Some of us feel strongly about New Year's resolutions—we’re either passionately for getting those goals, or doggedly adamant that I’m good right where I’m at, thanks. No matter how you feel about them, the reality is that the start of a new year does mark a freshness for many things in our lives. We close out our financial books from the previous year, we get new calendars and planners, we renew subscriptions or cancel old ones.
So if you’re thinking about your habits and writing life for this year, I have some tips for you. They’re not resolutions; they’re not goals. They’re ways to lean into the freshness of a new start and set yourself up for success this year.
And by “desk,” I mean wherever you do your writing work. This space is sacred and special; we should treat it that way. I believe that being surrounded by physical clutter clutters your mind, too. This is your chance to clear away the physical clutter around you so that you can breathe in deep and allow your mind room to roam.
Recently, I got rid of an attachment to my desk that allowed me to convert it into a standing desk. It was convenient, but realistically I only used it a couple times a month—while everyday I was mildly annoyed by the fact that it didn’t match the rest of my desk and prevented me from using several valuable inches of real estate. Finally, I realized it had to go. I put a diffuser in the corner that wouldn’t have fit there before, and now everyday when I sit down, I breathe in the scent of lavender and feel more relaxed.
What clutter can you clear out of your space to make room for your mind?
“The space where great work is done is holy. We must respect it.” - Ryan Holiday
Close your eyes. Relax your shoulders and your jaw. Place your feet on the floor. Put your hands on your knees, either palms up or palms down. Inhale slowly through your nose. Open your mouth (jaw as loose as possible) and exhale slowly. Pay attention to how the breath feels. Imagine it flowing in and throughout your entire body as you inhale, before it peacefully exits as you exhale. Repeat as many times as desired.
I lean into my training as a yoga teacher often—and mindful breathing is definitely one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned in my yoga practice. Mindful breathing has so many health benefits, like helping you sleep, reducing anxiety, reducing pain, and encouraging acceptance.
When we practice breathing, we put our minds and our hearts in a better place to write. This is essential to taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally as writers.
You don’t have to be religious. It doesn’t have to be a prayer to God (but it can be). Marcus Aurelius called it the logos. Steven Pressfield calls it the Muse. Elizabeth Gilbert calls it Big Magic. Jeff Goins calls it the Ghost. Whatever it is, if you think of your creativity as a holy Something outside yourself, then take a moment to acknowledge it. Say thank you for the gifts and the preparation that have brought you here. Ask for the persistence, passion, or whatever gifts you need to live your best creative life this year.
I love using notecards. I keep a stack on my desk so that at any point, I can grab one to write down a quote, a question, a list, something I don’t want to forget to tell my husband. It can be as practical and dry as a grocery list or as poignant and thoughtful as a poem. I use these note cards for book mapping and keep track of sources for the projects I work on. Just seeing the stack there everyday feels like an invitation to use them. My favorite notecards are the dot grid Strategist cards by Baron Figs, but regular 3x5 index cards from Walmart will work just as well.
Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.