As a new year begins, I keep returning to something I’d read by Craig Morgan Teicher. A poet and renaissance man of the digital age, he led the vaunted Paris Review into a new age of digital production. Teicher believes that creative people make progress not through sheer output, but through a give-and-take of energies. It involves listening as well as speaking. The exchange fills both parties with gladness. Happiness is singular. Gladness is reciprocal.
As we roll into the new year, I’m deliberately choosing a different way to begin it. First, I’m adjusting my stance toward time. Less rushing, more patience. My ambition is to work in chunks of progress enriched by conversations—both with the people I love and the new people I hope to meet.
The culture of narcissism we live in is marked by what psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg calls “the destruction of time.” Self-absorption is something that destroys the meaningful use of time, writes Kernberg. One day, we look back and can’t imagine where it all went. We need each other to make time count for something.
As 2022 wrapped up, I worked entirely alone. Scrambling to complete a pile of rewrites that kept a project from finishing, time was my enemy. Hardly any gladness in that. In a different situation last year, I traveled to Santa Fe for an 8-day writing fellowship that was downright lush with progress. Rising at dawn in the adobe casita, I lit the fire and worked until hunger or restlessness overtook me. On evening walks I met neighbors. One, a former English teacher, offered to read my work. Nervously, I handed over pages asking only for her emotional reactions—how did she feel after reading it? Her notes were stirring. The storehouse of work generated from my days there nourished me for many months. Limited though it was, time was my friend.
This January, I’m beginning the year in gladness. I’m seeing time as my ally, not my enemy. My soul needs that right now.
Here’s hoping that your new year is rich with the fullness of time, too!