My first post New Year, New Writing debuted a year ago today. I sound a bit despondent in the post about ever finding inspiration or finishing the book I am writing. Despite not being where I thought I would be I recently reviewed my year and did better than expected. And this blog has been such a part of that journey for me. My blog birthday is the perfect time to decide what’s next…
My most popular posts have been Reviews like this one of great historical drama: The Mermaid and The Bear. I aim to do more reviewing this year and to highlight my favourite genres like gothic novels and intriguing first person novels. I have also set myself the task of “reading up” all the books on my shelves (Kindle/or real) as my to be read pile is so huge.
I love sharing real life updates and try to be inspiring to others like me. I have a new Instagram.com/mumwritenow for inspiring quotes and things that take my fancy. I also plan to write more about my Artist Date experiences. I love this list of Cheap and Easy Artist’s Dates but really want to add some ideas to this and commit to the practice. Julia Cameron – whose book The Artist Way has been so instrumental in my creative recovery – recommends that Artists (and may be everyone) take out two hours a week to explore and enchant with something new so that we can reinvigorate our inner Artist.
Finally the biggest commitment I want to make is not to this blog at all, but to my writing. I want to reassert my right to the time to write. I want to make writing much more than a hobby. And I want to plod on, day-by-day, towards the finish line of not one, but two different projects I am working on.
January is a tough month. Your instagram is full of diet culture idiocy or people snarking about resolutions. You feel the need to reinvent, renew. And in the meantime you might be struggling with Winter blues. You make the obligatory trip to the gym, like I did this week, and find yourself sick from it (also me). But you have got to ask yourself, were you good enough?
I blame myself for feeling low (along with the illness and Winter and the wolf moon) I reviewed last year’s resolutions last week. I also talked about giving up drink last month. But the rebel child in me has been completely triggered by these posts about dry January and resolutions. She kicks off whenever she thinks she might be doing something everyone else is doing. Resisting the good habits I had shared here, I have had another week of TV binge and time online. And yes, feeling unwell and sorry for myself has helped this bad week along.
Neglecting my morning pages, my writing, eschewing socialising and Artist’s Dates it has left little for me to write about here. Except I wanted to share that I did also do enough. Fed myself, cleaned the toilet, read stories to my child. As Mums, I think we dismiss what we do and focus on what we don’t. Even on a rough week, we did probably look after our children pretty well.
In his CBT manual, The Feeling Good Handbook, David D Burns tells you “Dare to be Average”. I don’t particularly subscribe to CBT therapy though I see it is useful to analyse your thinking after the fact. I am not of course trained, (so please listen to any psychiatrist over me) but I feel the techniques can also lead you down an overthinking rabbit hole if you are a typically anxious Alice. However, his mantra has always stuck with me. If perfectionism stops you from doing anything, it might be worth doing something, rather than nothing, averagely.
Which is why I wanted to post so that you know I am trying. Hopefully I will be well next week, back to better habits, but for now I hope this is enough.
Any fans of the Gretchen Rubin Happier Podcast know Elizabeth and Gretchen reset every year with a list of goal. But instead of over-arching vague ideas, they get you to be specifoc. In 2019 I did it all: I set a word of the year, I set new goals 19 for 2019 and I started a Happiness Project. Habits were changed: more time was spent reading, blogging and cleaning. But despite that I am struggling to feel the sense of achievement I ought to. So I thought it was time to review what I had achieved.
Writing goals: I plotted the first three chapters of my comedic novel and I blogged almost every week but did I complete my first draft of my novel? Reader, I think you may know by now I did not. I am 24 days off my first post on this blog: could I get it in on time for my Blogeversary?
Work Goals: Within months of starting the year, I started a new job. Thank you Universe for finding me flexible, interesting work. I have a lot to learn but I just found out I passed probation and I am a permanent staff member. There’s lots of training coming up in the New Year so this is one thing I can tick off my 19 for 2019.
Blog Goals: It was part way through the year before I started to get a hang of this blogging stuff. I have set up a Pinterest page and I am planning to develop in this area to make my content more. professional in future. This one will go to next year’s list.
HEALTH AND WELLBEING GOALS
Selfcare Goals: Are yoga and swimming part of my weekly life? No, they are not. Upholding these goals have been a very long term struggle. The few hours I have to do it, I do not get up and go. Lets be honest, this one will always have to be on my list but I am working on how to make it a habit.
