Column writing is not for the timid. It requires ideas! Constant ideas! Interesting ideas! Wheelbarrows of ideas! I sit in my office chair daydreaming and staring out the window, hoping for my crow or raven friend, who I’ve dubbed BB, to come by. If she lands, I avoid writing some more. I admire our indestructible San Gabriel foothills garden of drought-tolerant plants, note the rainwater left from last night’s storm, and the pile of vegetation I’ve collected in the front part of the yard. To Hugel, or not to Hugel? Our yard trimmings bin has limited capacity, so we store the tree detritus on our property in hopes of putting it to use. Outside the haven that is our front yard is the almost highway-like traffic of Altadena Drive.
I’ve written a column for almost 30 years. I never run out of ideas. That said, let me remind you of a T-shirt I saw years ago: “Watch what you say… I’m a writer” or Anne Lamott’s wisdom: “… if people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
It’s de rigueur to do a 2020 round-up at this time of the year, but I simply don’t have the strength. That in and of itself is a ringing indictment of 2020.
It’s also customary to make a list of resolutions. Balderdash. My resolution at the beginning of 2020 prevents me from ever doing that again since that resolution was to never make another resolution as long as I live. Resolutions are like candles: They shine bright until the wax melts onto your favorite aunt’s antique table, wherein you curse the candle and vow to not light one again … until the next New Year, and the cycle repeats. Do not be tempted!
Make promises instead of resolutions, and then manufacture some “no kidding” consequences if you don’t keep them and tell them to others who can hold you to account. As in, “I, (your name here), promise to eat well for six months, and if I break my promise, I will eat 10 spiders.”
Making promises are far more powerful than namby-pamby resolutions. Resolutions are typically obliterated when said “resolver” misses one gym visit, eats one slice of pie, or picks their nose in their car. This is especially true if there are no consequences for breaking the resolution.
For example, if you make a promise to another person to never pick your nose in the car, and you vow that if you break it, you have to stand on the corner of Lake and Colorado and pick your nose every time a car goes by, then you’ve got some real “skin” in the game—or in this case, boogers in the game.
I’ve intentionally built my promise-making and promise-keeping muscles over the years so that, usually, promising another person I’ll do something is enough. Also giving myself a star on my graph. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I work for stars. I have enough of my Lutheran Sunday School goody-goody genetics intact to actually work for stars on a sheet of paper.
Apparently, digital companies have also figured this out. For example, I have a 400-day streak going with my Duolingo Spanish course. I know this because Duolingo tells me every day. I am faithful because I do not want to break my streak, a non-Lutheran Sunday School gimmick like the string of stars. My Duolingo Norwegian streak is smaller at 63.
Speaking of Duolingo Norwegian, it is teaching me some truly bizarre words and phrases that would have me committed should I use them in Oslo. I have a mental image of the Norwegian Duolingo tutors in their offices laughing their asses off at us. Let me get this straight: You are really having me learn how to say, “I do not eat spiders,” “I am a cheese,” and “The bear drinks beer”? Yet you still haven’t taught me how to say the days of the week or the months or even weather conditions? I suspect that Duolingo subscriptions have exploded during the stay-at-home orders, and they had to hire a bunch of out-of-work Norwegian comics to fill in. Although it’s possible that “Norwegian comic” is an oxymoron.
I am skittish about wishing you a better 2021 than the previous year. During 2020, every time I said or even thought, “It can’t get any worse,” it did. Instead, I will end with a fervent prayer that the next column I write is about the fabulous win we had in the Georgia Senate runoff, and the column after that features Drumpf in shackles wearing an orange outfit that goes nicely with his face. Now there’s a bushel of ideas any columnist can run with!
Ellen Snortland has written “Consider This…” for a heckuva long time, and she also coaches first-time book author. Contact her at email@example.com