January Journal: Monthly Missives from the Dream Pedlar

One month into a new year, and remembering that the journey is the destination ... there's no other place to be other than here and now.

January Journal: Monthly Missives from the Dream Pedlar
On the snow-dusted shores of Lake Ontario

Hello, lovely Dreamers!

How has January been for you, lovely ones?

I honestly thought we had another week to go before newsletter Sunday, until the calendar showed me that by this time next week we'd have already segued into February! Time's been a-fleeting.

So here I am, on this lovely Friday morning, penning this note to you with much delight. It's raining outside. It's been foggy for the last few days.

We've only had one considerable snowfall so far this season; it was earlier this week and allowed D and me to spend an hour after school that evening, flinging snowballs at each other. By the next morning, much of the snow had begun to turn into slush.

It feels as though everything has become unpredictable these days. Or perhaps they always were, and we're only now noticing these changes with alarmingly increasing frequency.

Which is why this routine of spending a day towards the end of the month writing to you has become even more precious to me than ever before. It's one of the steady, joyful things I look forward to with a periodicity that is rarely to be found in anything else these days in a constantly turbulent world. Thank you for granting me this gift!

open book, a pen and a coffee cup on a brown wooden table
Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

I've been deep in my writing cave for most of this month, ever since D went back to school after the winter break.

I've been gaining momentum on a manuscript that saw many false starts over the last couple of years. Since October, I've been making steady progress on it.

Earlier this month, I thought I'd be writing 'The End' pretty soon. Until the plot twisted all of its own last week and now it appears I'm only one-third of the way through!

I'm really excited about this because I haven't written a long book since Dying Wishes was published almost three years ago. I love immersive stories, both reading and writing them.

But this also means it's going to be a bit of a wait until this book is completed and readied for publication.

I'm going as fast as I can. In experimenting with my writing speed and the hours I spend at the writing desk, I've found that I'm able to sustain momentum over the long run when I adopt the steady approach of the tortoise rather than the staccato approach of the hare.

But whenever there's news on the publishing front, you will be the first to know, as always! Thank you for your patience.

Alongside this change in my writing habits, I've also been treading a massive mindset shift in how I view tasks.

Somehow, over the past couple of years, I had been approaching most tasks (with the exception of sleeping) with an attitude of 'Just get it done', rather than preparing to immerse myself in it for as long as it took.

There's a standing joke that writers often share with each other; it's a quote attributed to the late American poet, Dorothy Parker (although there's also a lot of debate on whether this attribution is correct).

I hate to write, but I love having written.

This attitude seeped into almost everything I undertook: writing, cooking, even spending time with D, school drop-offs and pick-ups.

I'd come to dread doing those things unless an external deadline loomed upon me and forced me into action. And I'd heave a sigh of relief when the deed was done, and feel relieved that now, at last, I could try to find something more 'fulfilling' to devote my time and attention to.

But what these 'fulfilling' things were, I had no clue. Because at one point of time, writing, reading, and spending time with D and KrA were what defined a perfect day in my life, a day well spent doing what I love.

image of a person's hand holding a pen over a paper containing a checklist
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

What I couldn't understand was how the very things that I used to love so much — especially writing and spending time with D — had devolved into much-dreaded items on a to-do list of duties and responsibilities that needed to be checked off at the earliest.

And then, what?

I didn't know.

And then, what?

When I began to ask myself that question — And then, what? — the lack of a convincing answer was reminder enough that this is it, this is what my life is, a string of moments of writing, reading and spending time with KrA and D and laughing and whooping with delight.

Not something that happens in the aftermath of having written, of having spent time with family, of having gotten through the chores of the day.

Because at the end of a long day, what we do is sleep. At the end of life, what awaits us is death.

Much of that sense of urgency, of getting things done and moving on to the next item on the list, comes from seeing how fast the world is changing around us.

There's always that nagging thought in my head that I should be writing more, publishing faster, reaching my milestones sooner, or else I'd fall too far behind and never be able to catch up. (With whom? Again, no answer there.)

Ironically, that kind of thinking itself is what freezes me in my tracks and keeps me from making progress.

Being able to shift my focus away from the outcome and towards the process itself has taken a burden off of my shoulders.

Which is why, this time around, I'm not feeling the usual sense of urgency to write faster and finish the book soon, but I'm able to enjoy the process of discovering the story and bring my best writing skills to it.

Paradoxically, this way I'm being way more productive on a monthly basis than I've ever been in the past, even if on several days in a given month I feel I haven't done all that I wanted to.

woman leaning out of a car window and enjoying the wind on her face on a road flanked by mountains
Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

It is the age-old wisdom of not waiting for some grand future event to transpire before we can begin to appreciate the seemingly mundane and ordinary moments of our day-to-day lives. Then the ordinary itself somehow becomes extraordinary.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~ The Essential Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, 1995

Does this resonate with you? Are there spaces of your life where you find you rush through, sometimes with resentment, because there are more important tasks awaiting your attention?

Reckon you could take each moment of life as worthy in itself, give it your full attention, no matter what you're doing, no matter how long it takes, instead of viewing it as a hurdle to overcome, or as a stepping stone to some later point in space and time?

Tales for Dreamers

memory exchange

I wrote this tale a couple of years ago, when D was smaller and an eager partner to explore places like this one, the site of the image that inspired the tale below. He's still just as eager, but with school and other activities, our explorations have dwindled somewhat.

The Freeman Station was built in 1906 and continued to operate until 1988. We've never seen anyone in the tiny building there that's supposedly a museum, but it's also been grand having the space to ourselves to explore and leave tracks in the snow.

tales for dreamers: memory exchange
You are permitted to share your memories at the Memory Junction. Which ones will you reveal? Which ones will you conceal?

Books You May Love

I've been devouring books. Reading like there's no tomorrow. I've completely cut out Netflix from my days, and that has given me so much time for reading several amazing works.

Because there are so many great books to share with you this month, I've dedicated an entire post to it. Lots of amazing fiction, and even an utterly endearing picture book for adults! Come take a look!

books you may love: January 2024
I usually have a Books You May Love section in my monthly newsletter. Since this month’s section is enormous, it merits its own post! Happy reading!

Why does newsletter time have to zip past so quickly?

Before I go, I must share with you another new development in my world. I've been spending so much time in front of the screen writing, I've been looking for ways to occupy myself off-screen when I'm not writing. I've finally gotten around to decluttering!

I've been clearing out stuff that I had been hoarding for years. Traditional Indian wear that I had long outgrown but couldn't bring myself to part with for more than a decade. D's stroller and high chair, both of which we hadn't used in the past five years at least!

Decluttering can be an intensely emotional experience, dredging up memories and feelings from the depths of our subconscious. It's also been an exercise in reframing. In shifting perspectives.

So I've been doing what I do when I need to regain some clarity and sanity in the midst of a demanding process. I've been blogging about my adventures with decluttering. They are all titled and tagged as 'remnants of a past life'.

(In case you're wondering, my trips down memory lane were mostly responsible for my choice of story for the Tales for Dreamers section in this month's edition!)

I must bid goodbye now. I shall return with more salve to soothe your soul next month. Until then, please keep Rumi's words close to your heart.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Much love,