The Writing Life in 2016: Slow Down Already!
by Eleanor Parker Sapia
I don’t know about you, but I am experiencing the unsettling urgency of a new year like nobody’s business. I woke up today and realized the date was January 6, Three Kings’ Day. Where did the first week of 2016 go?
Honestly, the last time I truly felt organized was New Year’s Day, which I spent washing and putting away a small mountain of plates and glasses, thinking back to the fun party I’d hosted the night before. We had a great time. I also drank a gallon of orange juice and popped 400 mg of Motrin twice that day for a banging headache that wouldn’t let go and for general malaise. Yes, we had a really good time drinking champagne and eating way too much, and yes, that all seemed like a really good idea at the time. I’d also enjoyed hosting my family for Christmas Day dinner, which was a lot of fun. It was one of the best Christmas holidays I can remember, except for missing my son who lives in Europe. We will see him soon, though! But back to feeling disorganized.
This morning I sipped my coffee and realized the last blog post I’d written was posted a few days before Christmas Eve. And I hadn’t touched my work in progress in two weeks. This startled me. I’m an organized person. I’m a writer. I write for a living! Then I remembered: this scary scenario happens to me every January. I felt a bit better because I always make up for a slow start to the new year by working hard during the year, and ending the year with a bang. But January 6 was staring me down. I opened the closet door and dragged out three wicker baskets that contain my WIP; several bulky notebooks; the research material for my second book; a short pile of envelopes (read, December bills); and my 2015 calendar, all hidden away in the closet, so we’d have enough dance floor space on NYE.
I ripped ‘December 2015’ off my calendar and squinted at the tiny January 2016 calendar on the next page. No good, I couldn’t read it, but I did see where I’d written ‘Nothing due this week’ on the side. Thank God. But where was the 2016 calendar I’d bought before the holidays? Everything was a blur. I remembered buying a calendar, but couldn’t be 100% certain. What a mess. Thank goodness I hadn’t let anyone down with a promised guest post, an author interview, and I didn’t have any meetings or appointments this week. It was a major relief, but that early January shock to my system was jarring.
Unlike a lot of folks, I’ve never enjoyed putting myself through the tedious, annoying, and potentially humiliating process of writing down my new year resolutions that I damn well know I’m not going to keep…for long. Who likes to revisit the list, say in March, only to realize you accomplished and crossed off one or two items? If you’re anything like me, you resent the items you’ve written almost immediately because you hate routine and yes, you’re a bit on the rebellious side. I’m not going to stick to a list of resolutions. I know myself very well, so no.
Instead, I wrote a simple list to keep me on the straight and narrow because I didn’t like the emotional, disorganized, fast-moving train I was on this morning—a train I was ready to abandon before the next stop, which I wouldn’t be prepared for because I didn’t know what the destination was, or how much time I had. Clearly, I was in a bit of a fog. I needed to slam on the brakes and get it together. I made a large pot of coffee and made a decision. I needed a list for this week. Yes, I liked the sound of that. Here’s what I came up with:
- Once a week, preferably Sunday evening or Monday morning, make a list.
- Stick to and update said list.
- Say no to all social invitations.
- Remain in writing seat until book is finished.
- Cancel Netflix.
- For goodness sake, buy another 2016 calendar.
Puerto Rican novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her stories.
‘A Decent Woman‘, Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club, and is listed in Centro Voices, The Center of Puerto Rican Studies, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’. Book clubs across the United States continue to enjoy A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
Eleanor is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a collection of short stories.