by S.L. Hulen
In the middle of the night it slipped in, spreading over unfinished manuscripts and the sticky notes that line my office wall like the gauzy layer of dust left by an Arizona monsoon. Another year.
For many, a new year brings endless possibilities; resolutions made while staring into a glass of glittering champagne, promises to loved ones. It’s the grand opportunity to reboot your life, isn’t it?
But for writers, the New Year can bring a sense of frustration. It’s that sinister voice inside our heads that whispers “Another year and you haven’t finished!” That small voice is increasingly troublesome, catching me squarely between the shoulders each time I exchange minutes in the chair for something that sounds like fun. Today is only the fourth of January and so far it has ruined half-time, a musical performance, and several much-needed hours of sleep.
“I’ll start on Monday,” I say with a measure of defiance. After all, this past year I skirted some major obstacles in my writing, didn’t I? Starting on the first day of a new week of a new year sounds perfect. I’m even looking forward to it – really I am.
Finding inspiration can be the hardest part of writing. Often they seem so disparate and the more I attempt to find it, the weaker my storytelling gets. But I’ve found a lethal weapon in this battle that I’d like to share and I hope it works as well for you.
I’m well into my fifties now and still haven’t decided whether I’m a cook who writes or a writer who cooks. To be honest, I came about both my passions at roughly the same time, about age seven. I remember making one of those Chef Boyardee pizzas that came in boxes, watching the dough rise, sprinkling on the pitifully small package of grated parmesan cheese, and feeling that I’d created a masterpiece. It was as good an escape as any novel, and throughout my life, these two passions have played a game of tug-o-war with my time and attention.
I began to notice that when I really needed to concentrate on a scene, I’d find myself in the kitchen, working a pile of dough where, miraculously, the story details came. It was pure magic.
I’m certainly not saying that everyone should bake, but most writers have something else they love to do. Sometimes it’s just a walk, enjoying the weather that the rest of the country pines for. There are a million things to be interested in, and I believe writers are naturally curious. As adults we’re so task driven that we forget that creativity comes from letting our minds wander. Give yourself some time and something to do that lets you imagine.
The new year is so often about resolving to take away: pounds, bad habits, alcohol, you name it and we’re promising to do with less of it. This year I’m resolving to make more. More time to let my mind wander, more time in the chair, more time with fellow authors from Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion, which I hope leads me to more of the life I envision. Not less, I tell myself when those dust particles of dread settle around my pillow at night. I will have more. I make this promise with a single sentence that grabbed my attention while making cinnamon rolls this weekend. This single sentence caught me during the third rise of my rolls, rendering all other resolutions passé.
The promises you must keep are the ones you make to yourself.
Here’s hoping that your 2016 is filled with more.
Born to an American aerospace engineer and a Mexican mother who met in the flower shop of the famed Hotel Sylvia’s in Ciudad Juarez, the complexities of life on the border heavily influenced S.L. Hulen’s upbringing. She is a lifelong resident of the Southwest, using its flavors, history and mysterious locations as the setting for her first novel, Misplaced.