Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do What Really Matters

I am trying to put together a book proposal for a new collection of essays. This means I need a Table of Contents, a description of the book, an outline of its market and promotion ideas and three sample essays.
I've been working on this project for the entire month of January yet I feel like I haven't found a foothold yet. The stories are there, ready to be written; I can feel them inside me, pecking away from inside their eggs but I can't seem to get them to break through and be hatched.
That's makes me holler a very cartoony "ARGH!"

I realized last night that everything that is going on since the inauguration of DJT is infecting my brain, affecting my creativity.
I watch the news and like to be informed, but lately, my interest is verging on obsession. I'm not an anxious person but these last few months since the election have made me feel anxious. I don't deal well with nastiness, unfairness and lies, and this new administration, and a nation's reaction to it, is like a train wreck you have to keep watching.

So I woke up this morning and thought, I need to take a news and social media break. I need to be totally and utterly consumed by this book project, not by what's happening in the United States.
I like being informed and a smart phone make it easy to be dialled in all the time - I can check my work email easily but just as easily, I can check Twitter which has turned into a curse the last ten days. I've allowed myself to become distracted, to internalize worry and fear. That's not what I want my new normal to be.
It's not that I think anyone is going to miss me if I take a break from Twitter and Facebook; I'm worried I'm going to miss something. But I've decided if the revolution happens, I'm not going to miss it so I can take a three-day break for the sake of some intense and focused writing. Because truly, the only thing I'm missing by being endlessly tuned into social media is my own creativity.

I am a "feel good" writer but I've been struggling to write these new essays because I don't feel good. Thank goodness I'd written this week's Field Notes column on Saturday because there was no way, after waking up to the new of the fatal shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, that I would have been able to write this week's "feel good" column.
I also know, and trust in this process, of needing quiet, focused time in order to let ideas percolate and bubble to the surface where I can see them and hear them and touch them.
Just this morning, while sitting in our sunny living room and starting to read the book that has inspired my next Field Notes column (Feb. 15), the author wrote in chapter one, "Having completely sworn off mindless hours frittered away on Facebook..." and I thought, Yes! Sometimes I find an article on FB that works perfectly for an upcoming church sermon but mostly, my scrolling is frittering.

I put down the book and reached for my notebook. A ha! My two favourite things: reading and writing. They were my constant companions before FB and Twitter and Instagram became professional necessities, before I had a smart phone, before the end of the world as we know it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Pen vs. Sword, Words vs. Guns

(Blobs in background are just people obscured for their privacy.)

These are my friends, Sam and Alia. I feel lucky to call them my friends. Alia always makes me feel so good, with her bright smile and "firecracker" personality -- all bright and sparkly.
Alia is Muslim, I am Christian, and those parts of our identities have nothing to do with our friendship. We are friends regardless of our spiritual inclinations. We are friends because we like each other, and we have fun together.
We don't see each other much these days because as someone who speaks both Arabic and English, she is busy assisting our newest county residents, those who fled the war in Syria, get settled in and adjust to a new world.

I wrote about Sam and Alia in Field Notes, the book. I interviewed Alia during Oxford's first International Women's Day event in 2014. I devoted a column in 2015 to her response to OUR response to the Syrian refugee crisis. And I'm writing this post today because of what has happened in the last ten days, and because of what happened last night in a Muslim mosque in Quebec City.
This is all I know how to do: I talk to people and share their story. I live in a rural area far away from the cities where the marches and protests are taking place. I'm not a politician or a celebrity or anyone with any kind of platform that can reach thousands, let alone millions.
It frustrates me not to be able to do more, to be more vocal, to be more active. It's also my personality to freeze when confronted with violence, hatred and ignorance. My brain stops thinking, my mouth freezes open, and my heart breaks. I shut down when faced with violence, hatred and ignorance.

I'm tired of this shit. All of it. I'm tired of the hate, I'm tired of the vitriol, I'm tired of guns and the debate over them. I'm tired of perpetuating our history of aggression and retaliation, of us-versus-them, of terror and extremism, of suffering and loss.
I'm tired of seeing a little boy covered in dust and blood, his face frozen in shock. I'm tired of seeing a little boy dancing around the carpeted floor of a mosque hours before a young man armed with a gun entered. I'm tired of seeing men and women holding their dying loved ones in their arms while they call for help or wail in grief.
What is scary is that the reason behind all of this is greed. Money. The CEO's bonus, the shareholders' dividends. Taking more and more from those who have less and less. Taking what is not ours in the first place.
I'm tired of standing in a church pulpit and preaching about the laws of love -- for each other and for creation -- then turning on the television to see how those in power foment hate and fear and arrogance.

