There’s something about turning the calendar to a new year that’s ripe for resolution. Out with the old, in with the new, to use a cliché, is liberating. My resolution is change for the sake of joy.
Last year the greatest book a friend shared with me was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I assure you, there’s been no great decluttering in our house. As I write this I’m knee deep in stuff that I’d love to shove in a Dumpster without regard.
My failure at tidying aside, a single concept in that book resonated: the idea that things in your life spark joy. It was life-changing to think I didn’t have to live with that dress/purse/succulent plant collection that didn’t spark joy. That indeed those things may have sparked dread whenever I happened upon them.
Then a second book made me laugh, but had a similar effect. Sarah Knight’s Kondo send up is called: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do. Same concept applied to the bigger picture. Once you’ve got rid of that stuff weighing down your soul, it’s time to stop giving your limited time, money, energy (or fucks in her parlance) to stuff that doesn’t bring joy.
I’ve had these realizations before. Who hasn’t? When you quit that job that had hung around your neck like an albatross. Or got out of that toxic relationship that hadn’t sparked joy for five, ten, or fifteen years. These insights coupled with a third lesson that was a long time coming.
It’s about change. Institutions don’t change. People don’t change. Most things don’t change. Ah, that’s a pessimistic view. But not entirely untrue. What I mean to write, is that change is slow. Often achingly slow. That new leader who says he’s going to change the culture of the country, the state, the hundred year old organization is to be applauded. But that doesn’t mean we should hope to wake up three mornings from now expecting some huge difference like high speed rail, universal healthcare, or the boss who’s stopped worrying about metrics.
If organizations are slow, sometimes I think people are slower. Waiting for the author who asks for daily favors to draw boundaries, may be a wait in vain. Pessimistic writers who bombard your inbox with statistics about on lowering advances, lowered royalties, and the death of publishing will continue to do so. That doesn’t mean you have to read those e-mails or jump in to those interactions. Between the stuff, the time I’ve dedicated to things unimportant to my purpose, and lack of boundaries have stolen a lot of the pleasure from writing.
For many more years than I’ve been published, writing was my joy. Last year I noticed those moments of joy were fewer and farther apart. All the other stuff got in the way: wondering if I’d tweeted enough. Had I updated my Instagram feed? Were my tumblr and Facebook profiles linked. Then there were the e-mails: Can you take time from your writing to do…? Did you know the sky is falling and other tales of the death of the publishing industry came through as well.
This year I resolve to write with joy. Have more joy. Get rid of the rest.
First, I’m working to declutter my inbox. There’s no reason I should receive fifty e-mails before seven a.m. I’ve also liberated myself from too many deadlines. Meandering through a story, meeting characters, weaving themes together. That’s what used to propel me out of bed in the morning. What I looked forward to after exercise, before yoga, and in between meals. I want that back.
Others may not change, but to keep joy alive, I’ll need to.
Sylvie Fox is the author of In Plain Sight, Qualified Immunity and The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author of Unlikely, Impasse, and Shaken from the first two books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don’t Judge Me, and The Secret Widow from the Judgment series. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.