3 Things I Learned So Far in 2021

Unbelievable to think we are well into April already, isn’t it? While 2020 crawled along like a wounded animal to the new year, this year seems to be the opposite. We’re bounding ahead on the calendar and everyday life is slowly becoming more and more normal.

I’ve been quiet around here since late February for a few reasons. First, I was doing some reflective soul work during Lent. Second, I narrowed my focus to working on a manuscript and facilitating a 12-week writers’ group. Here’s what I’ve learned so far this year on the journey.

Creative People Need Each Other

This is a bit of a cheat. I already knew this but found myself reminded of it afresh. A friend of mine reached out late last year to ask if I would help her facilitate a group for Christian creatives in the first quarter of 2021. I would not have spearheaded such an idea but jumped at the chance to partner with her.

We began meeting in January, and for twelve weeks we worked our way through Jordan Raynor’s book, Called to Create. The principle of the book? God is the Creator, and by extension as people made in His image, we are by nature creative too. The book talks about the creative process, our motives, and our means of using our creative work to glorify God.

What a special time those twelve weeks on Zoom were. We shared from the heart, prayed for each other, wrote together, and sojourned for ninety minutes a week through the creative process. Each week, I left invigorated, inspired, encouraged, and grateful. I do not feel this way often about Zoom meetings.

Creative people need each other. Whether faith-based, genre-based, age-based, or just a general group of creatives, it’s good to be around other writers. We get each other. The insecurities and quirky habits don’t need explaining. They’re accepted. People understand and commiserate. They also plant a loving boot to the bum when needed.

Little Changes Make a Big Impact

I have been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear this spring. If you struggle with self-discipline, establishing routines, or creating new habits, this book is a must-read. I struggle with all three, so I really needed to read it.

Clear puts a fine point on something I knew but never consistently put into practice. Minor changes yield major results—over time. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by what we wish to change in our lives. This can paralyze us from taking meaningful action. Clear teaches readers to focus on micro-habits instead.

By assessing a situation and taking the tiniest of steps to move in a positive direction, a person can eventually get the desired results. In taking small steps, the dangers of analysis paralysis fade away because tasks feel more manageable.

For example, I’ve been doing small decluttering and cleaning tasks—really little things. Instead of looking at my home and burying my head in the sand about what a formidable task getting it in order would be, I simply do something small. Gather one box of unwanted household items. Clean a grimy stove, go through a pile of mail, and so on. They take maybe five or ten minutes each, which eventually adds up.

For my writing habits, I’ve committed to writing 500+ words a day at least four days a week. Instead of looking at how far I have to go on my writing projects, I simply chunk them into 500-word increments. By doing so, I’ve watched my word count climb on a new manuscript and wrote this post to boot.

Nothing Lasts Forever

The drudgery of the pandemic has lorded its power over me in the past year. It demoralized and discouraged. It loomed and lingered. In the thick of it, I felt as if it would never end and the new existence we’d been forced to adopt would be permanent.

Then something happened—small shifts made way for big changes. Working from home to teaching at school. Teaching remotely in an empty classroom to a trickle of students returning. Fear of the virus to being fully vaccinated. Winter isolation to springtime reemergence. Life is slowly unfolding before us, inviting us into a new season.

Every season gives way to the new one after a time. Good or bad, seasons change.

I feel hopeful and see good things ahead. Optimism is having its moment in the sun in my life right now. It feels great.

The only catch is that I had to be willing to change my mind and revamp my habits. It was a small price to pay. I’m eager to see what new lessons lie ahead as the year continues. Here’s hoping you experience the same.

With Love and Gratitude,

Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.

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