Friendship Goals: I have completed some of my goals to see people more though scraping them in at the last minute by seeing Movies the last couple of weekends of the year. We are yet to have people for dinner but I know we had friends for brunch once, so that counts. I think I need to combine the exercise and friends goals probably to fit it all in.
Activity Goals: I didn’t manage to see three musicals but I did see two and the Tutankhamun exhibit so I am putting this down as a win. I know expensive activities can’t be everyday, but I am glad that the practice of Artist’s Dates is opening me up to a more creative life.
Education Goals: I am still stuck in the quagmire or applying for the right support for my son. This is a difficult one to have as a goal because I am at the mercy of other people. Despite not being through with this part of the process, I can say I have given this my all, dedicating a lot of time and often too much of my energy to a broken system. So, a win for me if not yet for him.
RelationshipGoals: I can’t really tick off these goals but I can move them to the next list as aspirations. My husband’s work has been all-consuming but, just maybe, the light is coming at the end of the tunnel. I think we will see a lot more of each other in 2020.
Phone time: Maybe because these goals were concrete and achievable. I have halved my time of social media. I have been better at saving my photos to the cloud though I need to share them more often with family members still.
Eat lunch at home: The past few months, I have been buying lunch out again but one plus of my new job is a I have a coffee machine at work which reduced my eating out costs. This one is to reestablish habits of earlier in the year.
So overall, I completed 10/19 goals and made some good new habits along the way. My housework goals were separate so I think I will give myself some extra points.
What I have learned is to be specific where I can to help me get that sense of achievement. I also need to review goals more frequently- some I had forgotten I had set! I must order them by priority so that I make time for crucial things like exercise or big things, like finishing the damn draft.
Seems like it’s finally time. Now I need more than goals, going to make my 2020 vision…!
During the process of The Artist’s Way Programme, Julia Cameron encourages you to review your Morning Pages. Although she suggests you do not read them back at first, you may get too caught up in your inner critics who chat away at you. After all, the purpose of writing morning pages however inexpertly, is to leave those nasty guys on the page. Near the end of the programme, she asks that you make an overall review. Get your markers ready, it’s time to analyse your insights and highlight your ideas!
Taking stock of my pile of notebooks was a great antidote this week. I was feeling a little glum, I have been stuck in a plotting cul-de-sac for some months. Though I have had burst of inspiration in the last few weeks, the end of the decade dawns and I still haven’t completed that resolution from a few years ago to “Finish the damn draft.” Some people could have given up and I haven’t, slow and persistent plodding through my ideas. But at heart, it’s hard not to feel, like some relations, that this is all a nice hobby.
These critical thoughts and many others are marked in orange, it’s a pastel marker so it still looks pretty but it is a warning sign. Thoughts I have about myself and my abilities, hidden in my journal but still holding me back. Whether those thought originated somewhere else or they are barriers that seem to be in my way, they are hampering the inner Artist. Julia Cameron has a myriad of ways to tackle these thoughts. If you have got actual critics, she suggests ways to put up boundaries and protect your early drafts from those eyes. If your inner Artist is upset or restricted, then she suggests Artist’s Dates and an Artist altar for her.
My ideas, marked out now in a warning colour, spark a thought that in the last six months I have identified over and over the same thoughts that block me. Without giving too much away, a disappointment about wasted time and interruptions feature prominently. Like many things in my life, this can be helped by some productivity ideas so that I use what little time I have effectively.
But in amongst all those things I can criticise myself for are also other insights that she encourages you to write, mantras of self-belief. In amongst two pieces of advice stand out
You have a right to be a beginner, whatever your age”
Because, I often feel I have a lot to learn. Not least, how I can get the balance between planning my work out and let my creativity take the reins. This is at the heart of the strides I have made this year. And let’s be honest, it really isn’t a first draft anymore with so many revisions and moves around so in a way, I achieved something.
The other mantra – now highlighted in lilac – that stands out relates to the tenacity I have shown in carrying on with this and other projects. You have to tell yourself:
I am a prolific writer
Now, there is something in the vision work that someone like Rachel Hollis writes about – to write in the present tense as though it is your present reality. This seems to chime well with the vision boards that Cameron asks you to make. She believes you can give over these dreams to a God who believes in you as a creative. Whether I believe in this, I am not sure, but I can see that my production of work in the last six months has grown.
Thousands of words spent on this blog and in my notebooks. In amongst those books, marked now in bright yellow, new ideas I want to try, poems that have burst out and the start of new work I want to do. These books prove to me that whatever I have or haven’t achieved in my writing, I have been working, ideas have been flowing. Despite everything 2019 has been a great year.