This is why we create saviours and superheroes, isn't it? I'm not super or magical or even a little bit powerful so I do what I know how to do: I get to know those neighbours I love and I share our story.

These are my friends, Sam and Alia. I feel lucky to call them my friends.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Rooster

Andre Poulet is shaking his tail feathers for Year of the Rooster!
When I lived in Vancouver, Chinese New Year celebrations were a big deal. Not just because of Chinatown, Vancouver has a large Asian population. I believe in celebrating diversity, not resenting it.
It's fun and educational and respectful to celebrate the festivals of other countries and other religions.

We celebrate the Chinese New Year in my family now because two of my nieces are from China. I have a lovely hand-painted rooster card that I received from all the kids wishing us Happy New Year. That card, and the origami rooster that came with it (we're very international!) will be treasured forever.

A Chinese astrologer named Laura Lau told the Guardian newspaper in the UK that the energy associated with a rooster year means the coming 12 months will not be boring. Her advice? "Stay organized, think through all your actions, and don't slack off: The Rooster favours those who put in the hard work and stick to a plan."
Not only that, apparently it's a Fire Rooster year, so expect everything to move at top speed and with a lot of intensity!

(I read this and shudder. I'm a slow, methodical worker who likes things steady and reliable. Not sure I'm able to take everything up a couple of notches -- even though it likely wouldn't hurt to do so!)

You are a rooster if you are born in the following years: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969.
This means you are, typically, honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident.  

(FYI: Next year is the Year of the Dog and that's me, as well as those born in the years 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970. We are, typically, loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart.)

Happy Chinese New Year! Don't be afraid to crow -- this is the year to let yourself be the voice of confidence and optimism.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Do Something Else

I've hit the wall.
It happens. Not a lot (thank goodness) and I don't "give up writing" like I did twenty years ago. 
(I can't tell you how many walks through the streets of Vancouver with the dog started out with me no longer a writer, only to have walked and talked myself back to the fold and ready to keep going. No wonder the dog sighed so often.)

Hitting the wall happens with anyone -- athletes, artists, architects -- who ultimately works alone. To nail that vault, to run that spring faster, to paint that particular landscape, to design that seaside home, it comes down to the individual. The coach, the mentor, the teacher can make all the suggestions they want, can holler and taunt and encourage, can do tough love or gentle nurturing, but in the end, if the goal is going to be achieved, it is on one person only.
There is only one person staring at the blank computer screen. 

So that's the wall I've hit: the "I'm It" wall. Right now, that wall is huge. I can't see over it and I can't see around it. There are fingerholds and toeholds but they are spread soooo far apart.
I don't know if I can jump high enough to reach the first one.
I don't know if I can reach far enough.
I don't know if I'm strong enough, brave enough, stretchy enough.

But I've been here before. I know this wall. I know that there is a way to make it disappear. So I'm doing what needs to be done by anyone who is standing with their nose pressed into the rough surface of that damn wall: I'm ignoring it. I'm giving it the back. I'm turning around and --
Oh, look! There's something else I can do!
I can go skating.
I can edit that short story.
I can go to the movies with Jane.
I can talk to someone for my next column.
I can bake cookies until my husband yells, "Mercy!"
It's like a freezing rain storm: You're stuck in the house and the power is out so instead of moping around because you have no internet connection, you do something else. You read all day. You organize the storage room. You play Scrabble. So by the end of the day, you feel like you've had a break, you feel like you've accomplished something that you've been wanting to do, and look! The ice has melted off the trees and the internet satellite, and just now the power is back on.
And the whole time I'm doing all that other stuff, engaging all those other parts of my brain, the wall is shrinking.
Because a tiny part of my brain, that I'm not conscious of because I'm ignoring it, too, is hacking away at that wall while I'm busy doing other things. That part of my brain is beavering away at the project that brought me to the wall and it's chewing away, leaving exposed those ideas I need, building up connections between the ideas, dragging all the materials I need into a pile I can work with.
By the time the other projects -- the story and the table of contents and the cookies -- are completed, by the time I'm feeling exhilarated by fresh air and snowflakes, by chocolate and popcorn,
all of a sudden,
that wall isn't so large and wide, and I know exactly how to climb it, maybe even leap over it, and carry on without hearing the last of it crumble into a heap of rubble behind me.
Sometimes ignoring a problem really is the best way to make it go away.

