Keep CalmFebruary has been here for more than seven days and I didn’t even know it.  She never knocked, never poked her head around the door with a yoo-hoo. She simply crept in and made herself at home.

In starting this year of tiny steps toward a bigger life, January brought happiness. I achieved my sole goal for the month, to sit my ass in a chair each and every day and write. There were times I couldn’t wait to get to work, other times I sat and cursed myself for turning on the Self-Control app. Mornings when I drove to the library with a knot of despair in my stomach over not knowing where the scene I was writing would go. And the day I wrote 700 words of shit in order to find that one, perfect sentence that rang through my head with the force of a cathedral bell.

I’ve been thinking about what I want this year of writing to mean to me. The hard work, nose-to-the-grindstone part of it will not be the most important thing, but rather the increased awareness of the process itself.

What if I could project myself into the future, to a time when I might look back and say I wish I could tell my past self what I now know? I think I would tell myself three things:

1. Treat Time with the same devotion you give to your lover. You always have Time, it never leaves your side. It’s the attention you give Time that makes the difference in how your life will unfold as a writer. Fall in love with Time, for although it’s always with you, it’s only with you for as long as you are here on this planet. Think about the end of your life, with a plan to go out in a blaze of thunder and lightning that tells the world you and Time had one of the greatest love affairs in the history of the Universe.

2. Just when you think you’ve gone deep enough, go deeper. Strive for ecstasy, the ecstasy of prying and pulling the most painful feelings and memories from the darkest recesses of your guts so that your characters can live fully on the page. Good storytelling is only the beginning; it’s when you stand naked, with your fears and joys and longings and pain hanging out of every orifice, that your writing will mean something to readers.

3. There is no lion. You are a human being, conditioned to protect yourself from being eaten. But there is no lion, no tiger, no bear. There is nothing to run away from. This is fiction writing, creating a reality that is all your own and therefore can never be wrong. You will not die from putting anything you want to down on the page. Fly in the face of the human condition. Acknowledge the fear, then do it anyway.

I like the future me. Let’s see if February does as well.