By this time of year, most of us have given up on writing.
We didn't meet that "Write my book" goal we made this time last year. The holidays are occupying all of our extra space, if we had any to begin with. And we’re exhausted from another year. At this point, you’re ready to sleep for two weeks, hide under a blanket wearing your favorite pj's, and start a diet of leftovers, chocolate, and spiked drinks. (Should we go ahead and make plans for next year?)
So I wanted to go into my collection to find the perfect advice on writing from one of my favorite books.
Real quick: a little backstory….
To this day, I honestly couldn’t tell you how I came across the poet May Sarton’s work. But she quickly became one of my favorites, and for almost a year, I was obsessed.
I read Journal of a Solitude, a collection of journal entries from Sarton’s year “alone” in her New Hampshire home writing a new collection of poems.
Then I read it again. And again. And then I finally bought a copy from Powell’s so I could underline all the nuggets of wisdom she shares in it, and revisit it over and over and over. Which I did, again, the other day.
So as I was thinking about what I wanted to write for my last newsletter of the year, I immediately went to her for inspiration.
I do this a lot. I take the current date or month, and I find what she wrote in those same days and seasons. And this time, I flipped through the pages to find her journal entries for December.
What I found was unexpected, and better than I could have hoped for. And helps prove what I tell my clients all the time:
There is as much in not writing as there is in the writing.
Just as white space is important in design, what you DON’T say is important in writing.
But let’s bring this to a practical point I’d like to make.
May Sarton might be one of the most prolific writers you’ve never heard of. As I look at the “Books by May Sarton” in the front matter of Solitude, it is filled with numerous titles of poetry, novels, nonfiction, even children’s books. A quick count gives me at least 70 books.
Now let me also preface that she was not married, did not have children, and yes, had the freedom to hole herself away for a year.
But that’s the genius of the book. Her struggles are no different from ours. Because she still writes about all of the interruptions and distractions. But she still writes. Because she writes about life. The day-to-day. The journal entries aren’t always long. But they're almost always full.
But there is one entry that is noticeably longer: her January 2nd entry.
Why is this important?
Because the previous entry is December 2nd.
That’s right—a whole month passes before she writes again. But her January 2nd entry isn’t filled with frustration or negative self-talk. It just tells about what took up her time for the past month.
As I read through the January journal entry, I had to stop myself from underlining almost every sentence. And I wasn’t even sure which sentence I should share with you here. What’s the best thing I could tell you right now? How to squeeze in a few minutes between cooking the pie and ham? You know that's not really like me.
Then I got to the end. And that’s what I’ll share with you today:
“…I have longed to say, ‘For God’s sake, get down to earth and speak in your own voice!’ This is not so much a matter of honesty, perhaps…, as of self-assurance: I am who I am." —May Sarton
I love this woman.
So what I’m trying to say, if you haven’t put it together yet, is to be okay with not writing. In fact, I went into town the other day to do some shopping, and of course found myself at the Book Bin. I came out with a stack of books. If I do anything these next two weeks, I hope it's lots of reading.
Do not put any extra pressure on yourself this season. Return to your voice. Listen to yourself. Observe life’s events as they happen around you. Read the best books.
Have a merry Christmas, happy Hannukkah, be with family for Kwanzaa, make resolutions, enjoy New Year’s, celebrate the lights.
And carry a notebook.
What is your favorite non-writing form of inspiration? (Mine is running, and walking in the trees.) Email me, or comment below.