The Sunday Letters

- by Jana Marie -


#63: Our memories, our muses.

It makes me wonder if perhaps this is why we’ll often feel so unsatisfied, so creatively unfulfilled after spending time on social media, hitting ‘like’ or ‘love’ or ‘favourite’ as we thumb our way from one post to the next.

— Sent out on February 18, 2018. Continue reading here.


#62: Small leaps.

It was something of a risk for them to do that, to make themselves vulnerable in such a way without knowing me well enough to know how I would react. But because they took that risk, I immediately knew that this was someone I wanted in my life, someone I would look forward to knowing better.

— Sent out on February 11, 2018. Continue reading here.


#61: Marginalia.

My decision to create that little bit of extra space in my life is one born out of a commitment to cultivating the undiscovered, to uncovering the small moments of wonder and surprise which are always there — are always there — but which we don’t always make the time to see or engage with.

— Sent out on February 4, 2018. Continue reading here.


#60: A paperclip and some poems.

Small as those life-changing actions so consistently are, they nonetheless require that someone take the time to do them, take the time to write that short note or to say those few words.

— Sent out on January 28, 2018. Continue reading here.


#59: Ebbs and flows.

Every so often, and usually when I’m just coming off of some major accomplishment, I’ll be hit with a slump of such unshakable magnitude that it will completely floor me, leaving me wholly inconsolable and entirely incapable of getting anything done until it passes.

— Sent out on January 21, 2018. Continue reading here.


#58: The case of the broken bicycle.

My front tire was visibly damaged, my bike was dragging along beside me with the mechanical equivalent of a limp, and I myself must have looked rather down on my luck.

— Sent out on January 14, 2018. Continue reading here.


#57: The particulars of a circle.

When I’m passionate about something, I don’t usually have a great deal of patience when it comes to, say, waiting for certain situations to unfold on their own time, or ensuring that all of the necessary steps are followed in a particular way.

— Sent out on January 7, 2018. Continue reading here.


#56: The day we acknowledge it.

I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to put so much pressure on this singular event as a make-or-break moment, or to suggest that growth can only occur at certain times, or to further the notion that progress can only come with a clean slate.

— Sent out on December 31, 2017. Continue reading here.


#55: A matter of degree.

More often than not, we simply like to think of the end of the year as an on-off switch, something which occurs at a precise moment of our choosing. We like to say that the year ‘begins’ on January 1st and ‘ends’ on December 31st, and that there are clear-cut, wholly unambiguous boundaries which separate the many moments in between.

— Sent out on December 24, 2017. Continue reading here.


#54: Roaming the aisles.

I found myself rummaging frantically about an otherwise quiet house, trying to unearth some work of fiction I hadn’t yet read from the many shelves which fill our home.

— Sent out on December 17, 2017. Continue reading here.


#53: Only fear.

How true that is, how often we allow precisely that to happen. How often we rationalize our fear by imbuing it with any number of positive traits, traits which it in no way deserves.

— Sent out on December 10, 2017. Continue reading here.


#52: To want, to know, to do.

For much of my life, I had simply been told what to want — mostly implicitly, but sometimes explicitly — by various individuals, and, trusting their judgment, I had rarely done much to question whether what they wanted for me was what I wanted for myself.

— Sent out on December 3, 2017. Continue reading here.


#51: The questions we ask.

I used to be rather dismissive of these types of seemingly empty inquiries, used to disdain them for their lack of depth. It had seemed to me that someone who was really interested in getting to know me would be able to come up with something better than that kind of small talk.

— Sent out on November 26, 2017. Continue reading here.


#50: The long game.

The long game is like a marathon with no end in sight: you still have to put in all of the training and you still have to show up on race day, but, once you start running, you don’t know when — or even if — you’ll reach the finish line.

— Sent out on November 19, 2017. Continue reading here.


#49: One step, two step.

It’s more of a momentary inconvenience than anything else, this winter weather, and it ceases to be much of a bother once you’ve gotten used to it.

— Sent out on November 5, 2017. Continue reading here.


#48: The perfect decision.

There will always be unanticipated variables and inconceivable influences, any one of which, for better or for worse, could drastically impact the outcome of any plans we’ve made.

