Welcome to Write More! This is the your mid-month pop-in, which comes with ideas, encouragement, and writing prompts to keep you going. I also send out a monthly intentions email on the last Sunday before a new month starts that aims to help you think through your goals and intentions for your writing practice in the coming month and to reflect on your progress in the previous month.
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Why hello there. Somehow Christmas is just a few days away, and we’re very nearly at the end of 2022. I’m not big on resolutions, but I love a fresh start. I’ve got a new planner that I’m itching to open — after years of loyalty to the Get to Work Book, which has graphics I love, Cassie Mannes Murray inspired me to switch to Laurel Denise.
BUT, before we fire up the new planners and shuck off the husk of 2022—let’s spend a few moments reflecting on the year.
I spent a week recently on a writing retreat at the amazing Highlights Foundation (yes, like the children’s magazine!) in northeastern Pennsylvania, and while there, I met the writer Alex Villasante, who told me over lunch that she’d booked her retreat to think. She’d met her deadlines for the year, so she’d set aside some time for reflection and planning. How smart is that? She uses three questions to guide her reflection, and she generously agreed to let me share those three questions with you.
three questions for the close of the year
What am I proud of this year?
What was challenging for me?
What surprised me?
These are questions, I think, that benefit from really spending time in reflection. You could probably list a couple answers to each one just off the top of your head—but a year is a long time, and actually allocating space for reflection will probably get you some deeper answers that you can use as you’re considering your goals for the year ahead.
Here’s what I’m doing as I reflect on the year: I’ve posted those questions on a big index card at my desk, and I’m going to keep those in mind as I consider the year as a whole. I’m looking through my calendar (digital and paper), flipping through photos, checking my submission records (I keep a very basic google sheets record; we’ll talk more about systems and tracking in the new year), and scanning my notebooks and digital files. The idea here is to really re-immerse myself in the work of the year and be able to see my growth and hard work and struggles. A year is too much to keep in your head all at once; I bet if you spend some time really reviewing the whole year in digital and three-dimensional form, you’ll have all kinds of new ideas and things to consider as you look toward the new year.
What are you proud of this year? What surprised you?
20 things for the new year
One more exercise, also courtesy of Alex: write a list of 20 things you want to work on in the coming year. Alex shared that her agent had given her this assignment, with the underlying rationale that the first 5 or 6 will be the ideas you already knew you had, then you’ll have to stretch for a couple, and some will be really bad—but by the time you reach the upper teens, you’ll be generating new ideas you didn’t even know were in there. 20 is a big number. Go for it anyway.
(Alex’s list was all book ideas; for our purposes, I think it could be anything—books, articles, a series of poems, a feature you’d like to do on your instagram or in your newsletter.)
And a note of thanks to Alex, who shared her writing and reflection process over the course of many meals. She’s the author of The Grief Keeper, “a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal,” and she has short stories in several anthologies, including Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories. You can find her on twitter, instagram, and TikTok.
if you’ve found these tips helpful, clicking the little heart at the top or bottom of this email can help other writers find us!
elsewhere on the internet
For Catapult, I wrote about my favorite holiday movie and why Kate McCallister is an awesome mom.
Over on Good Creatures, I wrote about looking for messy models of motherhood—including Kate McCallister (I can’t help myself) and Ash, from Catherine Newman’s new novel, We All Want Impossible Things, one of my favorite books of the year.
From now until the 23rd, you can get the anthology I edited, The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood, for 50% off! It’s full of poems, essays, and writing prompts about so many aspects of mothering. If you or someone you love is trying to balance your creative practice with the work of caregiving, I think it would make a great gift (maybe along with a notebook, nice pen, and some time alone)! Order at UGA and use the code 08GGIV at checkout.
Are you a fan of Louise Penny? For Elizabeth Held and Aya Seaver’s fun Notes from Three Pines project, I wrote about food (so many delicious sandwiches!) in the Three Pines mysteries (and took a slightly gooey turn to think about how the pandemic made me reflect on community and gathering).
I’ve got some really great things coming in the new year—online readings for the anthology and for my own book, Pocket Universe; workshops I’m teaching in New Jersey and Florida (info for that workshop is here, if Florida in March sounds really great around now); and a trip to Texas for anthology readings in Houston and Austin in February. I’ll share all that info in the January newsletter, where we’ll talk about setting goals and using data to learn about our writing practice. (I’ve got expert advice from novelist Erin Flanagan on that last point!)
Happy happy holidays, and I’ll see you in the new year!
Write More, Be Less Careful is a newsletter about why writing is hard & how to do it anyway. Have a success or proud moment you’d like to share? A challenge you’d like help with? Reply to this email, comment below, or find me on twitter (@nancy_reddy) and instagram (@nancy.o.reddy).
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Thank you for sharing these questions, Nancy! They gave me a framework (other than the chaotic associations in my brain) to look back on the year and got me thinking about things I want to continue and work on. One thing I noticed as I looked back through my 2022 calendar was an investment in time with friends, and I've got lovely memories of all of our time together in 2022. I'm grateful for you!
You're so prolific, Nancy. And I can't wait to do both of these exercises!