2016. Man. What can I say? It’s been a flaming hellfire of a year for a lot of us, and it seems pretty determined to go out with a smashing bang (I say as I write this on Dec 30). But. There have been a lot of good things this year too. If you need a reminder, hit up this list of 99 ways the world improved in 2016; it’s super inspiring and a great, positive balance to all the negative garbage of this year.
On a personal note, this has been a somewhat tumultuous year for me, involving among many other things emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder in March (which turned out to be gangrenous!!), and returning to work full time after maternity leave. The full time bit wasn’t planned, and added a whole bunch of challenges to the year, especially since I missed about a month of work with the surgery and all. Blah.
But! Despite–or, perhaps because of?–all the rubbish I’ve been dealing with this year, it’s been a great year for learning. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my dreams, my goals, and my work habits, and that’s something positive I can take forward into 2017 and hopefully use to have a fabulous year next time around. One of the best things I’ve done is finally get a handle on an organisational system that really works for me; I’m a full-time high school English teacher (which means 5 classes plus a tutor group/roll call class), I have two kids under school age, I’m trying to build my writing career as well as managing a micro-publisher as part of that, I run a hobby-business with my husband sewing baby things, and I dabble in cake-making on the side (and by dabble I mean I’m setting myself up in the long run for that to be another hobby-business at the very least). Suffice to say, I have a lot going on. So developing an organisational system that actually works to help me keep track of all this has been a lifesaver. I might do a post on that later this week?
But probably the most important discover I’ve made this year in a personal, visceral kind of way is exactly how much it’s possible to achieve simply by showing up on a regular basis, even if that basis is only literally a couple of minutes here and there. I started experimenting with things like taking my laptop to appointments where I knew there was a good chance I’d be in the waiting room for >5 minutes, and actually using that time to write. Also on the writing front, I’m on my way towards learning how to write tired. This might not sound like an especially good or exciting thing, but with the whole full time teaching and two preschool kids thing going on, if I can’t write tired, I pretty much can only write during school holidays. Learning to write tired has meant learning to be a lot more prepared with my writing time–something that’s applicable to everything I’ve done this year, actually. Being able to juggle a lot successfully without losing your sanity or spending every day stressed out and wired means doing exactly what I advise my students to do in exams: don’t rush blindly in, even if you’re worried about running out of time. Take 5-10 minutes to plan, so that once you start writing, you can be effective in using the remainder of your time.*
* Pity I didn’t take that planning advice to heart with this post. It would likely have been a lot more coherent 😛
So most nights end the same way: a quick review of my diary-brain, recapping what needs to happen the next day. If I can manage it, I’ll do the same over breakfast: a quick review, providing an outline of the day ahead and refreshing my memory regarding what I’d like to/need to achieve. And that’s exactly what I mean about coming to my writing sessions more prepared: I’m learning to make better use of outlines (see, e.g., my plotting posts from my visit with Liana Brooks back in October) and when I sit down to write, I usually know at least the rough shape of what I need to say.
The other thing, though, that’s allowed me to get better at fitting writing in around my crazy life, is learning to be more forgiving of myself. I’m a total Slytherin in that my life motto is, “You are not called to be ordinary”, but this doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up about not acing every single thing I do–especially things like first drafts. Learning to write tired has meant learning to bear in mind that first drafts are exactly that: drafts. They don’t have to do anything except exist–and most of the time, when I remember that and am able to just let go, the words that come out aren’t half as bad as I inevitably expect them to be anyway.
So in a rambly way, that brings me to the actual most important lesson I’ve learned personally and viscerally this year: letting go. We all KNOW we should do it, we all KNOW what it means… but to be able to do it? It’s an on-going journey. This year has come with a lot of baggage, but I’ve sifted through it, found the bits I need to hold onto in order to become a better person, and the rest? The rest can go right where it belongs: into the rubbish.
2016, you’ve been a hell of a year, and you’re going out kicking. I can only hope that 2017 will look at what you’ve done, and decide that it can be better. 2017, you’re still new, and young, and beautiful. Sift through that garbage pile for the gems; don’t forget the good things humanity is capable of; don’t forget that you’re humanity too. We’re in this together, you and I, and dammit, we’re going to make it good.
** This was originally going to be a simple YAY I WROTE 2 NEW NOVELS AND A NOVELLA THIS YEAR AND THERE WILL BE NEW PUBLISHED THINGS FOR YOU TO READ NEXT YEAR post, but, well, it isn’t. But still: yay! I wrote two new novels and a novella! And the first few chapters of Fox Red were published in the YA anthology That Moment When, which is hitting the bestseller lists on Amazon as we speak! 🙂 And at the bare minimum, 2017 will see the release of the Darkness & Good short story anthology, my non-fic book From The Ground Up: How To Build A World That Really Works, and my YA contemporary fantasy novel, Fox Red. Woo!