Line A Day

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Sometimes, I think New Year’s Eve was made specifically for me. It’s a night where getting dressed to the nines in something gold and sparkly is never questioned, where you get drunk on champagne (cheap champagne is my favorite party beverage), where you are encouraged to make out with your lovers at midnight. And even better? It’s a holiday about goals. Now that, in my book, is a proper celebration.

Along with the bubbly and the kisses and the resolutions, it’s become another New Years tradition for me to write a post about productivity for my last blog of the year. I spend a lot of my December finishing up goals for the current year, and setting new ones for the next. It seems like the perfect time to share the tools I use to do so.

In years past, I’ve talked about my life list, my three year plan, and my annual review. But this year I felt like doing something different. I wanted to share something that I’ve found just as life changing, but which may not seem so directly—gasp—goal oriented.

In January of this year, I started writing down a line every day about what I did: what I enjoyed, what I wanted to remember. My only rule for myself was that, whatever I wrote down for the day, it had to be positive.

I wasn’t sure how long I would keep it up—after all, the whole thing was an experiment—so I started out by writing on a piece of loose lined paper. By the time mid-April had rolled around and I’d covered that page front to back and filled the margins, I knew I loved it. One of my partners even bought me a special “line a day” journal for our ten year anniversary. (Best. Anniversary. Present. Ever.)

If you know me, you know I can be stubborn. I’ve read all the articles about gratitude journaling and its positive effects, but it always felt so forced to me. “List Three Things You’re Grateful For.” Out of everything? How do I choose? And how do I keep from defaulting to basic things like “having a roof over my head,” which, although true, does nothing to change my perspective?

My line a day became a way to focus on something I was grateful for that was also tangible and immediate. I didn’t expect it, but honestly—despite a terrible political climate and a lot of things that need fixing—I’ve been happier this year than any other. Is that weird? Maybe. But I also know I’m a better, more motivated artist when I’m happier. I have more energy and opportunity to change the world.

Writing down a line a day had other benefits than making me happy (although if I had known, that would have been reason enough). I have a terrible memory. If I did not have multiple calendars and to do lists, I would never remember to get anything done. In the same way, memories fade quickly for me—even moments that I want to keep forever.

It turns out that writing down memories, at least for me, fixes that. The first couple of lines on my scrap of paper said generic things like “Date night with A.” Those didn’t do much good. But I started honing in on unique details, and those stuck. How the light through one of my partners’ sheer curtains looked one particularly sunny Saturday morning while we had coffee in bed. A specific turn of phrase my piano teacher used to describe Debussy that just made sense. The taste of dishes cooked and shared, the names of movies watched and books read. The topics of conversations and the feel of connection.

I was remembering more of my life, and not just documenting it.

It made me pay attention to the little things that otherwise would have slipped by. I was remembering more of my life, and not just documenting it. More events felt like they had significance, where before all I could remember was the generic.

All well and good, you say. I’m very glad that you’re now happy so much and can remember why. But how is this about productivity and goal setting? This is a New Years post, remember?

Well, my one requirement was that I write down something that made me happy that day. So yes, a lot of what I recorded were moments of love and connection. But I also wrote down a lot of the work I did on my art.  

This served a couple purposes. First, it required that I look at my work in a positive light. Where I previously would have grumbled about not getting enough done, I now celebrated what I did do—and ended up more motivated because of it.

Second, it let me look at my work as a process, a series of steps forward and little accomplishments, not just one “finished” goal. Plus it’s easy to see overarching patterns. When was a project particularly motivating? When did I get distracted or frustrated? I feel like I have more of a relationship with the art I make now because I remember so much of the process. I’m now more present in my own life.

So maybe this New Years, make a resolution to remember the details. All you need is a piece of paper—you can get a journal later if you end up liking it. As we’ve already established, New Years Eve is clearly the best holiday. So what will be your favorite memory of it?