While we wish it were otherwise, most of us don’t have the luxury of pursuing our creative passions as a full-time job. Whether we love painting or pouring candles, writing or dancing, event planning or photography, the truth is that we don’t often make a living from those passions. Instead, we find pockets of time to shadow those desires on the weekends, the evenings, and often, when we could be sleeping. We read articles and books about our hobbies, and spend our money on the passion we love so dearly. But we aren’t waking up every morning to head to a studio or the craft room or the keyboard. Instead, we get up and work at jobs that don’t set our hearts aflame.

There were a lot of years where I bemoaned my lack of time to pursue my passion. I’m a writer at heart, a woman who comes alive with the tap of keys on the keyboard, a woman who could spend hours each day whittling down a paragraph until it sings with the vibrancy of power and precision. But for most of my adult life, I’ve been a writer in the margins, pulling out my laptop in the evenings or on the weekends, taking twenty minutes over lunch or an hour after work to finish an article or pen a chapter.

For those of us who feel the tug toward words and books, toward verse and ink on the page, writing may feel like second nature, like a gift. For many of us, it even feels like a lifeline—a way to uncoil our thoughts, understand our existence and connect to our truest selves.

But after our years of school end, how do we continue to grow as writers? How do we invest in this passion? Is it even worth it? If we aren’t going to write a best-seller or even make money writing, can we justify giving the craft more time and expense?

It’s a question that most of us bump up against for decades, no matter what it is we are in the middle of doing: Is this what I’m called to do?  We wonder, in the middle of our working and coaching and mothering and writing and dancing and dating and marrying and studying:

Should I be doing something else? Why am I still not sure what I’m made for?

Winter is upon us, now. The air hollows itself out, offering only cold and wind. The ground is freezing, slowing, and stalling its growth. Grass browns, trees harden. Earth, it seems, pauses.

Perhaps we would be wise to do the same.

Winter arrives, for many of us, in a bustle of activity: Holidays and more holidays, parties and more parties, gifts, clothes, decorations, busyness. Much of this is fun and exciting, but the reality is that after these holidays are over, we often find ourselves more exhausted than we were before.

What if, instead of getting caught up in the rhythms of everyone around us this year, we intentionally approached this winter with a decision to pause? To rest? To hibernate? What if we sought to take a cue from nature and slowed down this winter, instead of pushing ahead?

Good writers are readers; it’s a maxim for a reason. And that’s why reading books by experienced authors is important — even necessary — for the aspiring writer. But along with novels and biographies and memoirs, consider reading books about writing, in which authors pull back the curtain on the writing process and life as a person of words.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these books are on my personal short list for writers. Here are 5 books to read this fall if you want to grow in the craft of writing:

Sometimes, it’s not until we are feeling ill or uncomfortable that we pay attention to what our bodies might be trying to tell us. When we are truly sick, there’s nothing else we can attend to; our bodies force us to stop, heal, and replenish.

Attentiveness to our bodies — and also to our minds, and hormones, and spirits — can pay wonderful dividends. A health journal is a wonderful tool that helps us track changes in our physical, emotional and spiritual experiences, possibly helping to pinpoint the sources of insomnia, distress, or pain. Additionally, if there is a family history of a particular health issue, journaling can help us to stay on top of genetic tendencies that we want to keep an eye on.

It’s not necessary to journal for all of the following categories, but what follows are ways to stay in tune with your body. Entries can be as short or long as you desire, but consistent entries will yield the most insight.

In less than a month, our little family will leave the town where we have built our lives for over a decade. We are moving to a new state, following new opportunities — and we are excited. But there is also sorrow as we leave the community, town, and jobs that we have had for so long.

The world we live in is increasingly mobile, and in this season of life, many of us may find ourselves moving for school, a job, a relationship, or even for an adventure.

Or, we may find ourselves waving goodbye to our dearest friends as they drive away to a new place while we stay put. Compared to a hundred years ago, it is remarkably simple to transport our possessions across the country. What is less simple is navigating the change in friendships when we — or they — move away.

As a little girl, the first day of May held one of my favorite family traditions. Along with my sister, my mother and I would make simple flower baskets by rolling sturdy paper into cones and attaching a small handle. Then, we filled the bottom of the cone with small candies before tucking in a handful of blossoms — often tulips and lilies of the valley — that we had snipped from our own backyard.

With our May Day baskets in hand, my sister and I became tiny, anonymous gift-givers. After hanging a basket on the front door of a neighbor or friend, we rang the doorbell and scampered away. The goal was to remain secret givers; if we were found out, we could be kissed by the one who found us.

It was a celebration of spring, and I adored the secrecy of leaving flowers and sweets on the doors of those I loved.

POST TAGS:

Four weeks after my daughter was born, I had never known a love as fierce and all-consuming as the love I had for her. But I was also exhausted, and feeling unsteady. Those early days — full of the lack of sleep and the crazy hormones — had me running on empty.

Although the newborn stage is short in the grand scheme of life, it can feel unending when you’re living in it. The constant needs of a newborn, the wacky sleep schedule, the high emotions — they are intense, intense things. Thankfully, I made it through, and I would say that I was even able to thrive during those early days with Ella, although it felt different than I thought it would.

So, while I’m not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination, or even a long-time parent, here are my four how-tos for thriving in those first weeks and months of motherhood.