In December 2012 I began writing two weeks before the winter solstice and wrote at least 300 words every day — Two Weeks to the Turn, I called it. It was a way to get myself writing every day, and a way to deal with the darkness. I’ve done it every year since and am about to start again.
This year the solstice is on December 21 at 9:49 p.m. EST in New Hampshire, so beginning on Tuesday I’ll write every day for two weeks. Maybe I’ll bump right up against the moment of the turn, pen in hand or fingers on the keyboard. The approaching solstice is a boundary to wrap my intention around. The fact of its own repetition inspires mine.
My father has been taking a photograph of the marshes near where he and my mother live every month for two years now. He’s arranged his favorite photograph from each month of 2014 on a big board, the months labeled on white slips of paper. It’s a terrific piece of art, the whole of the project greater than the sum of each image.
What is it that’s so satisfying about an organizing principle for creativity? I think artists, like me, who struggle to stay in a focused daily practice gravitate towards work that’s gotten done because someone made a commitment to practice creativity every day.
William Stafford got up early every morning for decades and wrote a poem. He wrote that in those early hours “something is offering you a guidance available only to those undistracted by anything else.” In his commitment to the practice, Stafford was “training himself to hear and feel his way back in touch with distant places, ages, epochs,” wrote critic Laurence Lieberman. To get to the deeper level of any art requires training and training requires repetition. It’s how you get better at doing anything.
So I love my father’s photographs and how he’s displayed them. I love that I have two friends who I email every Monday with a writing prompt, and another friend I trade writing with on Mondays, not to be critiqued, but to be accountable to someone to meet a stated goal, 2,000 words a week, or completion of self assigned writing tasks. Practice.
Starting Tuesday, I’ll write at least 300 words every day for two weeks. When I did this two years ago much of it ended up on this blog, my writing organized around an idea from another writer friend who asked me, “With all the sadness that’s underlined your relationship since you met, how do you and David move towards happiness?”
I don’t have an organizing question this year, but I have commitment. I’ve been slacking off on the practice lately and need to get back to it. You’ll be seeing the result here.