So when I say "Do something else", I don't mean "give up". I really do mean find something else to do.
Go for a walk. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

I'm Skating in Nova Scotia!

Hello, old friends, where have you been for 20 years?
Back in Ontario, in the house my parents lived in for a few years near Trenton, there was a pond in the back woods. It was part of the acreage that went with the house, and the neighbourhood kids kept it cleaned off during the winter. I skated there only a couple of times but I've always remembered it and longed for a pond of my own for skating.
For the past ten years, these skates (which I think are actually 25 years old) have been in the basement of my home here in Nova Scotia, waiting for the chance to go skating on the river, like they did "in the good old days", like I wrote about in my essay, A River Runs Through Him. Now, I can't say much more than that because this -- my first skate in Nova Scotia -- is the topic of next week's Field Notes column (February 1st).
I can tell you this much: the pond we dug in late August has paid off! I finally got tired of waiting for "the perfect winter day" to clean off the pond and go skating, so yesterday, we just went for it!

Update: Tuesday morning
I tried to go skating this morning, before the freezing rain storm moves in, but my ankles are so painful, I can't move. Curses! I'm not sure how to fix this.
My ankles hurt on Sunday but I guess they kind of numbed as I kept skating because this pain today came as a shock because it's not as if my ankles are generally sore, when walking or lying in bed or sitting on them in yoga. 
I have to have the skates tight around my ankles for support yet as soon as I tightened them, I couldn't move for the pain; sort of glided back to the edge to get them off! 
I know I have a low tolerance for pain but this is nuts. May I whine a bit and stamp my foot and say how unfair this is!

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Walk in the Woods, Duck Pond Edition

The day after I landed at Dwayne's home in rural Nova Scotia nearly ten years ago, he packed up the four-wheeler (with his city girl and a thermos of tea and a blanket, plus stuff for starting a fire) and took me to the Ducks Unlimited duck pond way back in the woods. A few years later, we snowshoed back there on Valentine's day. It seemed like such a long way back yet twice this week, Abby and I have walked to the duck pond as if it were no further than our walk to Carrington Road and back.
I'm wondering why we don't do this walk more often but then I remember: deep snow, and bugs.

The writing isn't going well; I'm not hitting my stride (yet) in part because I'm working on publicity for a literary event I've planned in February. When I am fumbling for words, I head to the woods, so Tuesday afternoon, I told the dog to put her coat on, we were going for a walk.
"Let's go say hello to the beavers," I said, "that will clear my head." That's our usual walk, to the beaver brook and back home through the plantation.
But when we reached the brook, the dog kept trotting up the old road since I wasn't writing, I kept walking. The ground was nearly bare and frozen, and where there was snow, it was hard-packed thanks to rain and freeze; I simply swished carefully over the icy patches. We just kept walking, deeper and deeper into the woods. There seemed no reason to turn back.
"We might as well go all the way to the duck pond," I said when we paused at the top of the small hill by the middle clearcut. I hadn't packed any snacks but I figured we'd be okay; this dog isn't as concerned about snacks as my original country dog, Stella, was.
This is the perfect winter for walking through the woods. No bugs, no bears, no deep snow.

We aren't the only one wandering around the woods. We found raccoon tracks frozen in the snowy ice. It's mating season for raccoons; the tracks zig-zagged from tree to tree as the local male searched for and visited a variety of females denned up in the trees. I thought about this as I walked, how male raccoons are promiscuous, how the females have their cozy space invaded by a male following his biological urges. This is how the species ensures its survival.
I thought how, with humans, it's okay for the male to be promiscuous but not the female. Our thousands-of-years-old biological urges in conflict with our intellect and social awareness.
But I didn't want to think these kinds of thoughts deep in the woods. I wanted to breathe, to see and hear, with my brain on pause.
There were deer tracks a-plenty, lots of heart-shaped tracks like I write about in my book but my favourite are the partridge footprints wandering around, from one side of the trail to the other; years ago, I tracked a partridge through the woods like I was following one of the kids in a Family Circus cartoon -- all over the place, no start and no finish. My path may be straight but I wander like a partridge.
I am not alone when I go into the woods, that is true.

