A couple of years ago I presented at an academic conference in my professional field, Composition and Rhetoric. I opened the talk by briefly recounting my transition from a degree track in literature to composition. Most of us in writing, I argued, found our way there after first seeking to develop deeply personal relationships with the authors who penned our literary canon and their stories to which we eagerly and willingly gave so many of our waking hours. It was the desire to not just learn, but experience, the lives of the characters that motivated our professional tracks. Perhaps, many of us daydreamed, even to eventually extract enough of the great authors’ genius and inspiration to pen our own masterpiece, to offer new stories infused with the essence of our literary ancestors who kept us up so many nights.

For me, it was the allure of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (leather-bound with gold-trimmed pages, of course), Austen’s tales of difficult love, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Dante’s Inferno, and Eliot’s universal Prufrock. I fell deeply into the philosophical trance of Dostoevsky’s tome of ethical quandaries. I nurtured fuzzy visions of actually accomplishing Miss Bingley’s characteristics of an “accomplished” woman, a list that is both absurd and wonderful. (Who indeed, Mr. Darcy, could fulfill such intensive requirements?) I did not, to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments. I feared each horrific circle of the great Inferno while mining the fluid cantos. I talked of Michelangelo and measured out my life with coffee spoons.

Indeed, it was the allure of so many tales that encouraged the overtly romantic themed pursuits that prompted this very blog.

It was these intangibles of literature that initially drew us and laid claim to our imaginations, softly caressing dreams of being contemporaries rather than descendants of the great wordsmiths. So we were coaxed, and willingly followed, the fantasies of other times penned by impressive hands.

I was reminded of that talk when watching Midnight in Paris, an interesting little Woody Allen film that considers the perplexing nature of the “present.” That is, the common sensation that one’s present time is often deemed “dull” or sub-par compared to past eras, such as we might read in books, perhaps. The difficulty, so implies the film, is finding reasons for contentment in one’s own time when what has come before is so very romantic.

For the protagonist (who is, of course, a writer) his desired “Golden Age” is 1920s Paris, when Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Eliot traded wines (and sometimes woman) with Picasso, Pound, and Joyce, among other ex-patriates of Stein’s “Lost Generation.” Without giving away too much of the plot, the “hero” ultimately determines that our lot is not to yearn for the past, but to deal bravely and contemplatively with our own present, our own lives.

While I will always allow myself the luxury of falling completely into the worlds created on the pages of my favorite books, I am determined that this year, I will consciously and intentionally confront my present. I am committed to engaging in each day as it is happening, not mourning for yesterday or wishing for tomorrow.

To this goal, this resolution, I tip my pen. May I live and write this year in the literary present.