I wrote earlier, in #my3words post, about how so many lovely and well-intentioned messages came my way during the Holidays. Because of some sad events in our community over the past couple of weeks, these emails were a refreshing, positive diversion.
One was from Suleika Jaouad who leads the Isolation Journals (IJ), an on-line writing group I belong to, described as “an artist-led community and publishing platform that cultivates creativity and fosters connection in challenging times”.
Suleika Jaouad started IJ in late March 2020, when Covid-19 was surging. In recovery from a rare form of leukemia for much of her twenties, she was no stranger to isolation, which was now back—this time on a global scale. Suleika wanted to find a way to show people how to use creativity as a “tool for survival” as she had through her illness. At IJ, we “reimagine isolation as creative solitude, small acts of creativity accrue into something much bigger, stories of vulnerability become stories of resilience and strength, and they unite us as a community.”
This community and practice saved me – and many others – during the long days of Covid isolation.
Suleika has travelled a much more difficult road these past few years with her cancer coming back and requiring two bone marrow transplants. Yet, despite this, the IJ community has continued to be bolstered by Suleika and one another with our ongoing efforts to find creativity, beauty and inspiration in trying times. So, Suleika’s email was especially welcome as I struggled to get past what was feeling like a hopeless setback to some of the social justice work I’d been doing.
Suleika wrote: “At the threshold of a new year, I often find myself ruminating about the things I didn’t get done, what I wish I had accomplished, where I need to improve. It’s the voice of my inner critic, a voice I know all too well. To drown out her chatter, I crack the spine of a new journal and reframe the concept of New Year’s resolutions by writing my way through a series of lists.”
I love the idea of silencing that annoying inner critic. Again, there’s hope in that for all of us.
What a glorious prompt to look toward 2023 with a lens of hope, forgiveness, and self-love.
Come along with me as we walk through Suleika’s 5 questions that may lead us to some expected as well as some surprising revelations. There are no wrong answers here. Just truth, forgiveness and I’d like to hope a little faith in what lay ahead.
So here’s my first take on a “5 List”. I’d love to hear yours. Please feel free to share in the comments or send me a note!
My 5 Lists
1. What in the last year are you proud of?
I’m proud of the contributions I’ve made in different circles or I could say “communities” of my life – this includes family, friends, neighbours, social justice, the environment, and the arts. I’ve drawn heavily on the words I heard a few years ago that have helped inform my social mission: Know who you are and how you can help. This has rarely steered me wrong, although the road has not always been easy or even clear!
2. What did this year leave you yearning for?
I haven’t advanced as much as I’d like in publication for my creative fiction and non-fiction work, and marketing for my business, although I did write some things – both personally and professionally, I’m very proud of.
I can blame, or perhaps more fairly, credit this on the fact that I chose a different “good” path for much of my time and energy in 2022 – including both volunteerism, social leadership, and wellness.
Also, my partner and I are both feeling quite lonely in our new home, so missing the kinds of deep and lasting friendships we have with others, but not right here. We understand though, that building relationships like we have over over the years takes time and patience – something the pandemic has taught all of us!
3. What resources, skills and practice can you rely on in the coming year?
I’ll be drawing heavily on my writing groups, which include the Story Republic (a private online community that grew out of a Story Skills workshop I did in 2022 ), Isolation Journals as well as the local Kenora Writer’s Group and other channels as I find them.
These are places I feel safe experimenting with stories for both all aspects of my writing – business, creative fiction and non-fiction and poetry. Maybe this is the year I’ll finally draft that novel that has been rolling around in my head (and heart) for a long time. I’ve also started a poetry manuscript, primarily with my “Isolation” collection. My partner is also “challenging” me in a good way to do more creative writing. That will help and having his feedback is also invaluable.
The world around me is a constant source of stories. Just spending more time noticing more of that, could be a new beginning.
Most importantly, I’ll be drawing more deeply on my own skills for investigating (discovering, reporting, writing) stories and solutions for clients, the social causes I support, and my readers.
4. What’s causing you anxiety?
The isolation is a source of anxiety. I also still worry about being “good enough” to write the novel I’ve also dreamed about. Unfortunately society feeds this. While I’m highly “published” (magazines, websites, etc.), I don’t have the “credentials” (a published manuscript) to be accepted in some of the national writing associations (aka Writers Union of Canada, League of Canadian poets), etc., so can’t benefit from connections and wisdom from those circles. To be frank, I find the criteria for both to be a little too elitist for me (sour grapes maybe?). I’m happy to learn from other great writers I know and groups like those I’ve already mentioned, where I’m safe sharing even my craziest stories and honing my craft.
What are your wildest most harebrained ideas and dreams?
Writing a novel(s) or perhaps a collection of stories that changes hearts and minds on issues related to social justice (racism, poverty, the environment) definitely tops the list and I’m hoping this is my year to find and craft that story.
And while I don’t see this happening in the short term, the wildest idea I’ve always had is travelling to far away places for extended periods of time with my partner (and dogs) where we live, work, write and fully immerse ourselves in other cultures. We may start to dip our toes into this in 2023 with some in-Canada travel that allows us to be near enough for other family commitments.
Who knows where it will take us?
Who knows where any of this will take me?
And what about you?
I’d love it if you’d let me know if this list has unleashed anything for you!
We are always stronger together.