In our household, yesterday and today mark the start of a whole new year! And whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year’s) or not, there are lessons that can be applied by writers looking forward to improvement in the upcoming year of 5775
Here are my Rosh Hashanah writing tips…
Hopefully, you have already made progress on the resolutions you made back on January 1st (that other New Year’s). If not, take this opportunity to rededicate yourself in the fourth quarter of CY2014.
It’s not even October yet, so there’s still time to lose those 20 pounds, finish that manuscript, jog five miles a day, send out those query letters, floss regularly, register for a conference, stop smoking, and this time make it stick!
Or just pick one or two of the above and give it all you’ve got while there’s still some year left to work with. If you didn’t make a writing resolution this year, what about joining a community of blogging middle grade authors? (Hint, hint!)
Even if you’ve been sleepwalking through 2014, it’s not too late because you have…
The shofar is a symbol that you might have seen on Rosh Hashanah cards in the Hallmark Store. It’s a musical instrument from the days when the horn section played on actual horns–the bone-like projections from the head of a ram, removed, shaped, and polished to horny perfection.
The sound of the shofar was meant as a wake-up call, because those were also the days before digital alarm clocks. To begin your new writing year, you will also need a metaphorical wake-up call.
Pick a sound that represents your dreams for the next year. It might be your mobile phone ringing with “the call” from an agent. It might be the flipping pages of your next book. It might be the creak of a chair as a reader leans forward in anticipation of your next chapter.
Or maybe it really is the sound of a ram’s horn, if you also happen to moonlight as a shepherd.
Find a way to represent that sound, focus on it with all your attention, and resist the temptation to hit the snooze button.
Once you’re fully awake, it’s time for…
Some people follow a tradition called tashlich, in which all the sins and troubles of the past year are symbolically thrown away as breadcrumbs tossed into a river.
I like this tradition a lot. We all have habits we’d like to get rid of and mistakes we’d like to forget, but how often do we actually make a physical effort to dispose of them? And how great would it feel to watch these problems float away or become fish food?
Your writerly tashlich will be personal to you. Maybe you’ll throw away a handful of cliches. Toss out a double-handful of procrastination. Rid yourself of a slice of self-doubt. It will make you feel better–and when you feel better, you will write better.
At least that’s my theory for this year, and I’ve resolved to follow it.
According to another tradition, this is the time of year to ask forgiveness from anyone and everyone you may have slighted, offended, or harmed in the past year–intentionally or not, and knowingly or not.
I’ve made such requests and have had them result in a list of things I’ve done that I never even imagined as offensive or harmful, which is a humbling experience. Then I received forgiveness, which always has a cathartic effect.
But since we are writers, we can harm people who inhabit fictional worlds as well. Have you done your protagonist wrong? Have you neglected your manuscripts? Have you kept a promising idea in your head instead of setting it down on paper?
This holiday may be a great opportunity to review your work, ask forgiveness of your characters, and make a plan for setting things right.
When you’re done, it’s time for…
Apples and Honey
After all that introspection, you deserve a reward. So slice an apple, and dip it in honey. That’s the traditional way to symbolize the sweet year ahead.
And if one of your resolutions was to eat more fruits and vegetables, go ahead and make it a double serving!
Be Inscribed in the Book of Life
The ancient rabbis believed that our future was predetermined one year at a time, subject to the influence of our thoughts, deeds, and prayers. It’s a blend of predestination and free choice that could give headaches to any philosophy major.
The best part of Rosh Hashanah, especially for us writers, is the idea of a metaphorical Book of Life. According to tradition, this is an actual annual book that lists everyone in the world and their entire upcoming year in great detail. Today, it’s been written, but we still have time to request edits, revisions, and changes–at least until the Yom Kippur publication date.
God is the Author of history, but each of us has the chance to do some light edits of our own personal stories, and that’s the most exciting collaboration of all.
L’Shanah tovah, and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of all good things!