It wasn’t my intent to write about the “One Little Word” exercise for two days in a row, but since filing yesterday’s blog entry, I find my thoughts keeping returning to what I wrote. I thought I was happy with the entry when I posted it, but afterwards I started second-guessing myself. (It’s worth mentioning here that this is why veteran print journalists like myself are fascinated by blog technology: if you feel ambivalent enough, you can retract your post, which is a fairly mind-blowing thought to those of us raised on and trained in print media. So if I make a mistake or just feel foolish after writing it then poof, it’s gone? Well, yes.)
But in this case, it’s not that I feel inaccurate or even regretful, just ambivalent. And ambivalence is not a bad emotion for writers at all. In fact, when I was teaching writing through an adult education program, one of the perennially favorite exercises was the one that started with the phrase “I’m not sure how I feel about….” If there are things you’re not sure how you feel about, you will always have things to write about, I used to tell my class. I’m not sure how I feel about…the afterlife. Physician-assisted suicide. The imminent re-issue of The Babysitters Club series. My kids watching American Idol. Taxing cosmetic surgery. Getting cosmetic surgery. War in Afghanistan. And so on.
So for a writer, being ambivalent is often equivalent to being prolific, and that’s a good thing. But yesterday after claiming I’d chosen my One Little Word for the year, “possible,” I started questioning myself. Was that perhaps a bit too tepid? Possible? It’s possible? (I keep thinking of the Rogers & Hammerstein song from Cinderella, where the word “Impossible” morphs into “It’s possible.” Corny, but worth noting.) Was choosing such a benign word simply too noncommittal, like choosing “seasonal” or “maybe” or “sometimes” – words that no one could possibly dispute as far as their relevance to the upcoming year?
Well, maybe. And sometimes. But I maintain that possible still has salient meaning for me. I think the underlying emotion when I chose it was the sense that I do not have strongly formed goals or resolutions for 2010 the way I have some other years. I’m not looking for a specific new job or trying to finish one big writing project. I’m not determined to run a set number of miles or road races. It’s possible that never in my adult life have I been so uncertain about what I hope to see happen in the upcoming year. And part of this is because things are pretty good right now within my immediate sphere. I have a great roster of clients in my freelance writing realm, I’m working with a literary agent I like, my kids are happy and well-adjusted, my home life is stable, my family members and friends are healthy. It’s possible some of those things – or even all of them, though I sure hope not – will change. It’s possible some things will get better – even more great clients would be nice – and it’s possible, even likely, that some will get worse. It’s possible something big and dramatic will happen to me this year, but it’s also possible nothing huge will change.
So I think that’s why the word possible was the one that kept reverberating through my mind as I tried to come up with my One Little Word. I don’t know what to expect this year; I don’t even know what to hope for, beyond the obvious grand-scale hopes like an end to the ongoing war and relief for the tragedy-stricken people wandering through the earthquake-ravaged streets of Haiti today. Because my wishes and hopes are vague right now, anything really does seem possible. Which may be a tepid thing to say, but there are years for emphatic goals and years for indeterminate hopes, and for me this seems to be the latter. Anything is possible, and right now that’s as focused as I seem able to be as I look toward the developing year.