The beginning is the word and the end is silence; and, in between, are all the stories.
This quote, for me, sums up a human life. Each year begins with so many possible stories for each of us, some imagined and some unimagined. By the end of the year, what we have to show for it is a collection of all the stories we experienced/read/wrote/shared. Stories, after all, are what we are made of. When we reach that silent end, we leave, in our wake, our stories to be shared on — whether through our own writing or through the memories of others.
As Jonathan Gottschall wrote in ‘The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human’:
Tens of thousands of years ago, when the human mind was young and our numbers were few, we were telling one another stories. And now, tens of thousands of years later, when our species teems across the globe, most of us still hew strongly to myths about the origins of things, and we still thrill to an astonishing multitude of fictions on pages, on stages, and on screens — murder stories, sex stories, war stories, conspiracy stories, true stories and false. We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.
So, for a few years now, as part of setting my usual personal goals, I have also set specific goals for reading and writing. I may not always hit them but I certainly get closer than when I did not set such goals. And the sense of purpose these goals create is just as essential as the sense of accomplishment. I share these publicly here because other reader and writer friends have often asked me how I am managing to stay on track while they struggle sometimes, given all the chaotic news and events. Of course, I am one of the many struggling creatives as well.
If you’re still wondering why resolution-making at all, I gave my personal rationale last year this time.
2018 Reading Resolutions
In 2017, I managed to read 26 books. This is not my best count ever but, given my typical pace and the amount of stuff I read online, I consider it good. Also, I’m a slow reader. I take notes, I highlight things to revisit, and I write reviews. These take time.
That said, in 2018, I intend to increase that count modestly to 28. But, more crucially, I want to read more of certain kinds of books and have set specific goals within each category. So, for example, I am planning to read more books in translation, more books about India, and more in other non-fiction genres like travel and history. As the years go by, I am more conscious of the relevance of the saying “you are what you consume” — that is to say, the reading we consume to feed our inner lives has a huge impact on both our intellectual and emotional wellbeing.
As with recent years, I will be reading more from my own shelves, particularly old favorites I have not touched in decades. A book, to me, is an actual experience. Coming back to reread one after a long time is a fresh experience because I am a different person from that previous time.
Overall, I also plan to spend more time reading offline rather than online. This is mainly because I find that online reading weakens my attention span. While the jury is still out on whether this is a scientifically provable phenomenon, it has definitely been the case for me. [Note: I am not suggesting online reading is all bad but we have to actively manage it rather than letting it manage us — I’ve written about my social media approach as a writer before here.]
2018 Writing Resolutions
I am hoping for a translation book project to come to fruition in early-2018. If that happens, it will likely take up a good bit of my writing time.
There are two major works-in-progress: a novel and another short story collection. I hope to complete at least one of them in 2018, though I am not tying myself down to a particular one.
One thing I want to work on this year is writing more non-fiction pieces. In particular, I want to focus this writing on literary citizenship work. I wrote a bit about this in 2017. And I have been doing some of that here by highlighting short story writers and poets on a regular basis. That said, I have more ideas and will share as things progress.
Finally, with blogging here: I will aim for a post a week. This may not always be possible due to travel, etc. But I plan to add catch up posts if I miss a week or so.
2018 Word of the Year: Focus
I have also been setting a “word of the year” as an annual theme to help me stay on track. For 2018, it is “focus.” And, somewhat different from prior years, I have chosen a zen parable-like approach with writing the small verse to go along with the theme.
And, with that, I wish you a Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you positive beginnings, fresh experiences, and unimagined joys. And may many magical stories enrich your life and nourish your soul.