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Three generations of my family celebrated Christmas together in Vermont this year. We made gingerbread houses and gingerbread canoes; we sang and played the piano; we played hide-and-seek with all the cousins – and my goodness, did we get snow! Not just a white Christmas, but a wild two-day storm that left us snowbound.

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Candle in the snow – my sister-in-law’s beautiful idea

I came back from that trip wondering what resolutions I should make for 2013. GROW was my word for 2012, and it served me well. I did all kinds of things that stretched me: going on writing retreats, traveling to New York, writing a fast second draft of book two. (Who knew? I turned out to love retreats, I had a great time in New York, and I’m very proud of book two.)

For all kinds of reasons, 2013 is another big year for me, especially on the writing front. Chantress is published in May – and before the end of the year I also need to revise the second Chantress book and write as much of the third book as I possibly can. I’ve never had such tight deadlines before, and I worry about burning out.

So what’s my goal for 2013?

To be honest, the word SURVIVE occurred to me — right around the same time I went down with the flu. But while I was recovering, another and much happier phrase occurred to me:

FILL THE WELL.

That sounds easy enough, but if I’m honest, I know it’s not: Sleep, for instance, is something that fills the well, and yet I’m always tempted to short myself on it. I reach 8pm, and instead of winding down I gear up for just another page or writing, or a few more emails, or one last look at Facebook. I start thinking I’m on American time (never mind that I live in Britain). But after just few days of that, I’m drained. So getting to bed at a reasonable hour is something I’m committed to this year.

There are other habits, too, that I need to work on, especially with Chantress coming out. After the long, quiet years of working away on a story, it’s startling to have it out there in the world. Hearing from readers who loved the book is a joy, but there are plenty of worries, too. Will reviewers like Chantress? Will it do well? It’s hard not to fret about those questions. And these days, with the web ready to hand, it’s all too easy to try and find answers.

But here’s what I’ve noticed: Even when the answers are good, those questions don’t help me write. And writing is what I need to do. Not just because I have contracts and deadlines, but because writing is what centers me. Playing with words, plunging into the dark cave of a story and finding my way out: These things make me feel more alive.

So I’ve started timing my internet use, and when I’m tempted to self-Google, I’m pulling up a story file, or writing in my journal instead. When inspiration palls, I’m trying to do something real: play the piano, or bake muffins, or go for a walk with a friend – whatever makes me feel rested and balanced and able to give more to my work and to others.

Yes, there are deadlines. Yes, I have a book coming out. But I’m going to try and fill the well now, and not wait till it runs dry.

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Fountain in winter, Oxford Botanical Garden

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