Asking the Right Questions

A torchlight procession during a previous year’s Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations. Photograph: Peter Sandground via The Guardian

I’ll be spending a very windy Hogamany here in Scotland; the gales have been howling the last few nights. It’s been bitingly cold, too, and damp — but at least it’s not been raining as much in the rest of Britain (eep! a lot of flooding).

Unlike Edinburgh, there’s not a lot of Hogmanay fireworks in Dundee due to the austerity measures here. Mark tells me there’s a single rocket going up at midnight to mark the occasion. We shall be sure to shout ‘hurrah’ at the appropriate time.

My usual habit of recent years has been to spend New Year’s Eve with the Patsy to my Edina, Miss Wendy. We shall have to Skype this year, as we find ourselves in different countries this year. I remember fondly our wonderful dinner in Galway last year. And I think we ended up watching the Royles afterward with some bubbly. Laughing is always a good way to begin the year.

(h/t David for reminding me; Huh, beat Terry to it!)

I always bridle at the arbitrariness of calendar dates for momentous decision-making. Every day offers a new chance to begin again. And I’m not so much about resolutions as I am about evolving plans. My constantly revised ‘To Do’ list is a good case in point. I’ve always suffered from having more ideas than I can possibly make manifest in ten lifetimes, so it’s a challenge to decide what I should be working on now (particularly given my need to swap what I’m working on several times in a day).

On the plus side, I always finish what I commit to doing. On the negative side, it always takes longer than I hope it will. Life was particularly difficult during the transition from the Fulbright year to ‘real life’ (i.e. teaching) and it left me frustrated, feeling as if everything was taking too long. With luck the new house and the adjustment to my teaching schedule will reduce the frustration, though I will never write as fast as I want to do.

Making plans for the coming months I’ve been struck by the importance of asking the right questions; I’m sure my colleagues in philosophy will shake their heads over that (‘of course that’s the main thing!’), but the speed of modern life seems to deflect more and more people from asking the right questions. We ask ‘will this keep us from rushing off the fiscal cliff?’ instead of ‘who created this concept and why? and how are they profiting from it?’ People ask ‘why did that woman wear that dress/go to that location/have a drink?’ instead of ‘why did that man think he had the right to rape her?’ so that we do not examine problems of our cultural structures.

What questions should you be asking yourself if you want to really change your life? I suppose the first one is ‘do you want to change your life?’ People often say they do, but they never act upon that. It takes a concerted effort. Don’t make resolutions: make plans. Where do you want to be this time next year? I know where I want to be: I plan to make it so.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~Mary Oliver

Changes ahead in the blog: trying to be more thoughtful about how I do what I do and how I can make it of use to people. I’ve got a few new reviews up at A Knife and A Quill this week. Weird Noir is under submission for an award. More news soon, as usual. A few events upcoming including PCA and the Berkshire Women Writers Festival. A busy bee me! Happy new year: may it be wonderful for you.


  1. How brave and good! As I am reading this, our local NPR affiliate is playing the Royal Fireworks Music. At our writers’ group last night, we spent far more time discussing our lives (past, present, future) than our writing. But they aren’t separate things at all, not really. I hope your year is rich in all the things that matter to you–and that we see each other again after all these long years.

    1. katelaity says:

      You are kind my friend, and yes — may we be reunited again this coming year. We have much to share. Writing is the engine of my life. I am where I am because of it. I wouldn’t think of separating them because it’s not possible. Cheers to you.

  2. Todd Mason says:

    “On the negative side, it always takes longer than I hope it will.”

    The curse of optimism, and probably also the Human Condition…if the task is to be done any damned well at all.

    Happy New Year!

    1. katelaity says:

      Happy New ear to you, too!

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