Last fall I walked into a little shop in downtown St. Helena that sold all sorts of kitchen trinkets and housewares. On a side table there was a stack of literary-minded things like mugs with quotes, notepads, and a coaster with this wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
I snapped a photo, recorded it in my journal for safe keeping, and ever since then, the phrase “guard well your spare moments” has reverberated in and out of my consciousness. So as a new year gets underway, I’d like to offer it up as a mantra to you and to me.
After all, spare moments—or “margins” as I call them—are the spaces where words are written. Some days there are three sentences, others three paragraphs. The quantity doesn’t matter. What does matter is showing up, listening in, and taking advantage of the time you have, however small it seems.
5 minutes in a parking lot
12 minutes after the baby falls asleep
22 minutes on your lunch break
30 minutes in the morning, before your family wakes up
A glorious, full hour on the airplane
These are margins. And if you guard these spare moments well, by the end of the year they will have become a mountain. You’ll be able to look back and see the trail you forged—scraps of poems, finished stories, drafted book proposals, blog posts, essays, and all the rest of it. All you have to do is start today, and follow up the next day, and the day after that.
The Whirlwind of Autumn
The end of 2018 was a bit of a roller coaster for me and my family. After nine months of pondering, researching, planning, and a weeklong, whirlwind house hunting trip, we landed outside Raleigh, North Carolina just before Christmas. From November to January, there wasn’t much of a routine to speak of. We were all between things—jobs, homes, holidays. I felt simultaneously happy and peaceful about the whole thing, yet strangely uncomfortable in a house that wasn’t fully unpacked, in a town I hadn’t fully explored.
Fall was all about transitions and getting our bearings again. Now it’s winter, and although the freshness of a crisp January often makes us inclined to get right on those resolutions and set wheels in motion, I think the true gift of the season is to start off slow.
Yes we can dream, and we should. But we can ease in without rushing, take our time, and let all the familiar trappings and energy of new year festivities fall away. How about embracing the quiet, and moving at whatever pace feels good to you? Yes, let’s do that.
What to Expect From Wild Words in 2019
Now on to Wild Words and the plans I have for this space in 2019. Since becoming a parent, I’ve become accustomed to reaching for the stars early on, then reigning in the ambition as I head back to Earth. I’m talking about pruning, pulling back, and focusing my efforts on the most essential tasks in light of life’s other responsibilities. Here’s my loose plan to shape the year.
I launched the site in October during a five-week window between book edits, and knew I’d be taking a bit of a break around the holidays. Now I’ll be blogging on a more regular cadence and funneling a lot of the content through my weekly newsletter.
Speaking of the weekly newsletter, not much will change there. After a little refresh last fall, you can look forward to weekly Wednesday letters throughout the year. When I publish a new blog post, I’ll tie the week’s letter to that topic with a link out to the full post. This is all in an effort to work less like a content machine and more like a sustainable writer.
Our private Facebook group is the biggest priority when it comes to social media—that’s where we build relationships and where all the good conversations really happen. A new Pinterest account will continue to grow as the blog posts increase, too, but I’m not planning to launch any campaigns on new platforms at the moment. (You can read more about my decision making process here.)
I’ve been training to become a yoga nidra facilitator, and an online course to share it with fellow writers has been brewing. I can’t wait to share more about this with everyone, hopefully in the early spring!
Perhaps the biggest news for 2019 is the Wild Words book will finally be here! I’ll start working on all the launch content in spring and summer, and prepare for its big debut in the fall. A launch team will be rounded up later on, so stay tuned for more.
2 Simple Questions to Shape Your Writing Year
When it comes to your own writing hopes and dreams, here are a two questions to ask:
What would I like to do?
How can I make it easier?
Here are some examples of what I mean.
Maybe instead of one story per month, you draft one story every two months.
Maybe instead of one blog post per week, you post twice per month.
Maybe instead of seven pre-order bonuses with your book launch, you create three. And along those lines, you pull back in other areas (like meeting a reading quota) to focus on sending your creation into the world.
Maybe instead of reading a book a week, you simply read until the book is done, then start on another.
Maybe instead of sending work to journals consistently, you pick three times a year to submit a batch.