No major change I’ve undertaken in my life has ever come from New Year’s resolutions. I decided to read 52 books in 52 weeks in the middle of February because I was inspired by a Medium post. I started taking dance classes one Saturday because I was getting bored at the gym and my sister had recommended I check out Alvin Ailey. I’ve been reading 52 books every year for eight years, and I’ve been dancing regularly for three years. Looking back, change was not a single decision or resolution. Change was rooted in efforts to try something new and to keep showing up, one day at a time. I focused on the verb—read, dance—not the noun—reader, dancer.
Now entering season three of the pandemic (sigh/sob), I’ve realized how long it’s been since I’ve allowed myself to think ahead or try new things. Part of it has been due to literal restrictions, but it’s also been a coping mechanism, to only focus on the current day or week because the world is filled with so much uncertainty. In December, I talked a bit about community and writing on this episode of Cabana Chats, a podcast from The Resort where I’m part of their virtual membership. Catherine, founder of The Resort, asked us to share our writing goals for 2022. It was the first time in a while that I felt like I was able to look forward with purpose.
Last week, Catherine guided us through a letter writing session where we wrote letters to our future selves about our intentions for the year. Intentions (besides being a banger by Justin Bieber and Quavo) are generally more positively oriented and compassionate than resolutions. I ended up writing so much more than I expected and was much kinder to myself than I usually am in my head. The prompts and questions got me thinking more holistically about my writing: the people I admire, how I define success and celebrate, where I think my strengths lie, and what I’m proud of.
The letter writing gathering was an hour, but it was enough to serve as a reminder to make space for myself and for writing. Room to be playful, to connect, to keep going. Catherine reminded us, “You deserve it.”
My greatest intention is to put myself out there, both with/within my writing and as a writer. I don’t want to shy away from difficult subjects. I want to continue writing into discomfort. I want to submit more, rather than thinking I have to defer until some elusive day I feel qualified enough. I want writing to be fun. I want to make writing a less solitary project, to engage with other writers, be part of a community, and be a good literary citizen.
From those intentions, I’ve started to figure out concrete ways to start: asking a friend to be an accountability buddy, laying out upcoming submission deadlines and working backwards, and showing up to more community events.
Whether it’s redoubling an existing commitment or trying something new, what are your writing intentions for the year? How can you find support and support yourself? If there are things you would find helpful in this newsletter, hit reply and let me know!
- I’m not a New Year’s resolutions person but I like the idea of a more/less list to set intentions (via Nisha Chittal’s newsletter).
- Jami Attenberg on honoring her professor’s criticism and building a creative life: “There is no coasting in a creative life; we are constantly adjusting, altering, tending our paths.”
- “19 Writing Conferences For Emerging and Established Writers” by Vanessa Chan
- I loved Rax King’s essay collection Tacky and enjoyed her interview with The Creative Independent about editing, humor as a literary device, and the double-edged sword of online communities.
- I know there’s an irony in sharing this when I read 52 books every year, but as Kelsey McKinney writes, “Reading is not you. Reading is not me. Reading is something we do because we like it.” Reading does not inherently make someone moral or good, so be forgiving of your reading habits!
Recent reads & other media
I finished my eighth year reading 52 books! In addition to my 2021 reading reflection, here are some of my favorite reads in categories loosely modeled after Roxane Gay’s year in reading. You can find a full list of these books on my Bookshop.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
A short story collection with no skips
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
Romance novels about enemies to lovers in small towns
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
Most novel (heh) use of a screenplay format that underscores the major themes of the book
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Best creative pep talk
Make Your Art No Matter What by Beth Pickens
Books so emotionally precise and devastating that they made me weep softly in my apartment
Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi, Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
Perfectly plotted heist book that I couldn’t put down
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A memoir that made me reflect on grief, preservation, and what we inherit from our families
Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow
Note: Book links are connected to my Bookshop affiliate page. If you purchase a book from there, you'll be supporting my work and local independent bookstores!
~ meme myself and i ~
Obsessed with the way Elmo says “balsamic vinegar.” Having creative ideas vs. actually doing them. The ultimate Libby library book hack. A glitch in the Matrix. We made Instagram casual again. Appreciating a graphic novel.