Ah, January…one of my favorite months. I’ve always loved the freshness of the year’s first few weeks, particularly after the Christmas decorations are packed and the house is restored to its normal (and now suddenly austere) state and my birthday is celebrated with yet more champagne and frosting. While it’s bittersweet to toss what’s left of the eggnog and perceive the twinkling neighborhood becoming darker every day as holiday lights are taken down and returned to their garage cubbies, I’m always anxious to review my aspirations for the year and start filling in the dates on the blank pages of my new calendar.
My previous New Year posts have conveyed my general aversion to traditional resolution making each January. “Resolutions,” I’ve explained, “have become associated with the incremental elimination of pleasure, such as vowing to stop eating cake or sleeping in on Saturdays rather than going to spin class.” Personally, the New Year has always been a time to reflect on values and priorities, assess how my time is being spent, and make favorable adjustments. Rather than resolving to eradicate or quit doing something that’s ostensibly “bad” for me, I examine and juggle the time slots to try to squeeze more good stuff into each day – like reading and writing.
I’ve spent the last five Januaries preparing for spring classes at Chapman University, studying for the comprehensive MA exam, and writing my MFA thesis. With the MA degree conferred last year and a prudent New Year’s Eve decision to postpone my thesis defense until the fall unregretfully in place, the usual frenetic velocity of the month has slowed, and I find myself with time to read and write at a more leisurely pace.
In preparation for my last MFA class, a delightful independent study on writing about the late eighteenth and nineteenth century English novel, I am reading several of eight works of literature, including Frances Burney’s Evelina, or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778), Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian (1818), and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847). (Refer to the sidebar on the right for the full list of course texts.) I’m also in the middle of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) and perusing recommended reads such as The Master and Margarita and The Story of Ain’t. This first month of the year will pass in the blink of an eye between the pages of Burney, Brontë, et al., and I will relish every passage of this last “required” reading.
And while I’ve deferred my thesis defense to later in the year, my newly revised writing schedule still demands the completion of at least one new chapter and one revised chapter each month. This is a significantly gentler rate than I had originally planned for the completion of my novel, but, after nearly six years of development and gut-wrenching hard work, rushing it now would undermine its potential.
So the New Year begins, and a phase of my life moves toward its inevitable end. My last class, the completion of my novel, and conferral of the MFA degree will define this year as one of the most significant of my life. I have no idea what I’ll be writing about in next year’s New Year post, but I’m sure it will mark another beginning of immeasurable possibilities.