by Shayna Friedman
15 Iyar, 5775 –
There are certain life-events anchored in time which offer up a point of comparison. Take a child’s birthday, where growth is measured by a mark on the doorpost. “Last year I was – the child points to a spot, “But this year…” Anniversaries are like that, too. Aware of the immeasurable growth in her marriage, the proud young wife remarks, “We’ve been married forever.”
As Jews, we’re gifted a special day to notch our spiritual journey on our spiritual doorposts. This is the day we reflect on how our resolutions last Yom HaDin measure with our present-day reality, for only relative motion can be measured. Where was I? What was my goal? Where am I now?
This year: JWWS 2015
At this Writing Seminar, scribbling notes on the same Israel Bookshop pad I scrawled my notes last year, these same questions run through my mind. A year has passed since the last writers’ conference. An entire year. And where am I?
Today, in this larger-than-life room with its tri-colored stone triple archways and medieval chandeliers, I realize that had you asked me yesterday I would have replied I have no recollection of the hall’s features but one glance reveals my folly. Of course I remember this room; I remember ever detail! I’ve been here once for the Writers’ Seminar and the event left an indelible impression; I couldn’t forget it if I tried.
The smiling greetings committee, the name tags of people I’ve previously only met in print, the magazines whose acceptance notes are the stuff of dreams are familiar rituals preparing for the true experience that will embrace all the participants today. Inside the many windowed-room filled with Jerusalem sunlight, at a table filled with a rainbowed spectrum of hats, a program will follow that will remind me why I’m on this journey.
But this, my second year, forces different feelings.
As I take my seat and remember the wonderful experience of my first writers’ conference, my heart sinks.
To understand the reason for this emotional tremor, one must first know the loneliness of being a writer. Plying your trade in said profession is not only accepting solitude but choosing to serve it on a lonely planet, population: 1.
A new writer is a single astronaut on a solitary mission of an ever-shifting target. Once in a while, the blue light of the computer is replaced by a comet of hope as an opportunity for sending a writing out into the universe flashes by or the possibility of contact with fellow writer explodes, burns bright and then fades.
At my first Jerusalem Women’s Writing Seminar, hope and reality shook hands. Here intrepid writers, at all different points in their journey, shared tips and tales; here words spoken banished a silence so loud it deadened the sound of my own heartbeat; and here, surrounded by many like-minded travelers, I was home.
From inspiration to exhilaration to resolutions
The day proceeded from inspiration to exhilaration to resolutions, resolutions which all started with the same three words: By next year…
- By next year I will have integrated all the wisdom shared here.
- I will have read every book recommended by every speaker.
- And I will follow the hue and cry of one and all – I will write. Every. Single. Day.
I will follow the advice of those who say to write in the morning when inspiration is strongest and also (just in case), of those who say write right after a long day, following a daydreaming session on the couch. I will write what I know and create my own world while focusing on setting, context and connotation. I won’t let rejections get me down and I will submit but most of all, I will WRITE!!!
And so I left that day my ultimate, wide-eyed resolution. By next year I’ll publish my first book!
But today as I sat into this seminar, the realization hits home. Today is that day! This is no simulator. I didn’t recognize it at the time but last year’s seminar sandbagged me with a point of relativity. This year I’m no longer foot-loose and fancy free, caught up in the wonder of it all. No, a year has passed and I must take stock.
As the speeches begin, I have flashbacks of the projects I promised myself I’d complete, the sparks that have been lost and that book I dreamed up… Somehow, it has all gone the way of other New Year’s resolutions.
But the day packs a double-punch and won’t keep me down for long.
Sitting with all the wonderful people at the convention, the fear of failure, the mundane limits of life, responsibly and inertia melt away. Once again, I’m caught up in words reminding me that it is a new year. I can now renew my resolve. That gate that has shut last year is once again opened and if I stretch…If I reach…If I remember…
As the day draws to a close, I pack my treasures to take with me in the blue, fabric bag beside my ultimate resolve. By next year – by next year I’ll definitely have an outline!