For most of my adult life having a birthday so close to the New Year has always thrown me. The two become fundamentally connected in my mind and the two weeks between one and the other seem to always seem to prompt a rather ridiculous amount of soul searching and questioning as I wonder what the hell I’m doing, who I am, where I’m going. It’s been the same for as long as I can remember, and luckily tends to pass once birthday celebrations are out the way and Spring starts to make its first early appearances. But still, really quite irritating, or, at least, it must be for those poor sods that have to put up with me during that time.
It’s not the getting older thing. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I’m still another two years off 30 and I’m enjoying the sense of clarity and completion that each year is bringing me, like I’m growing into myself I suppose. But another year older always seems to mean, in my eyes, an increased amount of pressure to achieve something and to do something extraordinary with my life.
I am the most horrible over-achiever. In one sense this is a good thing. It gives me drive and determination. It makes me creative and imaginative and resourceful. But it also means I have an inner-benchmark set always too high and that breeds a constant feeling of failing.
I am not failing. I have a huge amount of wonderful things to be proud of. All indicators suggest that this year is going to be my most exciting yet, with a move planned and lots of potential to be explored.
So basically I need to shut the f*ck up and get on with it.
But I need to get some things straight in my head first. I need to start this New Year of my life with a plan, something to push me in the right direction and stop me spiralling my way straight into burn-out and frustration and disappointment. A way in which I can maybe try and find some sense of the balance I feel I am missing in my life and talked about earlier in the week. A lot of your wonderful comments really made me think. So thank you, your advice came at a time when I most needed to hear it and resonated very strongly for me and you may recoginise some of your perspectives in what follows.
Yesterday I made a plan. A plan for my year, my 29th year. 5 goals. And here they are:
1. I will stop trying to write
Or at least, I will stop trying to write anything that is going to achieve me recognition, acclaim, respect, a ten book publishing deal or a big fat cheque. Screw it. I am not even going to try and write anything complete this year. I hereby give myself permission to produce lots of half finished stories, scribbles, ideas and creative drivel.
2. I will write more on paper
Paper scares me. It’s so permanent somehow, so chaotic and unordered. But using the computer is just too much of a temptation for that inner-critic of mine to edit and re-edit, erasing initial thoughts and ideas and the work in progress. I have lost so much to that delete button which was probably far more worthy than I judged it to be. So paper is the way forward. And yes Josie there will be crossing out and mess and you will write horribly rubbish things that you won’t be able to erase. Deal with it.
3. I will surrender to the more powerful force (thank you Michelloui)
If on any day that means I need to abandon writing to sleep because I am so tired then so be it. If Kai is in one of his unbelievably demanding moods that requires all of my energy and attention then I will put my work on the back burner. If an idea has taken root that is screaming to be written out or made real and is eating away at my brain then I will find a way to take the time I need to feed it and make it grow. I will make the most of opportunities when they present themselves, and will ride out the times when they seem closed to me. Each day will be different, each day I will have to judge anew how to prioritise. I will roll with the tide.
4. I will gather and incubate more
I will go for long walks, and people watch, and take lots and lots of photographs. I will write down quotes that speak to me, and read more newspapers and cut out the things that catch my eye. I don’t have to DO anything with the things I accumulate apart from bury them down in my subconcious and let them sleep there.
5. I will read more
Not novels, I’m struggling with novels. I don’t seem to have the energy or time or concentration to commit to long stories right now. I think poetry may be the way forward, little snippets of literary beauty I can dip in and out of and digest, and that benefit from being read over and over, as I seem to have to do with everything I read these days to allow my brain to process it.
And that’s it. The sum total of what I aim to achieve this year.
Now I really will shut the f*ck up and get on with it. I promise.