Preparing for 2021

I’ve probably said this before but I’ve always thought of September as the new year. Now I realize that’s not entirely true. I look forward to writing a different year down each time I date my journal, so the year’s change in January does actually have significance. Two new years in a year! What a life.

Recently I finished reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and the book put me in a creative mood. I mean, I couldn’t sleep for the next few nights after I finished the book because I kept thinking of all the projects I wanted to undertake. The restlessness (and lack of sleep) put me in a bad mood though, so I took a page out of Tharp’s habits and exercises and completed a skills inventory. She recommends doing this sort of inventory any time a person finds themselves in a rut.

A skills inventory runs pretty much like this:

1. Determine skills

2. Assess what/how skills are being developed at time of writing

3. (To leave rut) Pick an entirely different skill to develop, or stay with currently developing skill and go off in a wildly different direction.

Paraphrased from Tharp, T. (2003). The creative habit: Learn it and use it for life. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks.

My main skills are in reading, writing, baking / cooking, teaching, and drawing. (And making things from time to time, but I don’t know what that would fall under. Is DIY-ing a skill? I like to think that’s just applied reading.) Anyway, how am I currently developing my main skills?

Reading. I have been reading more this year than I have in the past few years. It’s evolved in that I’m seeking more authors out than I have before, and I’m taking notes and reflecting more, too. This in turn has led to my writing developing as well.

Writing. Since I’ve come back from China, I’ve been freelancing and volunteering as a writer in very very minimal part-time capacities. I’ve always been a journaler (journalist? diarist? diarier?!) but I’ve also been blogging more consistently. Still, this comes as a surprise. I never thought writing would become a bigger part of my professional life. I still think my biggest passion is in teaching, though.

Baking and cooking. I continue to bake and cook as much as I can. We eat out about once a week (happy Friday night!) and the rest of it is homecooked (although sometimes homecooked involves instant noodles lol). I’ve been a little more adventurous in searching out new recipes in the past year, and would like to see this develop in a more chronicled fashion. I already take notes in my cookbooks when I try a new recipe and need to make tweaks, but it could be fun to record the new things I’m trying. But that would lead to more writing, and while not a bad thing, I want to do something different with my hands.

Teaching. I don’t know how much teaching I’m doing every day with R. She likes her nursery rhymes in English (although I am picking up Cantonese nursery songs bit by bit) and her Bible stories in Cantonese. Alright, I know she’s picking up things and being an absorbent sponge as all toddlers are, so I’m passively teaching but right now things are unstructured and the more I read, the more I think it should stay that way and play should take the stage. Just play for now.

A note on that: my acceptance of play in my own child is, in theory, unsurprising. In practice, though, I’ve come a looong way. I really sometimes think that we should be on our times tables by now or discussing weather patterns at least, but CLEARLY my experience with toddlers is limited. It’s growing though (ha!) And thus my teaching skill is developing, even if it’s mostly tied into parenting and just being present with the toddler every day.

And finally, drawing. I have embarked on two art challenges this year. The first was in the first wave of lockdowns. The second was because I realized our library has about a billion extra resources in their digital library and I had subscriptions galore with my local library card. I love our library.

Back to drawing, though. I haven’t done much this year. And I want that to change. Seeing as all my other main skills have been developing this year, I’m going to focus on building my drawing / art ability in the next year, alongside everything else (everything else has become a habit, anyway). And I’m going in a different direction than I have previously. I’ve dabbled in it a bit but never to a great extent, so I’m happy to say that this is the book for next year!

Kristin Van Leuven, 2017

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