— Sent out on October 29, 2017. Continue reading here.


#47: A long list.

Somehow, I thought that if I had been the one to do it all, whatever it was that I had done would be considered an even greater achievement than if I had been helped along the way.

— Sent out on October 22, 2017. Continue reading here.


#46: The tiniest nail.

I’ve been meditating on these words for some time now, this densely woven passage from the poet Mary Oliver’s latest collection, Upstream. To me, these words are as vivid and refreshing as the stream her speaker inhabits, and, like her, I wish only to linger within their bounds for as long as I can.

— Sent out on October 8, 2017. Continue reading here.


#45: Back to the beginning.

On the one hand, yes, it can be difficult to reflect upon the past, and indeed it often is. But, if we choose to see it that way, I think it can also be an incredibly enlightening exercise.

— Sent out on September 24, 2017. Continue reading here.


#44: An interesting life.

Much of the time, our tendency is to move through our days precisely as Plath says: “shut up tight inside [ourselves] like boxes.” We have our routines, and we stick to them.

— Sent out on September 17, 2017. Continue reading here.


#43: The highs, the lows.

It wasn’t the end of the road, of course, and I knew that, but it was certainly a major roadblock. And, for a long time, it was a roadblock that I just didn’t know how to get past.

— Sent out on September 10, 2017. Continue reading here.


#42: A time to think.

Inevitably, of course, we’re all constantly thinking, but I don’t know that we devote much time to just thinking. That is, not multitasking and thinking, but thinking without immediately having to do something with the outcome of those thoughts.

— Sent out on September 3, 2017. Continue reading here.


#41: Looking ahead, looking back.

“Short-term benefits are the kind[s] of things that can confuse you,” says Alice Winkler, host of the What It Takes podcast, in an episode on Jeff Bezos.

— Sent out on August 27, 2017. Continue reading here.


#40: Coming to a crossroads.

An ending doesn’t simply have to be a time for us to regret the things we haven’t done, the boxes unchecked and the goals unmet. It can also be a hopeful time, a time for change, a time in which we acknowledge coming to the end of one path before beginning down another.

— Sent out on August 20, 2017. Continue reading here.


#39: The rhythm of the day.

It keeps us from depending too heavily upon the hope of future success, and it pushes us to recognize that anything worth doing long-term should also have a firmly rooted place in the short-term.

— Sent out on August 13, 2017. Continue reading here.


#38: The pursuit of possibility.

That’s the thing about having goals: in order to attain them, you have to constantly navigate a delicate balance between what you know you can do — what you know others have already done — and what the world tells you is realistic.

— Sent out on August 6, 2017. Continue reading here.


#37: The penalty of postponement.

What I like so much about Coelho’s perspective is that he doesn’t view this struggle of procrastination-versus-work in the usual way.

— Sent out on July 30, 2017. Continue reading here.


#36: Stopping to smell the roses.

Everything is temporary, and, knowing this, we must learn to engage with the world accordingly.

— Sent out on July 23, 2017. Continue reading here.


#35: Looking back.

How wonderfully simple that happiness is, a happiness which requires nothing of the future and is merely grateful, instead, that the present is not the past.

— Sent out on July 16, 2017. Continue reading here.


#34: The story of Einstein’s desk.

The list goes on and on — some important-looking documents, a pamphlet on philosophy — but, even without any additional detail, the message is clear: this was a life well-lived.

— Sent out on July 9, 2017. Continue reading here.


#33: Waiting for the rain to pass.

How much time are we spending thinking that, if we were to wait just a little while longer, it would soon be better — it would soon be easier — for us to take the leap?

— Sent out on July 2, 2017. Continue reading here.


#32: From history’s perspective.

If Mozart had only ever written one symphony, for instance, or if Shakespeare had only ever penned a few sonnets, would history remember them, or would history remember their contemporaries?

— Sent out on June 25, 2017. Continue reading here.


#31: A new definition.

Once I started thinking about risk in those terms, I quickly realized that very few of the things I’d previously deemed ‘risky’ actually fit the bill.

— Sent out on June 18, 2017. Continue reading here.


