January, Planuary

January 2, 2015 @ 1:45 am | Filed under: , ,

photo (50)

I made a surprising discovery recently: I realized that since moving to San Diego eight (eight!!) years ago, January has become my favorite month. When I lived in the east, I’d have said it was April—early spring, when you walk outside and feel it coming, a freshness in the wind, the redbuds and dogwoods beginning to flower, the daffodils running riot, the tulips jaunty. Oh, I loved that feeling. The Mary Lennox feeling. I’ve never liked the cold, and Eastern winters were much harder than the sunny-cold Colorado days I grew up with: all that lingering, blackening snow, the dull gray skies, the frozen ears and toes. So the first hints of change—the crocuses, the grape hyacinths, the fountains of yellow forsythia in March—exhilarated me. I love change; it makes my blood sing; and the change that meant spring is here was the best of all, even better than after spring had well and truly arrived.

But here in Southern California, our seasons are different. There’s the Season of Blistering Heat, the Season of Glorious Weather (this lasts most of the year), and That One Day It Rained. And the shifts come abruptly and sporadically, without warning. Any given day could be sandal weather or I-really-wish-I’d-succumbed-and-bought-those-boots. And so I realized that the sweet old sense of change in the air I used to associate with early spring now belongs to a shift less weather-related and more cultural. January, the New Year, the season of beginnings and fresh starts.

Looking through my archives I see I’ve rhapsodized about the Fresh Start over and over, this time of year. January is the month when I deep-clean my bedroom (which is also my workspace) and tidy up the garden. I launch projects (don’t we all): Reading Projects or Crafting Projects or Housework Projects. (This year it’s purging the books. I’ve appointed January the month I have a little conversation with every book in the house and discuss its future. For a lot of them, it’s time to head out into the world and seek their fortunes. Local friends, consider yourselves warned.) I love projects. Love planning them out, at least: as Anne would say, there’s so much scope for imagination in the planning stage. Completion is another subject entirely, best reserved for a different essay.

All through December I found myself looking forward to January—enjoying December, of course, which was particularly rich this year, what with my parents visiting and Jane home from school and a long-awaited visit with very dear friends—but enjoying the anticipation of the impending Fresh Start. I spent part of New Year’s Eve answering piled-up email, achieving Inbox Zero just about the time the East Coast entered 2015.

(Spent the rest of it playing Terraria with Rilla after the boys went to bed, while Scott and the other girls watched The Sting. Thus it was that my favorite moment of the holiday was hearing my pixie-like eight-year-old daughter remark, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted a Deathbringer Pickaxe.”)

My one real resolution for the year is to sketch every day, even if only for a few minutes. All my other plans are the sort that will take more determination to pull off, and I’m therefore afraid to spook them by calling attention to them too directly. I’m keeping my Reading Plans quite casual this year—mostly I intend to read whatever strikes me next, and to try to stick to what’s already on the shelves or the Kindle.

I do mean to choose one category of children’s books to focus most deeply on this year; I often fall into a specialization by accident—say, picture books because I read so many to my kids, or graphic novels because I have so many friends publishing them in a given year, or, like 2014, YA Fiction because I’m on a committee. I try to read broadly, of course—middle-grade and YA, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry—keeping reasonably abreast of what my peers are publishing. But I like having a kind of specialty category for the year, one area I can go really deep and try to read everything. As I said, this usually happens by accident; I’m not sure I’ve ever chosen the category in advance. This year I’m having fun thinking about it. Probably it will wind up depending on what kind of ARCs publishers decide to send me, since in the end, that’s the easiest way to keep up with the flood of new books.

alfreddoolittleAs for old books (“old” meaning anything published before this very minute), I have the inevitable nightstand pile, which is much like nightstand piles of previous years. It’s not actually on my nightstand, since I don’t have one, but the pile on my bedroom bookshelf serves that purpose—and the rather staggering queue on my Kindle. I think of these as my Alfred Doolittle books: Books I’m “willin’ to read, wantin’ to read, waitin’ to read.” Books I have probably listed here in the past.

