tired or distracted. (There will never be a day when I’m less tired or distracted.) My desire to write is coming back in full force, and I want to take advantage of this momentum. Even when I’m struggling, when I’m frustrated and annoyed by my lack of ability to capture the right words, writing is the only thing that truly puts my soul at peace.

In the past year, it’s become abundantly clear to me that my future must involve a career in writing, even if it means writing the boring stuff. As Truman Capote said, “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” The satisfaction I get in placing one word after the other is unlike any other, and ultimately, scrambling to fit writing sessions into a typical corporate American workday is just not working for me.  I’m 30 now (!). It’s finally time to create a 5 year plan that brings me closer to that reality.

In the meantime, I’m wracking up ideas for writing projects and setting milestones for myself, albeit flexible ones. I’ve got big plans for this blog and a collection of essays on Ecuador, and I’ve been looking into volunteering for a writing-based nonprofit in the city. My boyfriend and I have also been talking quite seriously about finally bringing our idea for a musical to fruition, and although I’ve never attempted to write musical theater, I can’t stop jotting down little snippets of dialogue, dreaming of putting lyrics on paper, and ultimately pitching the idea to producers. (Is that what you even do?)

For now, I’m relieved and immensely grateful to have the time and mental capacity to write.  More than ever, I’m also confident that if I keep believing in this dream and keep writing when I can, my dream of producing beautiful work will soon be a reality.

* Those who live with anxiety know that stabilizing that anxiety is not as easy, natural, or effortless as I make it sound, but that’s another post entirely.