PART ONE: Celebrate
Congratulations! We made it, friends. We made it to December 2020.
This is the final PL blog post of the year from me. (I’ll get to the concentrated gratitude in another section, but know that a current of gratitude runs throughout this entire post.)
As a New Year hurtles toward us, it’s tempting to look back and consider what we ‘accomplished’ over this past year. December scrolling reveals an internet rife with Best of awards and Year in Review lists.
I guess that’s what our society does in December?
Are you planning to engage in a Year in Review of your own?
My spouse and I spend every New Year’s Eve reviewing our previous 12 months and then set goals and intentions for the coming year. (This process involves snacks and champagne and occurs in the window between when the kids go to bed at 8:30pm and we go to bed at 10:30. Yes, we are the life of the party.)
The goals we set for 2020 have been subverted, reconfigured or just crossed off the list, so I don’t think we’ll spend much time with those tattered aspirations. Instead, we plan to spend a portion of our two hour window celebrating what we achieved despite this year’s challenges and how we navigated the painful mismatch between our expectations and the reality.
Our New Year’s Eve review has been a tradition for over a decade. It is a celebration of our most recent journey around the sun, and I love it.
Do you have a similar tradition?
Will you reflect on your 2020 writing process?
What will you celebrate?
What will you celebrate with a raised glass, a cheer, a song, a cupcake, or a pat on the back?
Writer friends, my wish is that you find something to celebrate from your 2020 writing journey, no matter the painful mismatch between your expectations and the reality.
If you wrote one idea on a sticky note that fell behind your fridge, celebrate it.
If you wrote three books, a screenplay, your memoirs, and ten stage plays, celebrate those.
If you wrote 15 well-crafted emails to your community list-serv/children’s teachers/doctors/family, then hurrah, celebrate.
If you composed a to-do list that you never checked off, wrote GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE in lipstick on your bathroom mirror, or spelled out WASH ME through the dirt on your car window, that’s celebration worthy.
Maybe you dashed off a few private journal entries that no one ever saw.
Maybe you published 52 blog posts.
Maybe you discovered you are a poet not a novelist and now you write verse.
Maybe you excelled in the chat box on Zoom.
Maybe you spent most (or all) of 2020 just…thinking. Thinking about writing. Thinking about words. Thinking about life.
Maybe you spent most (or all) of 2020 just…feeling. A slew of feelings to carry and process and vent and sit with and burn through.
Maybe you spent most (or all) of 2020 just…existing. Growing, stretching, shrinking, breathing, sleeping, moving, dreaming, working, cleaning, watching, consuming. Maybe you tried on a lot of verbs, and none of them were ‘writing.’
That’s great. Good for you. Celebrate.
Whatever you did or did not do this year, let us celebrate the fact that we are here together.
Let us also acknowledge that the writing process is more than putting words on the paper.
Writing is a spectrum loop of gathering, processing, researching, considering, reading, resting, thinking, talking, revising, and so on. ‘Writing’ contains a multitude of verbs compressed.
When I’m in a snit, when I’m feeling unkind to myself, when I’m feeling competitive or lost, I zero in on quantity — How many pages am I piling up? What’s my word count? How many pieces have I actually published/produced/made public? I zoom in tight on the quantity of the attention I’m getting — How many shares, likes, accolades, and paid gigs have I gotten and is that more or less than what I should be getting and more or less than what other people are getting?
Yes, occasionally I find myself constrained by a very narrow and exacting definition of what it means to write and be a writer, but I’m not going there this year.
I am NOT going there this New Year’s Eve because I know (and you know too) that writing is more global, more flexible, and all-encompassing than that. Writing is about quality too. Putting the words on the paper is only one element. Publishing is only one element. Sometimes we cannot ‘do’ all the writing. Sometimes we can attempt only a few of the verbs under the writing umbrella. That’s to be expected, and that’s ok.
There are so many of us writers, each with a unique perspective, voice, and file drawer of experiences. We may not share those perspectives, voices, and experiences, but we did share this year. We lived through this year as writers, and today I celebrate us. Cheers!
And most of all, most of all, most of all, let us celebrate the future.
Let us celebrate the writing that WE. WILL. DO.
Tonight, I raise my virtual glass to the writing that the future holds for us.
We are walking toward it now.
See, see, see! In the distance!
Stories/poems/plays/essays are patiently waiting for us to arrive, and take their hands, and bring them home.
PART TWO: Whether you are or aren’t
Looking for inspiration for when you’re not writing and for when you are writing?
Here’s a harrowing and inspiring piece by playwright Clare Barron: “Not Writing” by Clare Barron on the Playwrights Horizon website. It contains mature language and content, so beware, but if you are NOT writing, then maybe give it a read.
