I’m into my fifth year of writing this blog and have averaged well north of one hundred twenty posts a year. I’ve written through times of joy and grief. I’ve posted during periods of personal unrest and bursting creativity. I’ve complained and celebrated, praised and pilloried. I’ve carefully researched and carelessly spouted. But for the first time since I’ve started, I’ve gone more than two weeks without writing a post.
Have I run out of ideas? No. But I did take a step back in order to reset, and the start of a new year seemed like the best time to do it. Not that I’ve made some kind of New Year’s resolution. As I wrote in January 2021:
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions—there are just too many to choose from. But I do think of the new year as a fresh start, and I’ve also been thinking recently about how to “bring out the best in me.”
I’ve thought about what I want out of this year. One thing I want is to be intentional about how I spend my time. Two weeks in, here’s how I’ve been spending it. I’d also like to know what you’ve been up to, so please email me at email@example.com and let me know what’s happening in your life.
Always first on the list. Owen has been home for the past month after completing his first semester in the Forestry program in New Haven, and Julia seems to be humming along at her job as a dietitian in a PACE program that helps keep people out of nursing homes and living in their own homes. Harriet might be retired now having not worked since July, which makes me the beneficiary of some excellent home-cooked meals and her daily presence. Time is limited. Every day I have with the four of us is a day I savor.
Yeah, still doing it. I ran into a brick wall last year on a novel I was writing. This year I intend to bash through the wall, or scale it, or circumvent it. Or have it topple on top of me. That’s all I can say because there is a gag order imposed on me not to speak about works in progress. If I’m still capable of making something better than it is, I’m not ready to show it to anyone else.
I’m also planning on publishing a new novel this spring: The Suitor. I have shared this work with early readers and the word that keeps coming back is “compelling.” I’ll take it. Read the first chapter here.
I’ve put in a few intense days on behalf of a client I write for and expect to do more of the same. It’s challenging and interesting work that I feel good about. I’ll also be dipping my toes into substitute teaching at our local high school next week. I’ve taught plenty of college writing classes, but can I connect with high school students? I’ll soon find out.
I hadn’t gone bowling in years, and it showed. I managed a 149 in one game, and that was by far my best score of the day. I don’t know what to do other than take aim and roll the ball down the alley and hope for the best. In a realm I’m more familiar with, I got to hit some tennis balls with Owen when we made a trip to Florida to visit Harriet’s indomitable mother, Phyllis Jaffe. Given that I haven’t played tennis in months due to shoulder and elbow injuries, I could have felt a lot worse than I did. How far away is good weather?
In terms of basic exercise, I was the beneficiary of a weight bench as a birthday gift from Julia. Now I’ve added a few new exercises to my routine. You might not recognize me the next time you see me I’ll be so buff.
Then there was “Stick & Puck” at the Y. I let Owen skate circles around me and practiced my slap shot and stick handling, which meant pucks lost and shots off target. Oh, did it bring back the glory days! I didn’t feel as awful as I expected to.
I’m a traveler by foot: preserves, mountains, Five Rivers. We took a hike up Vroman’s Nose in Middleburgh to take in a magnificent view of the Schoharie Valley. Unfortunately, Harriet slipped on a patch of moss at the top, stuck out her arm to break her fall, and in doing so broke her wrist. She had to tough it out and hike down the mountain. She chose a purple cast. Very attractive. Goes well with a lot of her wardrobe.
I’m not a heavy drinker but do enjoy a drink while making dinner or with friends. For me, the idea of Dry January is to test if I feel any differently mentally or physically. I did the same last May and didn’t notice any changes. Two weeks in this time, I’ve drawn the same conclusion. It’s not that hard, but the French gimlet I made for Harriet last night looked mighty tasty. I’ve noticed that I haven’t socialized at all this month, but I think everyone is kind of burned out after the intensity of the holiday season. I miss some close friends.
Whenever I travel, I take a book I’ve read in the past because I find it hard to delve into new fiction when my routine is disrupted. This time it was The Great Gatsby. It’s such a timeless novel, touching on our desperate desire for success and our tendency to idealize the past. That elusive green light is always shining out there—it will never burn out.
I continue to read short story submissions for the literary journal Ploughshares. My job is to reject a story or to pass it on to senior editors at the journal. To be honest, it’s beginning to wear on me. Of the 250 or so submissions I’ve read, I’ve had to reject almost all of them. I think I’ve passed on five to the senior team.
Somehow the Bills managed to run the table over the last five games of the season and secure the number two seed in the AFC playoffs. I’m convinced there is only one team that can beat the Bills, and it’s the Bills themselves. And at some point they always do, perhaps as soon as this weekend. In Josh we trust?
I won’t say Happy New Year, because I believe the window for that has closed, at least according to Larry David.