December is a time of year when we're inclined to reflect on the year behind us and plan for the year ahead. Perhaps this is because we'd rather it wasn't midwinter.
In the Christmas rush, with extra demands piling up on top of day-to-day commitments and the New Year just around the corner, perhaps we're too quick to let ourselves get swept along, looking mainly forward. After all, forward is where we're headed. But every year brings new challenges, achievements and setbacks, and the better we can understand our experiences, the better we can use them to learn and grow.
One of the best ways to explore your experiences is to write about them. Writing helps you to think more clearly, openly and deeply about a subject. One of the reasons for this is the simple fact that - while you may feel like 'you know what you mean' - the first thing a writer needs to be is intelligible.
To get other people to understand the way your experiences influence your life, you need to think about how to lay them out, how you might be interpreted from different viewpoints. This often gives you a much richer account of your own life.
We all live in stories, and getting to read your own story back now and then can help you to understand situations in your life, the way you respond to them, and what usually comes of your responses. They also let you take a good look at the protagonist, what they're doing right and wrong, and how they interact with the people around them. Taking a step away from yourself and having a look from the outside can help you to be more critical and more honest with yourself and others.
Writing is valuable in itself, but finding a real audience for your work not only motivates you to write, improves your writing ability and strengthens the effects mentioned above, it also allows you to actively increase your engagement in your own network. "Everybody writes," the jaded expression goes, and "nobody reads." These days though, almost anyone can find an audience online.
Having an audience brings you closer to people, gives you a better understanding of what you're trying to accomplish with your writing. Creating content which you can share with your professional network can help employers, employees and colleagues alike (current and potential) to understand your personality, beliefs and approach to life. Sharing what's on your mind and in your past can also encourage others to reach out, forging more and better connections for a closer, richer network.
Writing for your network also helps you to understand it better. Just as you give an insight into yourself in your writing, so do others in their responses. Not everything you write will attract interest, but the question of what invites (or perhaps provokes) feedback and what passes unnoticed also helps to characterise your network.
Before the year is reborn on the shortest day, the sun moves so slowly that it appears to stand still in the sky. This is what 'solstice' means. Taking a moment to pause for reflection can give us a chance to work out where we think we're going, where we want to wind up, and how we might continue on that road. Part of the beauty of a piece of writing is that it lasts: it can go on to be read again and again, long after you've metaphorically dotted the I's and crossed the T's.
Whether you want to start writing a novel and need somewhere to start, want to reach out to your professional network and put a bit of yourself out there, or just need a way of taking a step back and having a proper look around and within, why not make starting a blog your New Year's Resolution? You might even find yourself returning to those first posts next December.