In 2019 I had goals…

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.

CAREER GOALS

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.

A bit more time for me

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.

FAMILY 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.

Relationship Goals: 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.

BETTER HABITS

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.

A little less time online

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…!

What did I do in 2019?

A Review of My Writing Year

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.

Happy New Year 2020!

Gothic Girl

It’s been a dark year, it seems, on my reading list…

As I reflect on my completed Goodreads challenge, I can see a firm theme of the year: I just love gothic fiction and girls who can give me a good scare. For any fans of historical fiction with a Gothic twist here are my MUST READS from recent years

The Corset, Laura Purcell : She is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, Laura Purcell does not disappoint with her second novel. Set in a Victorian town we flit between the fliverous but earnest Dorothea and the dark tales from Ruth who is awaiting sentence in the town prison. We hear through both of them tales of deceit. Ruth, a skilled seamstress and corserteer is incarcerated for the crime of murder, though as the do-gooder Dorothea learns she may have committed many more through the power of her needle and evil thoughts. The darkness of course comes from the horrors the Ruth has endured in her life but also, like Dotty we must try and work out if Ruth is in a state of madness or if we actually believe the harm she can do.

This makes for a really enjoyable mystery, a story full of shocks and surprises. The historical details are relayed well but it is the gothic atmosphere that makes this so appealing.

Slammerkin, Emma Donaghue If the prison setting fascinates you the eighteenth century tale, Slammerkin is a great novel I would also recommend. It’s a few years since I read this one, but I loved the details of the horrors Mary Saunder faces just because her head is turned by a red ribbon, the unravelling of her world, will appeal to fans of a gothic feel in their historical fiction.

The Doll Factory, Elizabeth MacNeal I loved this debut though I found some of the violence hard to read, the menace of the characters involved made you understand how the author decided to develop this idea. I found the ideas around artists and trying to escape her life really compelling

The Story Keeper, Anna Mazzola This historical fiction is full of the mystery surrounding the death and disappearances of girls on the island in Skye. Audrey Hart, herself running away from her life, is collecting the stories from Folklore on the island and becomes embroiled in the mystery. The description of scenery, wind and rain whipping around her – the lost land and the clearances also a central feature of the novel – all of this makes for an atmospheric read that I recommend.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters No list I make about gothic fiction would be complete without one of my favourite books. I am fascinated by the use of ambiguity in fiction. The Ayres mansion makes for a disturbing sense of being out of place. The Little Stranger haunts the pages and like the crumbling world of certainity of the past, leaves the reader uncertain.

And if you want a real classic, Turn of the Screw by Henry James has to be one of the best gothic tales. (And yes I know he is not a Gothic girl.)

On one on the to be read pile:

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver has had many plaudit’s already and this one is definitely going to start my New Year right.

Without knowing it, I find myself in dark and spooky places quite often, centring round a murder or a mystery. I never meant for this time be my main form of escape. I would love to know: what genre do you love to read.

What genre do you return to most often?

Don’t lose your sense of wonder

One benefit of using Artist’s Dates is to spend time each week with your sense of wonder…

Pushing through the crush at the Tutankhamun exhibition was a little overwhelming. There was a chaos of people being carrelled through the exhibit from the first video about the Ancient Egyptian Mythology there was no more structure other than the divide between the treasures and the dig. On the day I visited, everyone was hustled into the next room without much ceremony. There was little to direct you to say what exhibit was first. Perhaps that’s because they wanted you to buy audio guides?

When I said I was going someone asked me if I had taking my son. Well, I can tell you the dark room and crush of people was enough for me to cope with, I would not know where to start making it accessible for someone with sensory needs. But my sensitivity to dark and busy places has been heightened by having a child whose anxiety and overwhelm can lead to painful meltdowns so I went instead as an Artist Date. I enjoyed it greatly even if having a child with these particular needs does make me hypersensitive to crowds.

It is not just an awareness for challenging environments that my son has taught me, it is also something much more marvellous: a sense of wonder at small detail. As a small child he noticed a stonework lizard climbing at the National History Museum. I had looked past it. On a recent transport adventure, he danced for joy to see a tile with the tube map on. They are hidden outside Vauxhall Station and even the bored looking young man sat on the wall at the time was quite impressed with our find. I think that some of his inbuilt visual skills make it easier for my son to spot these details. It’s a blessing that I am happy to share.

Really what all children can teach us though is to LOOK! Whether your child has natural joint attention and points things out to you or not, they are often fascinated by things that are low down and hidden.

I was amazed by the treasures I saw on that day. Startled by the depth of the colour. The blue. The passion behind preserving these wonders for over 3500 years is awe-inspiring in itself. Both the religious practices that lead to the immense artistry thousands of years ago, the preservation since Carter plundered the grave and the new project that is being developed in Egypt to finally house the treasures all in one place.

Other than the “exit through the gift shop” mentality (the shops were listed as a galleries) this is a must-see exhibition!

It particularly worked as an Artist Date for me because I was so inspired by the truth that runs through the story: in Egyptian Mythology you must say the name as an act of memory. Despite large scale erasure one might say of Tutankhamun: there’s not a child in our world who does not know his name. That is a fascinating reflection on the power of art and history.

If you want to know more about Artist’s Dates, I have written up my own cheap and easy ideas and you can learn more about them in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.