It took us 90 minutes to walk to the duck pond and back again, making better time on the way home since I wasn't stopping to take photos.
The next afternoon, another cold and sunny and perfect winter afternoon, we headed out again, no camera, just me and the dog and the wind through the trees and the traces of wild friends we never see.
"You need to take your phone with you when you go back that far," my husband said when I returned home. He knew I didn't have it because it burped with texts while I was gone. "You may run into a coyote."
We saw coyote tracks, but I never feel afraid in the woods. The dog stays on the trail, comes when she's called, didn't even chase the squirrel that ran in front of her. We respect the woods, we respect the fact we are visitors, just passing through, saying hello to the wind and the trees and the residents who never cross our path.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Mystery of the Dollhouse

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, by Sara Jewell

Russell Trueman reveals the dollhouse that sits in the upstairs dormer window of his home.

I couldn’t believe it as I counted down the civic numbers on Route 6 past Shinimicas and into Truemanville. Of all the houses I could be visiting, it was the one that has intrigued me for almost 15 years. Every trip to Amherst along Route 6 means a glance at the huge farm house with the dollhouse in the upstairs dormer window.

The mystery was solved shortly after I knocked on Russell Trueman’s back door.
“It’s a model of the house,” the 89-year-old father of six explained after he led me upstairs to where the dollhouse sits on the window seat. He removed the roof, which is all one piece, and revealed the full furnished downstairs rooms inside. “I made it ten feet to the inch.”
I don’t know what I expected but like anything that is beyond our imaginings, getting up close to this dollhouse left me astonished and delighted.
I located the door where I came in, and traced my steps through the dollhouse to the stairs. The house is huge; there are so many rooms. There was a piano in the dollhouse “but it’s long gone,” Russell said then picked up a piece. “Here’s the old television.”
The dining room chairs were delicate, and the china cabinet had a glass door. There was the washer and dryer just inside the door through which I’d entered, and the kitchen cupboards were replicas of the ones he still used.
As he put the roof back on, Russell pointed out the chimneys. “The flues are made from individual wooden bricks that I glued together.”
No one has ever truly played with the dollhouse; his children were grown when he made it, and his grandchildren have rearranged the furniture on occasion.
“It’s no good for anything, it’s just something to look at,” he said. “I just made it because I wanted to make it. It’s so large, people don’t have room for it.”

Russell has been making furniture, in miniature and in full size, most of his adult life. He has made annual Christmas ornaments for his daughter and son-in-law who live next door, and dressers for the bedrooms in his home.
“I have a wood shop connected to the house and I can go right down steps to it,” he told me. “That was the only thing around here I called mine; everything else I called ‘ours’. When someone said I was in my room, they knew exactly where I was at.”
But it is a space Russell hasn’t ventured into in more than seven years.
“My wife, Hilda, passed away in 2009, after my daughter and I took care of her at home for a year. I didn’t do any work in the shop then and I haven’t been down since. I lost all interest after she was gone, and now my eyesight for near-work is no good.”

My visit with Russell lasted over an hour and after 15 years of wondering about the dollhouse in the window, I discovered it was simply one of many stories the dollhouse house had to tell, all of them finely detailed, heartbreakingly true, and crafted out of love.

This photo was taken in late afternoon but you can see the dollhouse dormer in the real dormer.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

From Inside My Closet

In the glorious, and cautionary tale,way of the internet, I read this week an online article published in April 2015 by Harper's Bazaar. The article was written by a New York art director, Matilda Kahl, about her decision to create a "work uniform"; basically, she wears the same clothes -- white silk blouse, black necklace, black slacks -- to work every day.
The article went viral, probably because the concept is so smart yet so shocking. For women, it's also rather appealing.
It's both fascinatin, and depressing that this idea of uniform remains a hot-button issue for women who work in non-uniform jobs (such as nursing). Whether they are teachers, artists, movie stars, princesses, or stay-at-home moms, most women feel the weight of expectation to wear a new outfit every day or for every public appearance. Kahl feels that the more "artistic" a person's work, the heavier the expectation for creativity in her dress.

In the article, Kahl writes, "To state the obvious, a work uniform is not an original idea. There's a group of people that have embraced this way of dressing for years—they call it a suit. For men, it's a very common approach, even mandatory in most professions. Nevertheless, I received a lot of mixed reactions for usurping this idea for myself. Immediately, people started asking for a motive behind my new look: "Why do you do this? Is it a bet?" When I get those questions I can't help but retort, "Have you ever set up a bill for online auto-pay? Did it feel good to have one less thing to deal with every month?"..."

This gone-viral article has made Matilda's decision to adopt a work uniform so renowned that her Instagram description says, "Wearing the same thing to work, every day." It's now her identity.

