This can be a New Year | SEPTEMBER

Last week, a friend and I took our kids to a park, where we could walk a long lap around a man-made lake, feed the ducks, and maybe forget for a second that the world is a dumpster fire.

About halfway around, we paused on a rocky shoreline. There was, as there usually is, a large flock of birds hanging around, pecking the ground. As we stood there talking, the birds abruptly took flight. The sound of 75 birds lifting into the air at once is not nothing: it’s a cacophony of wings, louder than you think it would be. I looked up, marveling at the way they all quickly fell into formation, wings spread, catching the wind. And then, almost as quickly as the birds took flight, they took a sharp right, swooping down over us. For the briefest moment, the world around me was completely silent. The birds landed in precisely the spot they started in, and continued pecking at the ground as if there had never been a disruption.

I never figured out why they suddenly took flight like that, but does it matter?

I spent the second half of August waiting impatiently for September. In March, when Corona was the crumbling edge of a cliff we were living on, I remember being glad the weather was at least warming up again. At least, I thought, the kids are distracted by playing outside again, in filling up the kiddie pool. But of course this has gone on so much longer than anyone could have guessed (I mean, I suppose I should know better: this country can’t keep Black men from getting gunned down in the streets, which seems pretty basic to me, probably I shouldn’t be shocked that the government hasn’t properly managed a global pandemic). You know the rest: the kids didn’t go back to school, the numbers went up, the days got hotter. And now we’ve been living in this endless summer for almost 6 months.

It has, very simply, gotten old. But. It’s easy to forget that while January is “The New Year,” any day can be “a new year.”

I don’t need to be stuck in this endless time, I can shift.

While our circumstances are not changing any time soon (the stay-at-home order in Austin has been extended until December 15, although the numbers are -thankfully- declining), it feels good to mentally turn the page. I’m looking forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my boys’ birthdays, even if they look different this year. I’m looking forward to cooler weather and shorter days so we can have more outdoor movie nights. I’m looking forward to our backyard chickens actually laying eggs.

I’m choosing to believe that we are closer to the end than the beginning, while acknowledging that the end might not bear much resemblance to life before last March.

So what feels good and right, right now? A new handmade book to work in (thanks again, Katie!), honoring my office hours, gratitude for my online communities that keep me learning + connected. Mostly, I’m planning to spend some time this month working through The Desire Map and getting really clear about what I’m working towards right now, and why. (And always: What’s reasonable to expect of myself while I’m raising small children during a global pandemic?)

As we settle into September, I’m wishing you more moments of birds in flight, and the clarity that comes in the brief silence. If you have a moment, hit reply and tell me how you’re making September a new year for yourself.

Reading & Watching & Listening

This month I managed to read not one but two novels that completely destroyed me. (insert sobbing emoji here) I expected Normal People by Sally Rooney to ruin me since I’d already seen the show, so that wasn’t a surprise. (BTW, I found the show to be a very faithful adaptation of the book.) But then I ended the month with The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. The plot sounds candy-coated enough (39-year-old gallery owner and single mother hooks up with 20-year-old boy band member) but it was truly an emotional roller coaster. I found it to be believable and well-written, and loved the subtle commentary on how society views art that is enjoyed by girls and women. While both are novels about romantic relationships, neither are romance novels. Both make the cut for my favorite books of 2020.

I also reread a couple of YA novels I read and enjoyed many years ago— My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.

And, I’ve been reading A TON to my kids. I was actually feeling guilty about the lack of reading we were doing, until they remember on their own how great a good story is. My oldest in particular has been digging through our library and finding some real gems, and we’ve been borrowing from the library fairly regularly. I was planning on writing up some of our favorites but I’m running out of bandwidth for this newsletter, so keep an eye out for a possible bonus newsletter of picture book recommendations coming… soon?

TV and movies haven’t really held my attention lately, but I did rewatch Lady Bird the other night and it’s just so good. A reader of an early draft of my memoir described it as “Lady Bird meets Sex & the City” and I continue to be flattered and in agreement with that assessment.

You can find my August playlist on Spotify here.

September Goals

  • Work through The Desire Map

  • Dig into whatever the theme is for September in The Well

  • Work on my “brilliant writer platform” in Writerly Love (coming at a great time for me, my website is in a sad state)

  • Dive into the Get Messy Season of Steven (what does that even mean?!)

  • Nicole’s The Writing Cycle course, all about using your menstrual cycle to have a more productive, inspired writing life

  • I’m trying to keep my smaller (daily and weekly goals) very minimal so I have a chance to make progress on big picture stuff. I’d like to continue reading a lot (a book a week, at least), and getting in the habit of a weekly check-in in my journal (I need to get better about re-evaluating things more frequently than once a month-ish). My daily goals are movement (Tone It Up or yoga), a daily Hobonichi page, writing morning pages, taking my vitamins, and meditating with Insight Timer.

  • My BIG goal and the main thing I should be working on is revising Underbelly, my visual memoir about postpartum anxiety. I’d like to publish it in early 2021, and need to finish the writing process soon if I’m going to make that happen. You can see some peeks of my work-in-progress here.


I’m enjoying Krista’s Making and Doing newsletter, especially her recent comic about putting her kids to bed.

Make Your Own Creative Compass

I bought these DIY pajamas for my kiddos so we can have a tie-dye party

We’re supplementing our homeschool curricula with The Creativity Project for afternoon art projects. The September theme is All About Me and we already started incorporating one of their daily ritual ideas into our morning routine. Highly recommend if you have kiddos in the 3-8 age range!

Another fun thing we’re using: Mrs. Wordsmith word-a-day calendar.

Thanks for reading. If you have a friend who would enjoy regular essays on creativity, art, and writing, please forward this along. If you’re seeing this for the first time, you can subscribe here. For more, follow along on Instagram @theworkbooks.