Sunday, January 8, 2012
The Promise of a New Beginning...
When I was a kid, I did a lot of skiing—my family had a place in Sun Valley, Idaho and we’d usually spend three weeks a year there skiing. Like most other skiers, every night before I went to bed wearing my pajamas inside out and backward—a signal to the snow gods that I was ready for fresh powder—I’d pray for snow. I prayed, not only because the skiing on fresh powder would be great, no, I had another reason—I longed to ski virgin snow.
I’d wake up extra early after a snow and arrive on the mountain well before the lifts opened with a backpack full of bribes for the lift operators—warm scones and hot coffee worked the best. They’d be bundled up against the early morning chill, sweeping the snow from the chair lifts and sometimes, if I got very lucky, they’d let me ride up before the mountain officially opened so I could be the first skier down.
There’s nothing like skiing virgin snow—the only sound you hear is the wind whispering through the trees, the swish of your own skies cutting a path through inches or feet of powder, and the blood rushing through your ears. When I think of perfect solitary moments, moments like these are at the top of my list. I’d stop at the bottom of the run, shield my eyes as the sun peeked over the mountain, and see the mark I made—a trail of solitary S turns—before rushing to the lift, hoping to transform the S turns to perfect figure eights.
The beginning of a new year is the same for me. It’s a mountain of virgin snow just waiting for me to make my mark. My only resolution or goal is to do better than I did last year. I’m sure the Goal Nazis are cringing because it’s not concrete or measurable but it works for me. I don’t want to spend so much time measuring my progress that I lose sight of my goal. I stop every three or four months and take a look back, examine my tracks, gauge my progress, and adjust my sights.
For me, starting a book is the same way. I’m not a huge plotter. I usually know my characters—the hero and heroine at least, I have a general idea of the story, for the most part my turning points are mapped out, and I have a counter on my writing program. I know that the first turning point has to happen at around 25,000 words, the point of no return on or about the 50,000-word mark, and the big black moment somewhere around 75,000 words. Other than that, I write by the seat of my pants and see where the words and characters take me. Still, the beginning is the most exciting. It is the clean page, virgin snow—a place to make my mark.
So how do you look at the New Year, or the beginning of a new project? Are you a concrete goal setter, a resolution maker, or are you more like me—just trying to be better than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year? What kind of mark do you want to leave on your mountain?