What did you do this year?

From left: Working on a blog post at LOOK3, my third birthday tattoo (of an archaeopteryx), practicing my wedding speech.

I finally picked up my journal a few days ago and immediately wrote this question: “Why haven’t I been writing?”

Over the more than 20 years I’ve kept a journal, this question has come up a lot. I know by now that I am constantly flowing through cycles where I will discipline myself to write every day, feel naturally compelled to write once a week, or will not write at all for months. Yet I’m still trying to figure out why this happens when it does.

If you had to choose one word to describe my work, it would probably be “writer.” I edited my high school newspaper, studied magazine journalism in college, and have written for magazines, blogs, and creative clients ever since. (And aren’t we all writers now? I must write around 100 emails, text messages, and Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr updates a day.)

But I more often describe myself as an editor. Because, for me, writing has always been about filtering the world around me through my own thought process, then retelling it in a way that facilitates understanding. I know the root of this lies in my personal journaling — where I am most often trying to work out what’s going on inside myself by putting it on a page, and therefore examining it from a slight distance.

So, getting back to my original question, I know that I write less when I am not in extreme emotional turmoil (which I thankfully haven’t been) and when I’m not starting a new project (which often triggers a more intellectual turmoil). I also learned while traveling last year that I’m not good at writing while experiencing lots of new things (like when I quit my job and travel for five months). I seem to be able to either experience or write/process, but not both.

This brings me to another question: Am I not writing because I’m in the middle of a journey? If so, it’s one that I am unaware of (or was, until I started writing this post in my head).

After being on a very literal journey for months last year, it took a while for me to recognize the subtler journey I’ve been on this year. I started to see it when I made myself write down all the Things I’ve Done This Year:

1. Attended a 3-day silent meditation retreat
2. Helped start and facilitate a group of women creatives
3. Hosted an experimental collaboration event while visiting NYC
4. Broke up with my boyfriend
5. Moved out of our apartment
6. Lived out of a storage unit for five months
7. Moved into a new apartment
8. Built a wood canoe with my dad
9. Made a multimedia video of building a wood canoe
10. Live-blogged LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph
11. Spoke at Flash Forward Festival
12. Spoke at PartnerCon
13. Started a newsletter
14. Worked with 10+ new clients
15. Taught a class on social media for small business
16. Was a bridesmaid in two weddings
17. Taught cooking classes for my friends
18. Took a workshop on radio interviewing and became friends with The Kitchen Sisters
19. Did a video interview for the Musea Blog
20. Did a video interview for Heather Morton’s speaking tour
21. Was a remote guest speaker for John Kaplan’s social responsibility in journalism class
22. Modeled for a figure drawing class
23. Went to Mexico
24. Joined a Women’s Sacred Dance Circle
25. Went deer hunting with my dad
26. Got a tattoo

When I got to the end of this list, I thought: How could I have thought I wasn’t on a journey (or, equally silly and also something I imagined: that I hadn’t accomplished very much)? Sometimes I just have to write it down before I can see it.

Now that I’m finally settled in a new apartment, with all my things around me and an awesome roommate and a big kitchen for me to cook in, I’m feeling the calm space I need to write again. Possibly even the centeredness I need to commit to writing every day, whether I feel like it or not.

Whether or not writing functions for you as it does for me — to help clarify and process — I recommend taking some time before the end of this year to make a list of all the things you’ve done. Things you don’t do every year, things you did for the first time, things you’re proud of, things that left a mark. On January 1 our eyes will all shift forward, so now’s the time to look backwards, which is often the only way to really know where you are right now.

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11 thoughts on “What did you do this year?

  1. Sounds like quite a journey. Much love to you on your path…may it take you places you never dreamed, and leave your heart brimming with happiness.

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    • You too Iris! Your blog is a real inspiration to me. I’ve been keeping wheat, milk, soy, and sugar-free lately and feel so much better. I hope you’ve had a great year, and a better one to come 🙂

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  2. Yes, journaling has been very important for me especially in times where I’m either stuck or looking to get ideas flowing.  I read The Artist’s Way when I was in college and introduced me to the discipline of journaling.  I wrote 3 pages daily for 12 weeks and it got me to see the value in writing and helped me be get past blocks.  Great post!

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  3. Yes, journaling has been very important for me especially in times where I’m either stuck or looking to get ideas flowing.  I read The Artist’s Way when I was in college and introduced me to the discipline of journaling.  I wrote 3 pages daily for 12 weeks and it got me to see the value in writing and helped me be get past blocks.  Great post!

    Like

  4. “I seem to be able to either experience or write/process, but not both.”
    I hear that, particularly when it comes to traveling. I just want to go, be and do. I can figure out how to write about it later, if I’m so inclined.

    Meanwhile, I really like your style. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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    • Thanks Steve! The only thing I’ve found about writing (at least blogging) while I travel is to liveblog so that I do it while I experience it and then it’s gone and I can’t really edit and it’s not just sitting there in my “notes” for months. Going to try that at SXSW this week….

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  5. Pingback: A Co-Founder, a New City, and Cutting Ourselves Slack | This Starts Now

  6. I saw your video on the canoe built, nicely made!! I read all you did in 2013, but I don’t see a canoe trip in the new canoe… To bad. Hope you will this summer!!
    Cheers
    David

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