annotations in a new year

It’s the perfume of the fresh year—here, again, smelling like rain, though yesterday brought graupel that took until this afternoon to melt, the thick white pellets like styrofoam or pearl sugar—and no matter the weather, it brings the heady rush of resolution. I’m not strong enough to stop it, not cynical enough to resent it, that freakish freshet of motivation that comes along each year (even if it only comes on the backs of everyone else’s intentions). Maybe I’m grateful it came along at all this year because it was nowhere in sight on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

So what have I done? Some writing I won’t talk about, not because it’s exciting or special and in need of guarding, but because I don’t feel like I’ve anything new to say. It’s only carrying on. That’s the goal where my fiction is concerned: carry on.

But there is this: for the first time in my many-journalled life I have a) begun using a journal within a week of being gifted it b) begun a reading journal. What precipitated second element was a re-reading of Rose Tremain’s 1989 novel Restoration, which I first read in graduate school, I think. It’s the I think that troubles me. I don’t remember when I read it (to be honest, grad school wasn’t a great time for remembering what I read unless I wrote a paper about it), and I don’t remember what, particularly, I thought of it at the time save I enjoyed it. In the same period, I read a lot of Rose Tremain’s work, and I’m delighted to find that there’s still more I haven’t read. Among those new ones is Merivel: A Man of His Time, which is a direct sequel to Restoration. So before I finished my re-read of Restoration, I resolved that I would write about my reading, perhaps because Sir Robert Merivel is a man of many resolutions (so very frequently broken). We’re not alike in many ways, I think, me & Sir Robert, but we both do like a good enthusiasm for an idea and spend a lot of time idealizing said ideas in our minds, so here we are, a little idealism in action:

The blue one is the reading journal; the green one, given to me by my sister-in-law & her boyfriend, has thus far managed to be a daily diaristic endeavor. You might say slow your roll, friendo, it’s only the 8th of January. Yes, it’s a bit early to be celebrating anything, but the last time I managed a week of personal writing I was thirteen and my journal had a tiny lock and a tiny key. This whole endeavor was kickstarted by my turn-of-the-year malaise: I wrote in the green journal because I didn’t want to let the first of the year go by without having written anything on that day. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s post on the new year spurred me toward it, elucidating as she did her family’s many New Year’s traditions, one of which being to make sure you do, on New Year’s Day, a little of everything you hope to be doing in the new year. I don’t really have any particular traditions for that holiday. I don’t like eating any of the traditional foods for the day (I know, I know), and we no longer have a major family reunion on January 1. All I ever want to do is have quiet: a book, many blankets, some hockey, maybe some videogames. But that I was sorely tempted to let the whole day pass without setting down a word felt wrong. So I wrote, and though it was barely more than a paragraph, I made myself write down a few things that had been troubling me about the strange dead air in my brain: I named the feeling on the page.

To be honest, it’d been a while since I wrote anything. Too long, like I’d forgotten how. From the semester’s end, I left for London, where I had a wonderful time but got sick, spent all of Christmas Day in airports, and spent the entire following week in an exhausted, confused fog. In the planned version of my winter break, I was writing 2000 words a day, spending afternoons working on syllabi at a leisurely pace.

Mice, men, ganging aft agley & all that.

And a few fallow weeks, all told, isn’t the writing disaster I imagine it to be. I’m trying to get better at remembering that. It comes back. I named the feeling, saw it in my own ink, and it dissipated.

So. Here we are, a handful of days shy of the semester, and things are getting done. They always do. But more than that, they’re getting done beside good books. It was good to go back to Tremain’s work, and to read more of Naomi Novik, and to read some fantasy novels a student recommended in advance of an independent study we’re doing. I’ve written about all of them in my little notebook, not proper reviews or anything like that, but enough that when I want to go back, I’ll know what I thought. As we head into 2019, perhaps my chief resolution is to remember to remember.


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