Get Mentally Ready for a Happy, Creative New Year–It isn’t too late!
Both year-end reflection and new-year planning are important, and I really believe there is tremendous value in doing these things with a creative lens, focusing on our creative successes (for example) or projects completed and creative goals for the new year. This makes our creative lives more tangible, more real. When we give time and conviction to the importance of our creative selves, we validate them in ways that I think are invaluable, necessary, and so very important.
I hope you make time for these steps for you. Even if it feels like you are behind or are not in the right space or don’t yet know the answers…. I encourage you to stop, reflect, think, dream, imagine, and wonder. Take a candid look at the exiting 2019 and then look ahead, eyes open, at the year to come and the creative life you want.
In looking back, it seems that last year in December, I was in a similar headspace to this year. Back in 2017, maybe I was more on top of things as the end of the year and start of the new year came into view. I don’t remember it that way, but my post from 2018 suggests it. What I remember about 2017 is an unexpected hospitalization the week of Christmas that delayed Christmas. It delayed it only a day, but that moment is the flag in the sand for me for that year’s holiday. It seems strange to know that that year I felt more on top of the December month overall.
Last year, I was sick during the holidays, which really hampered my ability to reflect on the year. I remember trying desperately to muster the energy to read The Bullet Journal Method (which I had on hold forever and wanted to read even though I’ve been following Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal techniques for years). This year, I don’t have the same excuse. (Winter colds are in my house and making their way through us one by one. So far, I am the last hold-out. I have my fingers crossed, but with every sneeze, every tissue, every playing card touched and passed, every cough into a hand rather than an elbow, every rogue water bottle I finish off, I do a mental grimace. Even preparing this post, I have an inkling that I am writing against time and trying to get a step ahead of the cold I seem sure to get!)
So this year, the parameters are different, but I am somehow feeling even less connected to December than I ever remember, even farther away from my year-end reflection and new year planning. I think back fondly of years past when I would do podcasts in December by the glow of the holiday lights in my office. I think back to years in which I did lots of December drawing and years where I made lots of handmade gifts and even years in which I was mostly done with holiday preparations well in advance (which I think is key to really being able to enjoy the 10-12 days before Christmas).
This year, I’m scrambling with work and realizing that I really always have this much work, it just looks different when I also have company and feel guilty that I am working all day and really have to. I’m also keenly aware that trying to take off even a few half-days and the major holidays means that so much work has to be done in advance. There hasn’t been anything calm about the days of December, and work, really, is at the heart of it. (Has something changed? Is it really different this year?)
Many of my friends in online spaces have been busy wrapping up their year and planning the new year. In truth, I like to do those things after Christmas. But I’ve felt the pressure and stress of seeing others jumping into these processes early in December. There’s the sense that I’m late to the party, that everyone else is already in process, that I’ll never catch up. I’m reminding myself to breathe. December 26 is a great day to start these reflective processes. It could even be December 28 or 30 or even 31! It even works to do your year-end reflection on the last day of the year and start your planning January 1. (Really! That is okay!) As the pressure of the holidays and the final days of the year builds, I urge you to stop and take a breath. There isn’t a deadline (not really). And it doesn’t have to be the reflective version of Christmas decorations appearing in stores before Halloween. It’s okay to enjoy your holiday and then start your reflection and planning. It’s great if you are able to do things earlier, but I know this panicky feeling I have inside me is because everyone else is doing things earlier and earlier. (Maybe I am imagining that Susannah Conway’s awesome and generous Unravel Your Year and WOTY guides were earlier this year, too?)
So I haven’t done anything yet in terms of planning other than think, just a bit, about the coming year and a word of the year (WOTY). (And I’ve been adding books to a “To Read” list.) Other than that, I am hoping to find pockets of time in the next week to do “enough” so that I feel like I stopped, make some notes, and captured a snapshot (snowglobe-like in many ways) of the year that has been…. and really think about the year to come. I am mid-way through my 50 Before 50 year, and so my thinking about 2020 will partly fall within the framework of that. But I’ve also been thinking about soup. The idea didn’t leave me. I did joke about baked donuts, but I do have a stack of soup cookbooks checked out from the library. I haven’t looked at them yet. I may not even make a list. But I am still contemplating rolling into the year with this project.
Over the next week, I will also work on an end-of-year sketchnote, which I hope will be a tradition I maintain in coming years. It builds upon year-end reflection but takes that data and visualizes it. I find it a meditative two-step process to gather the data with simple answers and then to illustrate, in some way, the creative year. (I hope you might join me with your own year-end sketchnote of your creative year!)
In 2017, I came up with a set of questions for thinking about the coming/new year. I am going to use them again this year. These pair up as a logical follow to my year-end creative review questions. This set of questions is specifically for planning your creative year. Nothing you write here is set in stone, but your answers to these questions may help you see the big picture of your year or identify the direction you want to take or changes you may want to consider.
Note: I didn’t alter the questions for this year. I am just going to use them, as they are, as a touchstone and starting point for thinking about a fulfilling, rewarding, healthy, balanced, and exciting creative year in 2020.
Sorting Out My Plan for a Creative Year
- What is your topmost creative goal for the year?
- Are you doing a daily or 365 (total) project? If so, what is your plan?
- Do you have other “daily” creative tasks/goals planned? List them.
- Do you have “weekly” creative tasks/goals planned? List them. (“Weekly” means you hope to do x once a week.)
- Do you have “monthly” creative tasks/goals planned? List them. (“Monthly” means you hope to do x once a month.)
- Do you plan to participate in any monthly challenges? List them by month.
- What projects or explorations do you plan to do (other than any 365 or monthly challenges)? List them in order of interest or planned sequence.
- What projects, not yet listed, are bucket list projects that you would like to and/or “might” work on this year?
- Of your bucket list projects, which one is more important to you?
- Is there an area, material, or medium you would like to explore? (If so, what?)
- Do you plan to take classes or workshops this year? If so, list them.
- If you have multiple “daily” creative goals, look at your list and estimate how much time they might take (all together).
- Is this amount of time possible in your day? (If not, return to the “daily” list and really look closely at what you want to do daily versus, for example, weekly or monthly.)
- How do you “feel” when you look at your list of projects? (If your list inspires anything less than positive thought and excitement, you may need to reevaluate your list! If your list overwhelms you, definitely look again!)
- Does your list of projects and goals/tasks allow room for discovery, flexibility, and “new” projects that will arise? If not, look closely at your list to make sure you have flexibility.
- What one goal can you meet this month to make you feel good about your creative life? (You should repeat this question in advance of every month.)
- What is your word for the year? (If you don’t know yet, what words are you considering?)
- How do you summarize your creative life or art to someone else? (1-3 sentences.)
- How does that summary make you feel?
- What makes you happiest or brings you the most satisfaction in your creative life?
- What would you like to change about your creative life?
- What steps can you take to bring about that change?
- How will you keep yourself on track this year to meet your goals for your creative life?
A podcast in early 2019 really summarizes my approach to starting off the year with “all the things” (e.g., “all the projects”) and seeing what sticks. You might like this one, even if you’ve heard it before.
Good luck, and Happy New Year!