My Year of Hope

Once again it’s New Year’s Eve. I’m spending the evening enjoying my NYE traditions: movies (Star Wars marathon this year), snacks, writing-in the new year, and of course, plenty of introspection.

2016 has been a whirlwind ride. I suppose every year seems like it goes faster than ever, but this year truly sped by. I barely know where it went. Looking back over the year, I can’t help but wonder what I have to show for it.  There were bright moments and struggles.  I’ve made a little progress in some areas, but ultimately I can’t help feeling I’m in exactly the same place I was last year at this time.

I never make New Year’s resolutions.  I often think back over the year past and the year ahead. Sometimes I think about goals, but I refuse to make promises to myself I know I probably won’t keep.  This year, I’m choosing a different approach.  I am giving my new year a theme.

hope

I am claiming 2017 as my year of hope.  My focus in the coming days, weeks, and months will be on finding and embracing the things that give me hope: people, stories, music, activities.

This may be much more challenging than I anticipate. Hope seems to be in short supply in our world just now.  Anger, fear, and uncertainty seem to hold sway, their cacophony drowning out the subtle whisper of brighter things.  Still I will search for it. I may have to dig deep, seeking beneath the surface to find the hope that is carefully guarded in some hidden place. I’m sure I will have to continually remind myself to be on the lookout for each and every glimmer.

When I look at all my favorite books, songs, and movies, most of them have a theme of hope against insurmountable odds. All my favorite characters, my heroes, are those who hold on to hope, who create hope even in the darkest hours. I may not be very heroic, but I’m going to do my best to be that person who sees the hope.

There is never a guarantee, where hope is concerned; hope touches the edge of dream, but it is not a simple dream. It wants work, and sometimes it is bitterly painful – but no life is lived for long without it.
~Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flame

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Calling it a Month – An Amazing Month

It’s the end of November, and once again, thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who haven’t followed me long enough to have picked that up by all my blabbering about it), I – along with so many others –  have accomplished something extraordinary.

Each year, thousands of writers (we call ourselves WriMos) from all over the world  set out to achieve the impossible. Officially, the goal is to write a novel (defined as 50,000 words or more for the purposes of quantifying the unquantifiable) in a month. What we really do, whether we achieve that 50K, keep right on going to 100K or more, or only manage to squeeze out a few thousand, is so much more.

Fueled by ridiculously high amounts of caffeine and ridiculously low hours of sleep, we struggle to put what we so vividly see in our own minds into words that will someday let you see it too (that is, after we get around to editing, tearing apart, re-editing, shredding, and editing again).  From blank pages or blank screens, we create cities, worlds, or entire universes. We populate them with characters we hope to introduce you to someday, and hope you’ll love (or love to hate) them as much as we do.  Our characters fight us, sometimes. Then we fight back, or choose to follow where they lead.

It’s a journey, a discovery, an epic adventure.  We meet others along the way, other WriMos with similar challenges but often very different paths. Some are planners – outlining (or snowflaking) every detail meticulously in advance. Other are pantsers – starting the month with a blank page and heading wherever the wind (or the main character) takes them. This year a third category has been added, the plantsers – who do a little bit of both (this is the category I fell into this year).

These are the real heroes, gathering in coffee shops and libraries, or on-line forums and chat rooms, to challenge and encourage each other. We hunt for raptors and tease the chat-room bot. We stare at the table-hogs at Starbucks until they surrender the highly-sought-after power outlets to us. We laugh over silly, you-had-to-be-there jokes (like pirates and cat-allergy warnings). When life gets in the way, and it always does, we offer shoulders and listening ears.

Most importantly, we press each other forward towards the unreachable. And we reach it. We’re exhausted, our wrists hurt, and we’re pretty sure we’re writing absolute garbage at times, but one by one we make it, with the others cheering us on.

This year in particular, I’ve been blown away by the WriMos of our region. Time after time, I’ve watched this group come together, in person or on line, and offer friendship and support in beautiful and surprising ways.

I love writing. Always have and always will. But our little community of writers has taken what would have been a wild, fun ride and turned it into an incredible adventure.

One hundred and three thousand words, and I’m calling it a month.  And not just “a” month: An Amazing Month.

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