#30: Day after day.

For a while, there was a certain ‘productivity secret’ being attributed to the comedian Jerry Seinfeld.

— Sent out on June 11, 2017. Continue reading here.


#29: Taking a step back.

If we adhere too closely to them for too long, our routines can cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture, to get caught up in the immediacy of the day-to-day.

— Sent out on June 4, 2017. Continue reading here.


(Note: prior to this point, The Sunday Letters was a bi-weekly newsletter.)


#28: Patient and thorough.

For me, this particular mantra acts as a kind of metronome, a fallback for whenever I start to veer away from the task at hand.

— Sent out on May 21, 2017. Continue reading here.


#27: Through the years.

As this edition of the newsletter officially marks the one-year anniversary (!) of The Sunday Letters, I wanted to do something a little different.

— Sent out on May 7, 2017. Continue reading here.


#26: Quality control.

It pushes me to speak up, to say what I mean, to have preferences and to honour them, to not confine my experiences to the constraints of established practice.

— Sent out on April 23, 2017. Continue reading here.


#25: When to dance.

The people in our lives can’t simply be made to fit within the confines of our plans, our timelines and to-do lists for how and when things are supposed to happen.

— Sent out on April 9, 2017. Continue reading here.


#24: Our finest impulses.

How often is it that we allow our feelings to take up a bit of space in our lives? How often will we allow ourselves to simply sit with those feelings, free from distraction or dampening of any kind, and permit them to move through us wholly unencumbered?

— Sent out on March 26, 2017. Continue reading here.


#23: A telepathic transmission.

One of the greatest joys I derive from reading has to do with something which the writer Charles Baxter calls the “pleasure [of recognizing] something without knowing what you’re recognizing.”

— Sent out on March 12, 2017. Continue reading here.


#22: Tiptoes and no luggage.

Far from walking lightly, it seems that we’re committed to trudging around from one place to the next, metaphorically packing months worth of luggage for what should really only be a day trip, or, at the very most, a weekend away.

— Sent out on February 26, 2017. Continue reading here.


#21: The freedom to fail.

Even if it were only in short bursts — an afternoon here, a 15-minute coffee break there — might this not be precisely the type of behaviour which has the potential to be transformative, to push us beyond even our most persistent plateaus?

— Sent out on February 12, 2017. Continue reading here.


#20: One more step.

Lately, I’ve found myself doing a lot of thinking about the distinction between ‘becoming’ and ‘having become.’ At what point, or after how much time, do we transition from being on our way to having arrived?

— Sent out on January 29, 2017. Continue reading here.


#19: A day in the life.

Whether it’s this day or the next one, I doubt that very many of us are cognizant of the fact that it is precisely these days — not the days of some distant future or long-forgotten past — which make up our lives.

— Sent out on January 15, 2017. Continue reading here.


#18: The wisdom of the river.

Each year, for a brief period of time both before and after January 1st, I think we all become more like those four or five people for whom the river has stopped being an obstacle.

— Sent out on January 1, 2017. Continue reading here.


#17: From amateur to expert.

The longer we do something, the more distanced we become from the momentum of those early successes, from that direct, positive reinforcement which once did so much to propel us forward.

— Sent out on December 18, 2016. Continue reading here.


#16: A life of possibility.

The older we get, the more we start requiring our inputs to lead to outputs. We expect that the things we do — that everything we do — will produce tangible results, and we consider ourselves to have failed if they don’t.

— Sent out on December 4, 2016. Continue reading here.


#15: The work continues.

For van Gogh, the work continued regardless of whether he was met with failure or success, and it continued regardless of anything else which might have been going on in the world.

— Sent out on November 20, 2016. Continue reading here.


#14: Faith, excitement, and secrecy.

Perhaps the reason why we so struggle to put into words the things which move us is because those things are meant to be a secret: they are meant, in some small way, to be only for us.

— Sent out on November 6, 2016. Continue reading here.


#13: Only the bare necessities.

Mornings have had me lingering around the house, and nighttime has had me drinking tea before bed. I’ve returned to journaling, and I’m reading more fiction. I’ve silenced all of the notifications on my computer, and I no longer use my phone.