I admire her courage and self-determination yet I fear I will remain a slave to new clothes. But this is oh, so tempting.
After reading this article, I thought of the shopping I feel compelled to do in order to wear a different outfit to every book event. I do this so that the photos of each event are different. Is this the result of social media, where we put every single thing we do every single day? Social media lets us track everyone's activities; it wouldn't be difficult to check out my three accounts and discover -- OMG!!! SARA JEWELL IS WEARING THE SAME OUTFIT TO HER READINGS!!

I wish I had the guts and the confidence and the thick skin to have an "author uniform". I wish I didn't like clothes so much, even though I often look at the closet in despair for not seeing the "right" outfit I'm looking for.
The outfit I wore to the book launch in Pugwash in November, the top of which is pictured in the photo, would be perfect for every event. It would be the perfect author uniform for fall and winter; I could have a different one for spring a summer. I would no longer have to worry about what to wear, I would no longer have to waste a day shopping for something new to go with an existing pair of pants or for an entirely new outfit, I would no longer spend hundreds of dollars on clothes that I'm often only wearing once.

Erg. Writing that all down makes me feel kind of sick. And stupid. A bit sheep-ish.
Ah, but I don't have the nerve. I'm totally programmed, not proud of it, but what you can't see in the photo is the pair of red boots and black pencil skirt I bought yesterday. As tempting as an author uniform is, those boots were waaaay more tempting.
And in some ways, I do have a work uniform: Like so many writers, I wear black yoga pants and a hoodie to work every day.

Here's the link to Matilda Kahl's article:

Monday, January 09, 2017

Marching Forward With A Great Big NO

I've now extricated myself from two "seemed like a good idea at the time" courses that proved over the past four months to be distracting and disappointing. As much as I hate quitting, I hate being unhappy even more. After writing the second email this morning without feeling any regret, or guilt, I'm glad to free to be 100 percent FOCUSed on writing.

If the door doesn't open, it's not your door. I'm tired of scuffing up my Blundstones kicking a door that won't budge.

After several years of saying Yes to everything, I've reached that point where I must start saying No to most things. I think this is a natural progression of this process of figuring one's shit out; now that I have a book published and it's been enthusiastically received by readers, I'm fairly confident I can keep going at this whole book thing.

These opening weeks of 2017 see me trawling through five years' worth of notebooks and journals slapping sticky notes on ideas for a new collection of essays, and this morning, as I sat on the couch in the morning sunshine, drinking coffee and flipping pages, I found this quote by Stephen R. Covey in one of the notebooks:
"You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage -- pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically -- to say 'No' to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger 'Yes' burning inside."

I'm a big believer in signs; one of the essays in my new collection will be on this very subject because it is huge for me. It's my version of "answered prayer": I know I have an email to write and as I'm gearing up to do that, I find a quote that confirms what my gut is telling me to do.

It's like chickens. They lay eggs. That's what they do and they do it well. You can hang a kid's xylophone toy on the coop wall and they will peck at it, make some sounds, it'll be cute and the video will get a couple of thousand views on YouTube, but that's not what chickens do best. They lay eggs.

That what it means to be true to yourself: Be fearless and be chicken.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Snow Day

Sunday. Snow Day. Grey morning light. White snow swirling.
I snuggled up against the other human in the bed.
The dog thrust herself under the covers and flopped down against my legs. 
It was a lie-in, the house cold, no one wanting to leave the warm island of fleece and wool.
The phone would ring soon, telling me church was cancelled. 
There was no need to rush, no need to put feet onto cold floor.
"You are my sunshine," I said to my husband and kissed his forehead.
That seemed inappropriate for the day so I added,
"You are my snowstorm."
But that didn't quite cover it so I went on.
"You are my thunder and lightning.
"You are my blue skies and white clouds.
"You are my snowflakes and rain drops.
"Oh, and you are the one who stokes my fire
and brews my coffee."
He grunted and rolled away.
"Alright, I'm getting up," he said.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

One Word to Change the World

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, January 4, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

There’s been a trend the last few years of choosing a word for the year instead of making resolutions. Apparently, it’s easier to be guided by a word than it is to keep a list of resolutions. There are books and websites devoted to this idea of changing your life with just one word, and people choose words like empathy and joy, progress and smile.
You can see how this would grab hold. A year governed by the word “smile”, or “yes”, or “no”, could certainly have an impact. I’m not sure if choosing one word instead of setting goals is another example of our modern approach to life – passive-aggression made to look like simplicity or a dumbing down in order to exert as little effort as possible – but this year, the idea of a word for the year has taken hold of me.
Because for me, for my household, that word is CHANGE.

