I feel in a bit of a weird headspace right now. Life has been… interesting, as always. Many exciting projects. Many things falling apart. Much stress and exhaustion––you know, the usual.
I used to use this blog to get into the nitty-gritty of all of that. The exact specifics of what I was working on, the struggles I encountered along the way, and how I was feeling about all of it.
I miss that, and would like to get back to blogging a bit more. But, at the same time, I’m hesitant to address the harder stuff I’ve encountered this year as a bunch of it still feels too raw. I feel like I need the distance of time before I can talk about it, so I don’t feel quite so vulnerable. But also, I’m very aware that the things I want, and probably need, to talk about don’t just affect me, and that makes me nervous.
Earlier this year I wrote a blog post that was about my own personal growth and journey, that just mentioned someone else in passing, and that person––whom I love deeply––was hurt by my mention. And although it was a complete misunderstanding, my intentions don’t matter much. If they’re hurt then they’re hurt, and I’m sorry.
I’ve been fairly gun-shy on getting too personal ever since, and now I feel a little in limbo. Not sure what to do.
I know most things never go completely to plan, what with life getting in the way at every turn, but my gosh has the first half of 2022 been the opposite of what I hoped for. Thinking on it as a whole, I’m left feeling disappointed for opportunities I reached for and didn’t get, and frustrated for projects I didn’t complete. Looking part that into the details, however, I can see there were good points, too.
In the first half of this year I:
Wrote 65,000 words––considerably less than I usually pen in six months, but still sixty-five thousand words!
Attempted Veganuary for the first time (and did better than I expected)
Got the third Belfast Writers’ Group Anthology out into the world (FINALLY!)
Published the first Perilla Magilla book for CL Scott
Became a moderator of Elysian Fields, an online fan fiction archive of almost 25,000 members
I also lost pretty much the entirety of my June to COVID––but I was fully vaccinated and I’m still here to tell my story, so I have that to be thankful for.
My Goodreads Goal is on track (11 books read off my total of 20 for the year), and I have been working on my art, as planned.
I’ve had art mentoring sessions via Zoom that were really helpful, completed a bunch of Skillshare classes that were also really good, and attended some in-person art classes that were… let’s just say not up to the standard of the Zoom and Skillshare lessons.
So a mixed bag! Maybe not even too bad, considering. You might be wondering why I’m feeling so down about the year so far, all considered, and to answer that, I point you at the three things still currently in the pipeline for 2022:
Life Lessons: Book Two in my YA Trilogy
Girl Imperilled: My Short Story Collection
An Art Zine
I had planned to have all three of these published by now, and if things had worked out, I’d currently be writing book three of my trilogy, but that’s been pushed to next year.
Which is frustrating, as I’ve said, but I’m also trying to be gentler with myself this year. One of my goals was to actually chill more, and I think I’m maybe a little better on that front. Either way, we’re now in July, having crossed over into the second half of the year, and I’m considering it a fresh start.
I’ve long considered myself an ‘ideas person.’ I make lists and hatch plans at least every other day, but it’s not always big things. Sometimes it’s small. A lot of the time it’s maybe silly stuff. I once made a list of super long walks to go on, for example. Like Bangor to Belfast, and Belfast to Lisburn, and who even knows where from there? The world? Maybe.
Or, uh… maybe not.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that a lot of my ideas won’t pan out. Even the ones I embark on rarely go to plan, but that can be okay. Crazy misadventures are how memories are made. But also… being real? There’s honestly a lot to be said for staying wrapped in a blanket and drinking a cuppa tea. I know, I know. I sound so old and boring, but fuck it, let’s go for full honesty: life is hard, often exhausting, and so very expensive. You have to find joy in the little things. I know I’m not alone in learning that during our collective two years spent inside.
You know who didn’t really learn that, and I love her for it? My cousin.
In a lot of ways, my cousin is like me but turned up to eleven. She has more wacky ideas, more adventures, and by extension, more mishaps. Sometimes she invites me on her wild road trips and unplanned hikes. (Get in loser, we’re getting LOST!) Sometimes it’s not remotely practical to say yes to driving all the way to Galway at a moment’s notice, but sometimes… sometimes I do say yes.
“Let’s go to Dundrum,” she said to me recently. And I went, thinking all the while, “What the fuck is in Dundrum?”
Turns out, sand dunes. Lots and lots of sand dunes, in which we’d get lost and I’d get injured and, at several points, legitimately fear for my life as my dyspraxic ass tried to scale almost vertical slope after almost vertical slope as the ground shifted under my feet. It probably would have made an excellent, if ridiculous, YouTube video, if capturing the event wasn’t an extra level of stress on top of experiencing it first-hand––which it so would have been.