— Sent out on October 23, 2016. Continue reading here.


#12: Those who go on anyway.

It was the kind of failure where I couldn’t simply turn to the typical safety-net excuses of, “I wasn’t really trying,” or, “I didn’t really care.” I tried very hard, and I cared very much.

— Sent out on October 9, 2016. Continue reading here.


#11: An act of honesty.

Unlike us, trees don’t cling to their old leaves, use them as a means to keep warm during the winter, and then do what they can to patch things up once spring comes along. No, the trees let their dying leaves fall, bare themselves to the elements for a few cold months, and begin anew with the arrival of spring.

— Sent out on September 25, 2016. Continue reading here.


#10: A change of season.

Perhaps, like Thoreau suggests, we are indeed meant to “live in each season as it passes,” to make the most of it while we can, and then, once it ends, let go.

— Sent out on September 11, 2016. Continue reading here.


#09: A ship in the harbour.

Travel, in many ways, is the opposite of simple. It is wonderful and exciting and new in ways that are truly beyond measure, but it is also complicated, emotional, and unpredictable.

— Sent out on August 28, 2016. Continue reading here.


#08: A life in pictures.

The memories which I have of that trip, and of that time in my life, are not framed in picture-perfect, golden-hour moments. Just like that summer, those memories are hectic and humid and untidy and emotional.

— Sent out on August 14, 2016. Continue reading here.


#07: The triumphant fall.

In the Greek myth, Icarus’ father constructs a pair of wings for him so that he might escape the dangers of the labyrinth. These wings were a remarkable invention, to be sure, but there was one caveat: because the wings were made from feathers and wax, they were far from indestructible.

— Sent out on July 31, 2016. Continue reading here.


#06: Those who wake us.

I don’t think of these wounds as being particularly painful or permanent, though. Rather, I see them more as a gentle nudge, an attempt at drawing me out of a slumber from which I’ve been reluctant to wake.

— Sent out on July 17, 2016. Continue reading here.


#05: An unquantifiable reality.

There is a wonderful quote by William Bruce Cameron that I so often find myself returning to: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

— Sent out on July 3, 2016. Continue reading here.


#04: Missed connections.

A missed connection is a story unfinished. It is a patchwork of what-ifs and a loose, dangling thread of if-onlys. That, I think, is why we often can’t stop thinking about them: there is so much possibility surrounding a missed connection that we simply can’t help but wonder what might have been.

— Sent out on June 19, 2016. Continue reading here.


#03: A theory of relativity.

There have been many times in my life when a single good conversation was enough to nudge me back onto my feet, or a chance run-in with someone I hadn’t seen in a while continued to have a positive impact on me for months. In both cases, the numbers were very small — involving only one or two other people — but the effect was profound.

— Sent out on June 5, 2016. Continue reading here.


#02: The value of commitment.

A daily ritual is a commitment. It is a promise to both yourself and your work. It is a way of honouring what you do, a way of saying, “I value you. This is important to me.”

— Sent out on May 22, 2016. Continue reading here.


#01: The tradition of storytelling.

Yes, social media has made it so that we are often inundated with what can feel like an overwhelming amount of information. But social media has also made it possible for storytellers to connect directly with their audiences, and, in turn, it has made it possible for us to connect directly with storytellers.

— Sent out on May 8, 2016. Continue reading here.

“A breath of fresh air”

“I always look forward to reading Jana’s emails; it’s a breath of fresh air, … a timely reminder to take things slow and live in the moment.”

Andi Lanuza

“Keep[s] you thinking”

The Sunday Letters are always a thoughtful and welcome stop during my week. You get a moment to pause, to consider and to reflect … and Jana often leaves you with a question to keep you thinking long after you’ve finished reading. I love these letters and find myself forwarding them regularly to friends and family.”

Scott Burau

“A quiet affirmation”

“I feel like Jana is a friend — the smart one who reads books that intimidate you — that shows up every two weeks to share something that’s on her mind. … Each letter feels like a quiet affirmation that we are all moving through a life filled with curious people, perspectives, and ideas.”


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Lauren Stephenson

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— Megan Snider

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