There is a slightly doom-laden quality to January 2nd. Not only do a lot of people go back to their daily routines after the holidays, but all the mass media images of tinsel, bubbly and celebration have already morphed into bright, hard-edged images of summer holidays, weight reduction and home improvement. After a couple of weeks of rest, socialising and celebrating the return of the sun as of December 21, we’re all supposed to flip the switch into achievement mode and state our Resolution for the year ahead.
If, like me, you are someone whose main passion in life is making things like art and stories, January 2nd might just be another opportunity to take stock and that’s what I’ll be doing today. Last year at this time, I sat down and made a lot of notes to myself about what I wanted 2017 to look like. Some big parts of that picture materialised: rebalancing my work load, building this new website, spending more time with family and friends and so on. But last year’s ‘failures’ are going straight into this year’s notes as reminders that the creative journey continues step by step. One or two of these aspirations can now go forward because I did some ‘essential maintenance’ and built a more solid foundation for new projects to thrive.
This is the behind the scenes stuff that is easy to avoid: taking the time to consider where you are now, to look at what you think you want to make and to examine whether the answer really is a wholehearted YES. I think this is so important if you, like me, have many projects you want to do. At New Year Resolution time, you probably end up with a humongous list of projects that you want to have done by the following Christmas – not to mention all the new skills you want to learn, getting your bookkeeping done early, et cetera. And if you are the sort of creative person who starts off on a bold path and is distracted by all the shiny, cool things in your peripheral vision, it’s even more important to choose the project that you want to be proud of and take it forward, little by little. Yes, you might have to forsake other projects for a while. You might have to take things slow to get it right. You might have to take it back to the drawing board because something ‘fails’ along the way. But what if that is all OK?
As someone who built up an illustration and writing career through years of practice, I know the lasting value of trial and error. I know what it’s like to pace around a blank page, to get halfway through a project and suspect it is rubbish, to hold myself up to very high standards. For me, the answer is to keep faith, to step away briefly if need be, but to come back and power through, step by step, little by little.
So, what about my Resolution for 2018? I have chosen one big project and resolved to see it through. And because I need to exercise another side of myself sometimes, I’ll be filling my sketchbook with experiments, thoughts, ideas and dreams for later. The most important part of all is showing up and doing the work that I have chosen. I’ll do it with heart and with faith that nothing is wasted.
If any of this resonates with you, and you enjoy listening to podcasts, I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast. It’s a thoughtful, relevant and well produced series based on her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
I wish you all big courage, lots of faith in yourself and the steadfastness you will need to pull your work through when it seems everything is against you! Go forward, little by little!