I love watching such videos. Sometimes I daydream about making them. Yes, they’d look great… assuming I did them right. But doing them right is actual legit hard work, and here we are back at my point about things being exhausting.
I’m not fifteen anymore. I’m not even twenty-five anymore. I can quite happily sit at home and listen to my cousin tell me of her latest near-death experience, or live vicariously through other people’s stunning videography.
So many things I’ve romanticised over the years: people and places and objects and experiences. But how much of it actually matters? That maybe sounds depressing, or defeatist. I’m not saying I’ve stopped wanting to do things. Not at all. But some things? Yes. I actually think that letting go of some dreams is freeing me up for other, better things.
Coming to peace with something isn’t about resignation, it’s about actual peace. Contentment.
Maybe at almost thirty-three, I’m finally learning to chill out.
I guess at this point in the post I should say what I’m actually saying and stop talking around the issue.
I have let go of a dream. Not given up, as such, just realised that I was holding tight to this idea that I’d go back to college. To university. That I’d complete a bachelors degree, and a masters degree, and that I’d finally feel validated in my skills and education and life choices. Lord knows I’ve spoken of this deep desire to return to formal education several times on this blog over several years, but every time I read through syllabuses or yet another online prospectus I’m left with this sense of frustration. Restlessness. Dissatisfaction. This is almost what I want, I would think, but not quite. Over time, that ‘not quite’ mutated into ‘I don’t want this at all.’ Until I’ve finally landed in this place of knowing that I was in love with the idea of studying. Of sitting in visually impressive, grand old buildings, and graduating without a sense of impostor syndrome. Of feeling like I’d finally “fixed” the three years of my life that I so royally fucked up a decade ago.
And people have pointed out to me for almost as long that life doesn’t quite work like that. And I knew that, intellectually, but it didn’t make the feeling go away. Maybe it just had to happen naturally. Gradually. Whatever it was, I’m there now––the other side of the ridge, wondering why the hell I spent so long fantasising about something that was, at the end of the day, exactly that. A fantasy. Life isn’t a movie. Going back to uni wouldn’t be funny montages of goofing around the library at 3am, and drinking so much coffee my eyes pop out of my head, and coming out of all of it with straight A’s, or whatever. I don’t even like coffee.
And when it comes down to it, I don’t really want any of that stuff. Not the reality of it.
My current reality is that I have a husband, and a housemate, and a tiny dog, a job I love, a lot of dear friends, and many opportunities still ahead of me.
So, I’m leaving the sense of regret behind. It was kinda cramping my style, anyway.
To say life has felt manic recently would be a gross understatement, and I haven’t really been documenting any of it here, so let’s catch up.
What am I doing? Such an excellent question. One I’ve actually been asking myself.
I’ve been editing books (for myself and others), formatting books, building websites, filling in applications and reports, juggling some tricky personal life things, dabbling in a lot of art, and writing very little.
Things have been scattered. I’ve been scattered. Sometimes it’s felt like my brain is going to explode.
Last week I released two books (poetry pamphlets Linchpins and Flinch) and a lot of last-minute technical issues meant that I was running around putting out fires when I should have been celebrating. As it stands, I’ve barely mentioned the books since they went live. I need to get on that, obviously, but I also want to make sure that I step back and do really take that time to celebrate.
I’ve been doing so much, and so much of what I do is incredibly enjoyable and rewarding for me, but sometimes I get so caught up in the action, I forget about the reward entirely.
It’s the 4th of October and I find myself not even able to think about NaNoWriMo this year. There’s just so much I have to do between now and then.
On top of that, I think the turn of the seasons is playing with me, and my thoughts have gotten all existential. I’ve been asking myself if I need to rebrand to include art somewhere in my tagline/bio. Then I’ve been going beyond that and asking myself just who in the hell I am anyway.
If you’ve followed this blog for any real length of time, you’ll know I’ve gone through similar phases before. And I trust from those past experiences that things will calm down again and I’ll regain focus and it’ll all be okay. At least until I end up in this place again––which I can laugh at, writing that sentence. I know I don’t have to take everything so seriously.
There’s a quote playing in my head that I can’t quite place this moment. Something along the lines of, ‘Jeeze, relax. Take a siesta or something.’
I’ve been racking my brain for a way to summarise how I’ve found this year so far, and to give an account of all the ways I have (or haven’t) worked towards the goals I set out at the end of 2020.
I know that January, February, and March were frantic with rewrites and formatting and marketing for the release of Full Term.
