Old habits, new resolve


Source: The New York Public Library digital collections

It’s one week into 2016 and already my old habits nibble at the edge of my new resolve despite extraordinary effort to the contrary. But this isn’t an essay about failing, or falling short or even self-recrimination.

Instead it’s a piece about hope. And intention. And turning back to the things that bring my life joy and fulfillment, curiosity and comfort.

How do I want to spend my days? What work, aside from the daily business of living, brings meaning to my life, enhances it, rewards my passions and in some small way – or dare I dream a larger, more significant one – contributes to someone else’s life, enhances their point of view or opinion, maybe offers a new perspective that might make someone consider something in a different way?

I think often about what I want this space to be. Like most writers, I love to read about process, and daily routines and time management tips that I’m sure will make me more productive and, yes, PUBLISHED. I’ve had some success: an essay here, my most popular post here, my own magazine of which I’m extremely proud. I belong to a writing group, whose members are friends and whose input and advice I value more and more as we continue to travel our writing paths. I’m also a huge fan of Story Studio Chicago, a welcoming home for writers whose instructors encourage, guide and push when necessary, and who provide validation that our work matters.

Yes, writing takes a community but ultimately it’s the act of one – one woman, alone at her keyboard or with a pen and a sheet of blank paper – that brings the words forth. It’s knowing the solitary thrill of writing that one perfect phrase, of explaining how I felt at that one singular moment, of telling the story precisely, exactly the way I want.

That moment of knowing that yes, I got it right, is the zen of creating. It’s why we all keep writing, even after months or years of not doing it but thinking about it all the time until one day you’re watching The Thin Red Line on Starz and checking Twitter, and the music Terrence Malick chose to underscore his movie draws you to Pages and the blank screen and you start writing again. And you decide you want to keep writing and not give up because how could you? What else would I do?

Stories matter, the real ones and the made-up ones and all the ones in between. That’s where I want to be, creating them and sharing them, and that’s my hope for this new year. I promise to keep writing and I hope you keep reading. I’ll do both, and let’s share what we discover along the way.

Filed under: Writing

About the Author

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Ellen Fowler Hummel is a writer specializing in creative nonfiction and the occasional short story. She is co-founder and managing editor of mutterhood.com, an online magazine featuring original nonfiction writing and photography.