It seems to me that September 1, or at least Labour Day, is more like new year than New Year. In January we drag ourselves back to work or school after ten days of Winter Solstice celebration – knowing we had 90 more days of winter to go. But in September we rouse ourselves from our summer slumbers and get on with life – new plans, new prospects, new purpose. And now that it is the mid-September edition of my semi-monthly blog posts it seems only apt that I devote a bit of my blog to this September new year notion.
Since I have said something on this topic in my latest book, The Treasure of Stella Bay, I thought I would plagiarize myself and repeat what I said here.
New School and Sunday School weren’t the only new things that happened [in the fall of 1961] as Alex turned 11. So many new beginnings, so many changes. His dad said, in Canada, September was more like New Year than New Year. His dad always seemed to speak in riddles to Alex. Oh sure, Peter said, there were lots of events to mark the end of the calendar year and the beginning of the next one, but September offered a fresh new start after a summer of languor. Anticipating Christmas was exciting, enchanting, but when the Christmas Holiday was over everybody felt a natural let-down. Even New Year’s Celebrations held mixed feelings – waiting up to watch Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians bring in the New Year on tv, and the Rose Bowl Parade New Year’s Morning. Alex never made it to midnight and he wondered what the interest was in a big band playing old folks music, but next morning there was evidence that his mom and dad had enjoyed the evening. Alex and Peter watched all the Bowl Games on New Year’s Day even though Peter hadn’t watched US College Football all fall. New Year’s Day dinner was a subdued affair, not like the big Christmas dinner. The next day everybody went back to school or to work still tired from New Year’s Celebrations. The reality of winter smacked, and everybody knew they had many weeks to go before there might be a glimmer of Spring, no matter what Wiarton Willi might say on February 2. Was it any wonder people forgot their New Year’s Resolutions by January 10, if they made any at all?
But in September, once Labour Day weekend had come and gone, the whisper of change was in the air. The long warm summer suddenly seemed to shift into invigorating cooler days, and nights. People no longer lounged on their porches, and they seemed to have more energy. The days themselves were getting shorter, and there seemed to be more urgency. Kids went back to school and started a new grade with a new teacher. The rhythm of the days shifted from the sluggish dog days of summer to the productive days of fall. Everybody in the Jorgenson family could feel the difference. Peter was anxious, steeling himself for his class lectures that first week of semester. Alex felt like his dad, and Oliver was, well, Oliver. Victoria was grateful to have more time for herself rather than supervising and entertaining kids every day.
And here we are now in September of 2021 rather than September of 1961 and hope springs infernal once again, even as covid persists to thwart or frustrate our plans.
One of my favourite pieces of music is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons cycle. Each Season is depicted in a 3 movement violin concerto. Paolo Peitropaolo of the CBC’s In Concert program played it last Sunday morning while I was working out in my boxing gym. As Paulo introduced the Autumn segment, I found myself listening more carefully. Autumn doesn’t technically start until the equinox September 21 (or so), as Paulo conceded, but he remarked, as I have, the Labour Day weekend and return to routine on the Tuesday brings a noticeable shift in people’s attitudes, a new step to peoples’ feet.
I didn’t get quite that sense of vigour and energy from the Autumn Concerto – Spring is much more lively than this Fall one – but it did have a sense purpose and hopefulness that I think most Canadians feel in September. (Maybe Vivaldi, living in Northern Italy, experienced things differently than we do.)
In any event, Vivaldi and Pietropaolo caused me to reflect on this seasonal transition period: what did the shift to September new year mean for me in 2021?
I have to confess the change has not been as clear-cut for me this year. As an author, working from a home office, and living alone, and still restricted in my movements due to this interminable covid regime, I find every day is much the same as the previous. Summer heat has kept me as much indoors as winter cold. I hardly go outside for fear of sun damage to already damaged skin, and since I no longer have Bonnie demanding our thrice-daily walks, I don’t. I confess I was feeling the doldrums and not looking forward to the Fall, which is merely the harbinger of Winter.
Over-shrouding all of that is the ongoing forced separation of Carmen in The Philippines from me in Kanata – sixteen months and counting. If the new normal is relationships via Skype, well, it is not normal. The sands of my life are slipping through my fingers and there is almost nothing I can do about it.
So, of course, I faced September with a shrug.
Still, holding to my life philosophy of carpe diem, difficult as that is at times, I worked my way through August and considered what September yet had to offer. In an ironic sense, my usual August melancholy passed with only a few days of despondency. I was encouraged.
I reminded myself that happiness was a product of having a sense of purpose, and though my purpose has mostly to do with writing these days, my purpose was also not to be a writing hermit but a published author; I needed to get my writing read. That meant promoting my work, in particular, my latest book, The Treasure of Stella Bay.
As you will recall from my previous essays on happiness, and purpose, our greatest sense of well-being comes when we recognize our best talents, give ourselves opportunity to use those talents as intensely as possible (‘flow’) as often as possible, and even more so if in the service of others. Opportunities for being in flow come through projects.
My project over the last year has been writing and publishing The Treasure of Stella Bay. The TSB was published July 26, and I felt gratified and accomplished. But this brought on a new dilemma – what now? I was sorely tempted to launch into a new project, my next book, but I knew this wouldn’t satisfy my other need, to be read. I wanted The Treasure of Stella Bay to be read and that meant I had to promote it. The trouble with that is, promotion, marketing and selling are not among my signature strengths. I doubted I would find much opportunity for flow in trying to flog this book. I felt quite conflicted. But I knew if I avoided this problem by plunging into writing a new book, I would regret it.
I have been aware of this problem for a few years now – The Treasure of Stella Bay is not my first rodeo, as they say – and I decided that some projects are necessary even if they are not in your preferred sweet spot. So I started to put together my marketing campaign. Lucky for me (following Seneca’s advice, or maybe it’s my Boy Scouts training) I have already put in place a lot of the infrastructure needed to promote my book(s) as an independent author: my own website, SM accounts (eg, LinkedIn), author profiles on Amazon, Goodreads, and of course my production agency, Lulu.com. But those are all passive presences. To get attention I needed to get the message out myself. It’s easy to write a marketing plan, it’s another thing to actually get in the ring, as Teddy Roosevelt famously championed. And this means an email campaign, and personal contact, letting everyone I know in my extensive network of friends and colleagues about The Treasure of Stella Bay.
So in August I adopted as my current project the promotion of The Treasure of Stella Bay, despite my reluctance. This project gave me focus, and, as it turns out, some early success; it also may have had something to do with me getting through my August without serious despondency.
And now September has arrived and I am feeling renewed vigour – my marketing campaign is gaining some traction: my book is now placed in seven independent retail outlets from Picton and Bath, to Kingston and Ottawa, and I’m picking up sales from family and friends directly and through Lulu and Amazon. Over 120 copies of my book are now in readers’ hands or in stores.
That’s not enough for me to make the New York Times Best Sellers List but it’s a start. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, first we take Bath, then we take, Berlin.
I’ve postponed starting a new writing project until (likely) January. I’m now looking forward to seeing where this promotion project goes.
So what are your plans for this ‘new year’?
Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata Ontario
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