After nearly ten years of living in rural Nova Scotia, after nearly ten years of ignoring the voice inside my head that whispers “Buy less, make more”, 2017 is the year of making a few changes.
By writing about this and putting it out there in the public domain, I’m ensuring these changes will happen. There is no better accountability than someone asking me if I’m using my green bin yet.

For that is the first change: We are gardeners so our organic waste goes into composters to get turned into black, crumbly soil. Yet I’m conscious of the stuff that goes into our garbage bag that shouldn’t, and I’m tired of feeling guilty about turning a blind eye to our haphazard waste disposal habits. It’s not ignorance but laziness, and a dislike of nagging, that has kept me from making this change.  

This is also the year when we go from three vehicles to two. I’m the only one in our three-person household who works, and that’s just on Sunday mornings, so there’s no point in having the oldest vehicle sitting idle. Surely three adults can manage to coordinate their schedules and vehicle needs by marking appointments on the calendar in the kitchen.

The final and most significant change for 2017 is what I call “local and less”. When I met my husband ten years ago, I was thisclose to being a vegetarian, so I feel dogged by a lack of commitment to pushing back against factory farming and the mind-boggling amount of food we waste in First World countries. My household is now committed to knowing where our meat comes from because we want to purchase humanely raised and butchered meat and support our Cumberland County farmers.
When I looked at my breakfast plate on Christmas Day, I realized every inch of it was locally-sourced: homemade bread, homemade jam made from Oxford strawberries, bacon and sausage from Wallace Bay, and eggs from our very own chickens.        

So it’s not that hard to do. It takes a little effort – another word for the year – to make choices and take actions that are fair and right and sensible.
I, for one, resolve to be the change I want to see in the world. 

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Most Wordful Time of the Year

I hadn't planned to jump on the "word for the year" bandwagon which has been rumbling around for a few years; I've never been a resolution maker and am generally more of a symbol person than a word person (which you might think is ironic for a writer but I think it makes perfect sense; remind me to write some time about symbols...as I sit at my desk looking at a pile of rocks and a jar of feathers and a pine cone shaped like a heart...)

Where was I?
Oh, yes, my word for 2017.
It came to me in a roundabout way, starting with a Vancouver writer blogging about her word for the next 365 days so I did a Google search to learn more. Then the idea worked its way into the opening of this week's Field Notes column, and it fit in perfectly with my sermon for church yesterday, which happened to be January 1st (it's a Christian church, friends, and we kinda have a whole thing going on about "the Word").
So some time on Saturday, while thinking ahead to what I'm working on this month and next, and what I'm jettisoning because it makes me distracted and unhappy, I said to my husband, "This year is all about focus."
And there you have it: a word for the year was born.
It's been in gestation for twenty years.
By focus, I mean "single-minded" as opposed to "being in". They are different concepts and in my case, I'm committing myself to the single-minded focus on my writing that I've never granted it before. What I've always wanted to do has always been totally in focus; not even a blurry edge. The problem was I couldn't see it, not because I'm near-sighted but because there were too many distractions keeping me from a clear sightline. Self-created distractions, which are the worst.
I mean, is this the reason I'm making noises about adding another cat to our household? The anxiety of starting something new makes me seek out distractions. 

Where was I?
Oh, yes, focus. It's my word for this year.And if you want it, it can be your word for 2017 as well. It's a friendly and open word, what with that big O sitting there like an embrace. What one project would you like to start, to work on, to complete? And what one thing can you do, what one thing (or person!) can you jettison, that would improve your focus?

Sometimes it helps to narrow the focus so let me share what Nova Scotia author Kate Inglis wrote in her latest newsletter: If you write 1,000 words a day, in three months, you will have 90,000 words. That's a book. For three months, all you have to do is write 4 double-spaced pages a day (and it's a first draft so it can be as shitty as it wants, no one will see it) and you will have a book. You will have written that story that's been bouncing around in your brain like a bee in your bonnet, like ants in your pants, like a stone in your shoe. You will have built your hive, your hill, emptied your soul.
Please tell me you got that.
Find your FOCUS, my darling dreamers, and make 2017 the year you rid your body of those flitting, wriggling, poking ideas that are driving you crazy. Because there's enough crazy in world right now -- we need more hearts to sing.