2020: The Year of the Novel

I am officially declaring 2020 the year of the novel – come what may. By the 31st of December 2020 my novel will have been rejected / accepted by a publisher and on its way to some form of publication, even if I have to do it myself. Come what may. No more writing courses, no more “How to” books; I shall live by the words of the Greek philosopher Epictetus, which went something along the lines of ‘Writers write. So, if you want to be a writer, then write.’

I would like to thank K.W. Weiland, whose article on finding creativity in the new year has buoyed me on and injected a new sense of inspiration and muchness that I can only hope will stay with me past January. (https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/find-writing-inspiration/) I, like her, was a child with an insatiable imagination. But unlike her, I don’t feel mine has dried up as I’ve gotten older. I still create storylines in my head when I wash the dishes, I still converse with characters on road trips, and I still daydream myself into impossible scenarios. I guess my problem is, they stay in my head and never make it to the page.

She begins her list of tips with finding the best time of the day to write. Oh, how this pains me. You see, I am a night owl by nature, my soul wants to type into the early hours of the morning. But since rejoining the workforce in the latter stages of last year I have been forced to fake being a ‘morning person’. I wake up at 5:30 every morning. So, I have to go to bed at 9:30 every night to avoid falling asleep at my desk. Be a night owl on the weekends you might say? Well I would attempt that except I am currently trying to shake a sleeping disorder by rectifying my circadian rhythm, which requires me to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day – even on weekends. Write in the evenings when you get home you might say? After a full day at the office I can barely write my own name, never mind work on a novel. Plus, I want to spend time with hubby, and our cats, and the couch. And so, I am forced to carve out a time during the workday when things are slow – which is never predictable. Me, the incessant planner, gets anxious just thinking about it.

And so we move on to tip two: “Find time for “Pointless’ Creativity”. Wait now, I’m already struggling to find time for the pointy creativity. But fortunately, this is something I don’t really struggle with. It’s all about separating “work” writing from “fun” writing. As I don’t do much writing for work, most of my writing qualifies as “fun”. And as soon as it starts to feel like work, I have a gazillion other ideas I can bounce around in just for fun. One of her suggestions that I refuse to get on board with is journaling. It’s just not happening. I have managed to avoid it thus far in my life, no way it’s getting me now. I will talk to my subconscious, I will go for a ‘walk’ with my characters, but I will not journal.

At last we arrive at tip number 3 and I think it’s one I need for my life in general – not just for my writing: “Make time each day to fill your well.” The argument goes that we cannot sustain a high level of creativity without nurturing our whole body and soul. She argues that if you are stressed, unhealthy or unhappy, it will become that much harder to foster a nurturing space for your creativity. So how do you nurture your creative space? These are just are just a few examples: Don’t put junk in your body; read; rest; and exercise. Sounds simple enough right? It’s basically a list of New Year’s Resolutions – and we all know how I feel about those.

I guess ultimately at the crux of it all there are no real rules for creativity. The words could be flowing like the Jukskei during a thunderstorm, when a project comes in and you have to set your novel aside, creative juices be damned. You might set aside an entire weekend for just you and your keyboard but end up staring at a blank screen for two days. The point is, don’t throw in the towel. Keep conversing with your characters, keep dreaming up scenarios and keep coming up with impossible storylines. I have a finished manuscript and I am going to edit the crap out of it this year. Come what may. Why not join me in a creative project of your own?

New Year New Blog

So, it would appear the WordPress powers that be punished me for not blogging enough last year, and shut me down, almost forcing me to start a new blog. I guess that would make one of my new year’s resolutions be to blog more, but if you’re at all familiar with me or my work, you’ll know my feelings on new year’s resolutions and my belief and that they are an evitable path to failure. Generally speaking, they are just grand, vague empty promises you make to yourself about the better person you’re going to become in the new year. But the problem is, you have no idea how to become that person. You’ve identified the destination, but you have no road map for how to get there.   

2018 was by no means an easy year for me. Perhaps marginally better than 2017, I only had one hospital stay, but just as many doctors’ visits. I went through shoulder rehab, fell off the shoulder rehab wagon, and then climbed back on the wagon late in the year. I went through a serious bout of seasonal depression, found out my inner child was still really angry about a lot of stuff and I lost my last remaining grandparent. However, I also went on an amazing holiday to a Greek Island. I saw Ed Sheeran live. I welcomed a nephew into this world and I saw my beloved Seahawks kick some serious ass live, with my Big Bruv. Hubby and I went on an incredible trip to the Kruger and watched an unforgettable lunar eclipse together. And even though I no longer have grandparents, for most of my life I had the best grandparents, and that’s more than most people ever get.

I know undoubtedly that part of what made 2018 marginally easier was that I had a road map. No more vague destinations in mind, but clearly defined landing points. Perhaps not exact GPS coordinates, but definitely instructions on how to get there. I also learnt (and am still learning) that change is a skill that requires practice. You can’t change overnight, it requires deliberate and consistent action in the right way and the right order, over time. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. As you would build on any skill, if you want to make a change, you have to practice getting better at making changes.

I still need to lose a significant amount of weight. I still need to get fitter and healthier. I still need to read and write more. However, I am currently following a healthy eating plan and have cut down significantly on my junk food intake (no small feat for me). I am exercising every day – almost miraculous considering where I was in the middle of the year. I have done a full edit of my first draft of the first novel I ever completed and plan to continue working on it in the new year, and I am ready to tackle the 52-book reading challenge this year. I have a schedule of when I write and I already know most of the books I will be reading to fulfil each category of the book challenge. See. Roadmap.

These sound a lot like resolutions and I guess they are, although I prefer to call them goals as they are long-term changes in mindset and not whimsical, vague ideas of transformation. To anyone looking to make genuine resolutions for 2019 I would recommend picking low hanging fruit. Pick something small, simple, and repeatable that you’re guaranteed to succeed at. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that you succeed with it. This will help you to practice change. Master change first and then up the ante on what you’re trying to change.

My commitments for the year are as follows:

  • Treat days on Wednesdays and Sundays only.
  • Follow exercise programme from biokineticist.
  • Work on novel every day.
  • Work on blog Tuesdays and Fridays.
  • Read an average of one book per week.

I plan to post throughout the year on my goals and their progress. Please follow me on my journey – I welcome encouragement – and share yours with me. A prosperous 2019 to you and yours!