This is also the year I intend to finish Infinite Jest, which may indeed take the whole year.


Resolution—daily sketching

Casual reading plan—Doolittle books + some particular kidlit category

Determination—Infinite Jest

Household project—all the books

Brain food—right now I’m listening to The Sixth Extinction on audio; also a literary lecture series called A Day’s Read (lecture one was on Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” and was pretty good)

Writing goals—I dare not say, but I’ve got them

Blogging goal—the other day, Melanie of A Wine-Dark Sea and I were discussing the upcoming ten-year anniversary of our blogs. Ten! Years! We both began blogging on January 20, 2005—and met in the combox some time later. That anniversary was much on my mind all through December when I blogged so seldom, what with the aforementioned visitors and the holidays and my Cybils reading. This is another thing I’ve been looking forward to with January’s arrival: a return to steady blogging, and a chance to revisit my archives and reflect on what I love about this space and what I want to do more of. So that’s another quiet plan for 2015: a bit of a blogging renaissance.

This got long!

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15 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Ellie says:

    Amazing how influence the weather and climate play … I know for myself, living as I do in a region of clearly delineated and traditional four seasons, my planning-decluttering-refreshing mood swings occur with every change of season. Every few months, there I go again. 🙂 It’s fun. And a bit bemusing.

    Are you liking Sixth Extinction? I do like her books very much. We’ll be including those in Calli and Joshua’s upcoming (tho’ i haven’t decided exactly *when*) Weather & Climate course of study …

    If you’re coming up on ten years, then I am rising nine. Bless.


  2. Ellie says:

    (Forgive wonky grammar — amazing how MUCH influence the weather etc, that should say — have not yet finished the coffee. That’ll teach me … )

  3. kortney says:

    So happy to hear of the blogging renaissance! Your voice here is a treasure.

    I am so jealous that you have Cartooning! It’s on hold at the library….I was *this* close to just being crazy and ordering it from Amazon to have for this winter break. And I had to look very closely to read the title of Illustration School in your photo…now, happily on hold as well.

    And 10 years!

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    Kortney, I have you to thank for Cartooning; I bought Syllabus with my birthday money and read it just in time to grab Cartooning for Beanie. I was a present short for her and it was the perfect addition. The Illustration School books are delightful. That was a Beanie gift too—I keep snagging her presents to enjoy my own self! 😉

  5. Belle Wong says:

    Love reading about your plans for the new year! Just read your comment above – I got Syllabus for Christmas and really really love it. Cartooning is now on my wishlist!

  6. Sheila says:

    Oh, I can FINALLY say this phrase without sounding like a Really Bad Mother: what do you think of the Wall of Death?


  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    I haven’t made it that far yet! So I haven’t seen it. But I can say that my husband has had a few raised eyebrows at the dinner-table Terraria conversations between me and the kids. “So you assemble vertebrae into a bloody spine to summon the Eye of Chthulu!”

  8. Melanie Bettinelli says:

    Doolittle books! I love that name for them.

    I’m feeling like I’m gearing up to tackle some serious reading January always puts me in the mood to start thinking about classic books. I’m not sure which one will be on the slate for this year. Last year I failed miserably at even getting started with Les Miserables. Maybe I’ll set my sights on re-reading Moby Dick. Bella has been bringing me Holling C. Holling’s Seabird quite a bit recently and that puts me in mind of Melville. I also have biographies of Rumer Godden and T.S. Eliot that I got last year and then wasn’t in the mood for at all when they arrived. And Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf. So many possibilities….

  9. Penny says:

    Thank you for sharing your goals – very inspiring, as always. Good luck and Happy 2015!

  10. lesley austin says:

    Happy Fresh Start, Lissa! I liked how you described the looking-forward-to-January feeling in December. I felt it, too. And I, also, want to return to blogging more regularly and in a more everyday-way…something you are so good at. I don’t mean putting up a post everyday, but sharing about the beautiful, everyday details of life.

    Do you have a set time to write here (when you are in the swing of it?). I am fingering the idea of having one for myself this year…