I know April was Camp NaNoWriMo, and I’d previously said I wasn’t taking part as I didn’t think I had it in me. I was decompressing after the first quarter. But then I went ahead and did it anyway, albeit with a small (10k) goal.
If you’re to ask me how I reached that goal, or what I did in May or June… Well, I have the stats right in front of me, which I’ll get into in a second, but honestly? Everything mostly happened in a fog. I have an all too familiar sense that I’ve been very busy but also that I haven’t much to show for it, which is subjective at best and an outright lie at worst.
So, since that is the case, and my own thoughts and feelings are not the best barometer for measuring success, I will lay out these past six months in cold hard facts.
Words written so far: 85,000 across multiple projects––poems, blog posts, short fiction, fan fiction, and novel rewrites.
31,000 in January
18,000 in February
3,000 in March
10,000 in April
17,000 in May
and 6,000 in June
Books read so far: twelve (and I’m in the middle of three more).
I set out to write a minimum of two blog posts per month, make at least two poetry and two short story submissions per month, and it’s these goals that have been the most hit and miss depending on whatever else I’ve had going on in said months.
I aimed to put out three newsletters this year, and I’ve done one so far and am planning the second for mid-July, so that’s on track.
I wanted to finish writing three fanfic works in progress, and I’m in the middle of that right now.
Still to come this year is finishing the third Belfast Writers’ Group anthology, finish books two and three in the Family Ties Trilogy, and publish a different book, which I’ve teased but haven’t officially announced yet.
I guess you could say things are more or less going to plan. As is often my takeaway from these kinds of posts, I think I need to not be so hard on myself. I may not have written as much as I’ve wanted, but what I want is often unrealistic, and I have done a lot.
Let me know in the comments section how you’re getting on, reader. If you set any goals, how are they doing? And more importantly, how are you doing? As much as my brain tries to convince me otherwise, goals are not the be-all and end-all of everything.
Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of lockdown starting in the UK.
It’s also my thirty-second birthday. Meaning I’ll be one of the first people to have two birthdays spent in lockdown.
Surprisingly, I’m not feeling too bad about it. Maybe because all the excitement going on with my book release is outweighing the disappointment of not being able to celebrate with friends, or maybe because I know that––comparatively––I’m not in too bad of a position.
All considered, I’ve been fairly unscathed by the pandemic. I’m not saying it’s been easy, but I’m aware of my privilege in not having lost anyone close, when for so many others it’s been so much worse.
Back when the pandemic started, my mental health took a nosedive for a couple of months, as I know was the case for a lot of people. And for a bunch of those people, their mental health hasn’t yet recovered. For more still, the emotional impact was compounded by the fresh wave of injustices that happened during the Black Lives Matters protests last summer. And even more recently than that, the unrest over racism against Asian communities in the states, and women in the UK.
Overall, it’s been a hard year. But I don’t need to tell anyone that.
I hope this doesn’t come across as insensitive, because that’s absolutely not what I’m going for here––my heart goes out to everyone who has suffered over the past twelve months. But with everything that’s happened, I also feel personally grateful to have made it through.
I got my first vaccine on Saturday, and I’m hopeful that, soon enough, I’ll be able to see friends again. (Soon being a relative term.)
Trite as it might sound, the hard times will end. We’ve got to hold on to each other now more than ever, in this home stretch. We’re not out of the woods yet, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and––I’m sorry, that’s a lot of mixed metaphors. What I just wanted to say is I’m feeling hopeful, and I hope that’s okay.
It is Monday morning. A new day, a fresh week. I am, as the title of this post suggests, refocusing.
I had been thinking I would write a post today titled ‘On Disappointment and Uncertainty,’ because that’s the one I had planned. It’s what I wanted to write last month but didn’t have the brainpower for. Because disappointed and uncertain was where my head was at for pretty much all of August.
I’ve already said I found August particularly hard, and that part of that was moving, but that doesn’t really paint a full picture of everything that was going on.
Before we got to the huge physical strain that moving was, there was applying for houses. And that was the emotional strain, because it seemed no one wanted to accept our application.
Waiting for landlord decisions is tough, in and of itself (especially when the answer comes back as no and you have to start all over again), but what that waiting coincided with for me was also waiting for responses from agents and publishers, waiting for a funding decision, and waiting for my A Level result. (I feel like there was something else in that list, too, but I’ve lost track of whatever it was at this point.)
If you’ve been following the UK news over the past month, you’ll know that results day was a clusterfuck. And if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I was relying on a good result to, hopefully, kickstart my re-entry to formal education.
Well, I got an okay result. A grade C. Not exactly what I wanted, but not awful. And we found a house and moved in. There are some loose ends still to tie up the end of the moving process, but for the most part that is done. Huge, huge relief!
