Twelve months seem to have flashed by and here we are, preparing for another trip around the sun. I'm not one for new year's resolutions, but at the end of the year I find it helpful to reflect on a few questions: What have I achieved? What challenged me? What did I learn? How have I changed? What am I grateful for? What is my focus for the upcoming cycle?
In these toxic, troubled times, being of good cheer may seem like too big an ask; it may even seem insensitive, given the magnitude of suffering on the planet. Yet I believe that the tougher things get, the more committed we must become to finding joy in the moment. We have to build community, care for our immediate surroundings and stay open to seeing the beauty, humanity and humour that is always close to hand.
I think it was Teddy Roosevelt who advised people to 'do the best you can, with what you have, where you are', or, as my mother put it, 'just do the next right thing'. That next right thing might be practising compassion, letting go of judgement, or celebrating the richness and complexity of life.
Leonard Cohen's lyrics from 'Anthem' come to mind: Ring the bell that still can ring; forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything – that's how the light gets in. What does this mean for writing? It's a tool for processing what you feel, offloading your concerns so that you don't add to the negative load by sinking into fear and despondency. Look for the light instead and write about what you love, appreciate and are grateful for.
Cartoonists, comedians and clowns understand the fine line between comedy and tragedy; they help us to let off a little steam. It's not that we should downplay suffering; rather, we hold it in our hearts and look for something light that brings some relief. Use your skill to document your world – there is sadness but also so much wonder. Write about what is lovely, funny, precious and new. Look on the bright side this festive season.
Thank you to everyone who has supported my courses and workshops, and especially to the members of the monthly writers' circles who bring such variety, talent, honesty and hilarity to our sessions – you have enriched my life more than I can say.