“….I pray that we lift up the voices that came before us. That we read our old plays and rediscover what’s there. That we allow for people to emerge at all ages. We allow for people to begin at all ages. To quit, and return again. To take breaks. And to come back to us. And we will welcome them with open arms.” ~ Clare Barron
If you ARE writing plays, then I highly recommend this piece by Ellen Lewis: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Play by Ellen Lewis on the Howlround website. I love it, and it invigorated my writing, and I wish I had written it!
“Inspired by Wallace Steven’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” I began thinking about the various ways I look at a play I’m writing, as I’m writing it. Every lens reveals something different.” ~ Ellen Lewis
PART THREE: Gratitude
Thank you for connecting and for your support and encouragement.
Thank you for reading and listening.
Thank you for helping us to build a community during a very isolating and isolated year.
Thank you for celebrating writing. Thank you for the writing you have done and the writing you will do.
Thanks to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, the Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission and United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County for sponsoring the Piedmont Laureate program, and for supporting me during this strange year.
PART FOUR: North Carolina magic
This year, I had the honor of conversing with dozens of amazing local writers, administrators and creatives, as well as co-producing short original audio fiction written by eleven NC playwrights. You’ll see some of that goodness below. I look forward to crossing paths with and showcasing more North Carolina artists and writers in the future — there are so many, and we are so lucky to live in this place of abundant creativity.
Please click on the links below to soak up amazing North Carolina wisdom and work.
(Transcripts available upon request, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Podcasts featuring NC writers and supporters:
- 098: Compassion, Care, and Children’s Lit with Amber Wood, the Storylady
- 100: My Geriatric Uterus with Lormarev Jones, playwright and solo performer
- 101: Supporting North Carolina playwrights with Yvette Holder, the creator of Sips & Scripts
- 104: Autobiographical writing, providing opportunities for Black playwrights, and creative process with theatre artist, Monét Noelle Marshall
- 105: Art and education in times of crisis with Ian Finley, playwright and educator
- 106: Maintaining connections and building community online with Johannah Maynard Edwards of the Women’s Theatre Festival
- 109: What does the Poetry Fox say? Deep connections thru performance writing with Chris Vitiello
- 110: Questions, structure, & digging deep. Diving into creative process with playwright, June Guralnick
- 114: Serving the arts as a business segment with Beth Yerxa of Triangle ArtWorks
- 115: Tap into play with applied theatre artist Amy Sawyers-Williams of See Saw Projects
- 117: The goal is collaboration. Improv & sketch comedy with Jack Reitz of Mettlesome
- 120: Mindfulness, intention, and process with poet and playwright, Debra Kaufman.
- 121: Measuring the mass of a rom-com. Structure, process, and science with playwright Allan Maule.
- 123: Inspiration, dedication, and production with playwright Mark Cornell
- 124: It’s the little things. Small moments, vulnerability and opportunity with writer Cheryl Chamblee.
- 126: XIX: New play development with Jacqueline E. Lawton, JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, Jules Odendahl-James
- 127: ARDEO: Narrative medicine and new play development with Jacqueline E. Lawton and Jules Odendahl-James
- 131: Stillness and kindred support. A conversation with NC Poet Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green
- 132: Collaborative Writing 1: Jesus Pancake (Juliana Finch, Katy Koop, Mara Thomas)
- 133: Collaborative Writing 2: The Last Glacier Hotel (Ian Finley, Allan Maule)
- 134: Goodbye 2020. (Onwards to 2021!)
Original Audio Drama:
- The Gifts We Leave: Declaration of Love Episode 1 (by Michael J. Ivory)
- Game On: Declaration of Love Episode 2 (by Tamara Kissane)
- Agape: Declaration of Love Episode 3 (by Karyn Raynor)
- Stone Flower: Declaration of Love Episode 4 (by Areon Mobasher)
- Love is All I Know: Declaration of Love Episode 5 (by Robin Carmon Marshall)
- Open Book: Declaration of Love Episode 6 (by Jack Reitz)
- Dangerous: Declaration of Love Episode 7 (by Katy Koop)
- Happy Anniversary: Declaration of Love Episode 8 (by Lakeisha Coffey)
- Stretchy Shorts: Declaration of Love Episode 9 (by Tori Grace Nichols)
- Constellation: Declaration of Love Episode 10 (by Aurelia Belfield)
- Always: Declaration of Love Episode 11 (by Thaddaeus Edwards)
- Bonus Episode: A conversation with the producers of the Declaration of Love audio anthology, Aurelia Belfield and Tamara Kissane
- Graphing Conversations (with Carrie Knowles)
- A five step cycle of revision (with Ian Finley)
- There’s a prompt on your bookshelf! (with David Menconi)
Thank you sincerely + best wishes + safe travels wherever your writing journey takes you,