Start with the big rocks when prioritizing items for this year’s pages

New Year’s Day is not unlike the blank page that I found myself staring at this morning. There were no words already written, no ideas jumping off the page, and no direction provided.

Sometimes, a blank page is wildly liberating as it feels like a wide open field of opportunity, hope, and dreams. Other times, it is hugely intimidating, like a whiteout snowstorm; and you’re standing there cold and immobilized.

I like to look at the blank page as the former, not the latter, and stare at the canvas for a moment before splattering it with paint. The first painting may be atrocious, I may repaint a few times before landing on something worth keeping, but nonetheless, there is colour flying everywhere.

As with cooking, I find it easier to start throwing ingredients into
the pot to when hungry, than to follow someone else’s recipe. Otherwise, nothing new will ever be created. I don’t want to wait until the idea is fully baked before getting started. After all, I don’t think that creativity is formulaic, or predestined. Every empty pot, every new canvas and every blank page has the opportunity to be truly great.

Here we all are — perched on this new page for 2011, able to decide what to write for the coming year. We have an opportunity to develop the characters from our last chapters, including our own character.

We can watch current relationships mature, as the cast of characters propel us forward onto new adventures or help us face rigourous challenges. We can cut characters from the script; those that caused us too much pain or effort, or perhaps we will allow villains to continue to emerge. The location of the story is also pliable — scenes can be set anywhere around the world.

Can we fix past mistakes from the previous pages? Sure — we are the authors of our lives. This means that we can make wildly unreachable resolutions, which will likely be tossed aside before chapter two or three. At the other end of the change spectrum, we could make insignificant changes which will barely develop the plot; making for a boring read.

The worst scenario is those that never pick up the pen. Some use devilish words like “someday” in regards to when they’ll write the page, chapter, or book. Some assure us that they are simply waiting for the entire chapter to be prewritten in their heads before the pen hits the page.

When it comes to prioritizing the items to put on this year’s pages, there is a time management analogy that comes to mind. If you have to fill a container with various size rocks, the only way to make it work is to start with the big rocks first. If you start with the sand, you’ll never have room for the big rocks. Similarly, you don’t want to fill the page with drivel and descriptors and never get to the main characters and plot changers.

Consider your life, consider what you want to be repeated about you when all is said and done, and consider what you need to do to get there. Make sure you don’t push aside the items that are the most difficult, those are the big rocks. At least tackle one boulder a year.

For some, the big rocks are not major life changes, they may be things that they want to cross off their life lists (or bucket lists). This means that first we’d need to consider not only who we want to be, but also what we want to do, before the fat lady sings.

It’s worth taking a few moments to ponder these things before starting to write on this year’s page. With the big rocks identified, it’s time to poise the pen above that page and get writing.

Jump onto that page (like the Danish New Year’s tradition of jumping off a chair at midnight to lose bad spirits from last year). Enjoy the process of creating every sentence, and give thanks for those that inspire you along the way.

Don’t be afraid to be bold, and you will undoubtedly hear people call out, “Author, author!” in 2011.

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