I found the uncertainty over these things legitimately debilitating. Hence my hiatus from writing. And reading. And posting here.
I’m still waiting on the funding decision – it ended up being pushed back until October – and I haven’t heard from the majority of agents and publishers I submitted to, but I’m not particularly stressing about that. Why? Because I have a plan. I almost always have not just one single plan, but a main plan and lots of smaller, sub-plans. I think that’s what made all the uncertainty hardest for me – all of the things being out of my hands. But going forward – recentering my focus on the future – not everything seems so dire.
I’ve had a poem accepted that I think is being published next month, in October. I have a short story due to be published in November. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I plan to be finishing the third book in my trilogy. As of this past weekend, I am writing again. I am reading again. I have an active list of reading and writing things to work through that is A. not crushing me under the weight of it, and B. not a list of physical tasks I must complete before even considering taking to my computer for words.
In under two weeks, I am handing back the keys to the old house. By that time, the minor work that needs done there will be wrapped up. It will have been cleaned within an inch of its life (several times over). I will have finished updating our address everywhere. Puzzle pieces will have slotted together and our payments will be all in order.
My only year-long goal – the Goodreads reading challenge – has me sitting at 44 books completed off a total of sixty. That’s 73% complete/4 books ahead of schedule.
Before I get into my goals for the rest of 2019 going forward, let’s take a minute to recap on my summer goals and how well I did (or didn’t) achieve them.
In May, I set myself the following tasks:
Lose more weight
Continue to submit my first novel to agents
Make edits to my second novel and send it to beta readers
Draft yet another novel during Camp NaNoWriMo in July
Attended two publishing conferences
Complete my tax return
From that list, what I didn’t do was lose weight or write a third novel. The number of things I achieved (listed below) definitely outweigh these two failures, which I’m obviously delighted about, but they are still two pretty big failures. Though I will point out that I did take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, as planned, and got a few words towards book three in my trilogy. Overall, I wrote 25,000 words during July, much of it fanfiction works in progress that I wanted to get out of my head at long last.
Back in January, I changed things up a little and only set myself one goal for the entire year. That was my 2019 Goodreads challenge to read sixty books. By the time this post goes live, I should have completed twenty-two of those, which means I’m on track.
With regards to other goals, I wanted to focus on things in the shorter term so I decided to plan things a few months at a time and no further. Although it’s not fully accurate, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve split my 2019 into three segments which I’m calling Spring (January to April), Summer (May to August), and Autumn/Winter (September to December).
My Spring was pretty good, all in all. I had my second wedding anniversary in February and my thirtieth birthday in March. I spent a lot of January catching up on all of my accounts for my freelance work so I could get my tax return in before the deadline (which I did!). The rest of that month and part of February was spent doing voluntary work and, when I stepped back from that, I threw myself into decluttering the house following the Kon Mari method.
It felt good to get rid of things and, in the process, simplify my life (simplicity being a big theme of mine, the past few years). The end tally was: 4 bags of clothes (between my husband and I), 1 bag of bedding, 1 [big] bag of books, 8 boxes of komono/miscellaneous items and an untold number of trash bags and recycled things. I also paired down a lot of my social media profiles. Continue reading →
I’m about to turn thirty. I’ve been saying that, with increasing degrees of panic, since I turned twenty-six, but now it’s just ’round the corner – on Saturday.
That’s right. In a few days, I will have been alive a full three decades and will be starting on my fourth.
I’m still not sure it’s fully sunk in yet, but I’m at least freaking out less.
Part of me knows the angst surrounding getting older is nonsense. Numbers are arbitrary and nothing can be done about them anyway, so what’s the fuss? That’s the logical part of my brain. The illogical part is hiding in a cupboard somewhere weeping. So long as it’s not at the forefront right now, I don’t mind so much.
Socially speaking, I think the pressure put on women, in particular, to stay young (or, at least, stay looking youthful) is fascinating (not to mention entirely unfair and infuriating), but I’m not going to get into that here. It’s a discussion I’ve subjected my husband to several times already, and you clicked on this post to read about the misspent years of my twenties. I wouldn’t want to disappoint, so here’s a bullet-pointed list.
Ten years ago, way back in March 2009, I was living in Lincoln and had been for about a year and a half. I was nearing the end of my second year at university and swiftly coming to terms with the fact that I had picked entirely the wrong course. Despite uncertainty over what to do next, however, I was fairly happy. I had a good social life and was living in a decent place. 2009 was the year I met my best friend and was, up until more recently when I found love, one of the happiest years of my life.