The Writing Life in 2016: Slow Down Already!

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 drank a gallon of orange juice and popped 400 mg of Motrin twice that day for a banging headache that wouldn’t let go. 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:

  1. Once a week, preferably Sunday evening or Monday morning, make a list.
  2. Stick to and update the said list.
  3. Say no to all social invitations.
  4. Remain in writing seat until the book is finished.
  5. Cancel Netflix.
  6. For goodness sake, buy another 2016 calendar.

About Eleanor

ellie

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 caseworker, 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.

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My Last Blog Post of 2014

matthew's 21st bday

2014 was a tough year for my family…2010-2103 weren’t cake walks, either. Now, I’m not saying wonderful things didn’t happen to us because they sure did, but boy, this year was challenging. With every dream come true and answered prayer, came much learning, new challenges and very steep learning curves. Yes, I can look back today and see how much we’ve grown. I am thankful for my lessons…well, most of the lessons. I’m tougher and more resilient than I thought possible, which is a good thing. I’ve bent, been flexible, and stood my ground when the ground was indeed pretty shaky. I did pray and ask for a little relief this year. I also asked for no tests in 2015; I get it, God. I need a little sitting on the plateau time; no more steep climbs and learning curves for me, please…and thank you.

I made it through another year, thank God. I’m grateful and thankful for what I have. I’m healthy, happy, and my precious children are, too. Thank God. I have a roof over my head, my heat turns on when I turn the heating dial, and I have clean water and food. I might not have a whole lot of money left at the end of each month, but I’m doing okay. I’m blessed to do what I love and am passionate about–writing books and painting on the side. I live a quiet, peaceful, and very creative life, which I love. I have a loving children, a wonderful family, and great friends, which includes my puppy, Sophie and Pierre, my cat. I pray for continued good health for myself, my children, my family and friends in the near year and beyond, and I pray my debut novel, A Decent Woman, is well-received when it comes out in Spring 2015. What a long road this has been!

I prayed for all these things last night, and then…

last night, I opened my front door and watched my quiet neighbors from across the street, a mother and her adult son, place everything they own on the sidewalk. It was a cold night and my heart broke for them. I already knew they would be evicted and had offered my help, but the son wouldn’t hear of it. I walked over and offered my help again. He thanked me and turned back to the job at hand. I felt helpless as I turned back toward my house.

The warmth of my home welcomed me as I opened my front door and my puppy, Sophie wagged her tail when I walked through. I had texts from my children and two phone calls to return from dear friends. I answered the texts and made the calls, but I couldn’t shake what I’d seen across the street. Around midnight, the sidewalk was full of boxes and furniture and there were no lights on in the house. Where had they gone? Would I ever see them again? We weren’t close; I barely knew them as they kept to themselves for the year they lived on my street, but I was sad for them and wished them well.

So, no complaints from me. I’m blessed. Amen.

I wish you and yours a blessed, happy, prosperous, and healthy New Year.