Getting Real

The Beach in Dundrum

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.

So.

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.

What I Wrote and Had Published in 2021

Some stats for the calendar year that’s just ended:

Starting with the biggest things first, my debut novel came out, followed by two poetry pamphlets!

Books Read = 28 (Goal was 20)

Blog Posts Published = 19 (Goal was 24)

I met my goal of getting three newsletters out.

Total Words Written = 158,000 (Less than 2020 and 2019, but more than all the years before that.)

Poems Written = 13

Poetry Submissions Sent (some including multiple pieces) = 16

Poems Published = 4 (in three different places)

Short Stories/Pieces of Flash Fiction Written = 3

Short Story/Flash Fiction Submissions Sent = 14

Short Stories Published = 3

And I appeared in one anthology.

If you’re a writer, feel free to comment below to let me know what you achieved these past twelve months! It doesn’t matter if it’s more or less than what anybody else did, all wins are awesome!

Goals for 2022

I don’t really need to acknowledge that 2021 has been ‘a year’ do I? 2022, by extension… I dare not even get started on my hopes and fears for the world.

What I will say is that on a more personal––and indeed, professional––level, some big things happened for me over the past twelve months. I’m gonna write a round-up post for that in the new year, but for now I want to outline goals for 2022 that (I hope) will build on what I achieved this year.

READ

I’m gonna set my Goodreads goal to 20 books again this year, as a minimum.

WRITE

There are several projects I want to work on, as always, but I’m not actually gonna list them here. Sometimes it feels like committing myself to specific works in progress is the kiss of death with regards to motivation for them. It’s like my brain, or the muse, suddenly rebels and wants to work on anything but my stated priority, the moment that priority is made known. The main thing is that words happen.

PUBLISH

Similarly to the above, I have a bunch of different things in the pipeline. I’ll announce them individually as they come.

MAKE ART

A new goal for this year, but one I’m passionate about. I have a lot of smaller, sub-goals that feed into this, not least of which:

LEARN

I started sketching classes in 2021, and I’m all signed up to continue with them from January to March 2022. I’m also booked onto an art workshop in May, and have some illustration mentoring set up, in addition to a free trial of Skillshare I’m currently in the middle of.

Plenty to be getting on with.

CHILL

Because all of the above will take a lot of time and effort, I plan to scale back client work in 2022. We’ll see how that goes!

I know blog posts have been infrequent here, of late, but I’ll never abandon this space entirely. Stay tuned for updates.

Mid-Year Check-In

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.

That was:

  • 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.

My study goal was to complete my Masterclass subscription, which I did. (You can find my thoughts on that summed up here.)

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.

Stay safe, and I’ll write again soon.

2021 Goals

Usually, at this time of year, I write a little re-cap of everything that’s happened in my life over the past twelve months. For what should be obvious reasons, I’m not feeling much need to sum up 2020. (Though I will put up a post next week detailing what I wrote and had published during that time.)

I started the year with fourteen goals, seven of which I completed, two of which I came close to, but didn’t quite meet (reading and blogging), and some of the rest of which quickly became moot. Given that everything that happened globally, I’m gonna call that an overall win.

Moving on, here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read: Twenty or Thirty Books (including at least two on writing craft) –– this is way down on the ever-increasing number I usually set, but given everything else I have planned, I decided to go easy on myself in this area.
  2. Blog: At least two posts per month –– Again, intentionally setting the bar lower than usual, because I don’t want to be forcing it or stressing about it.
  3. Study: Complete the Masterclass classes I’m signed up to (by April, when my subscription runs out)
  4. Newsletters: Increase these to three per year
  5. Make at least two poetry submissions per month (each submission typically containing multiple pieces)
  6. Submit at least two short stories per month
  7. Finish writing at least three fan fiction works-in-progress
  8. Finally get the third Belfast Writers’ Group anthology out into the world (Summer?)
  9. Finally, finally, finally publish my debut novel (Spring 2021) –– Despite being number nine on this list, this is actually my top priority and the reason I’m both cutting myself slack on reading and blogging, and increasing the number of newsletters I put out.
  10. Rewrite my second novel (Camp NaNoWriMo April)
  11. Finish my third novel (Camp NaNoWriMo July)
  12. Publish a different book –– Keeping all of the details of this secret, for the time being.

Plenty to be getting on with, I should say!

Goals for the New Year

A lot of the goals I have for this new year are directly inspired by my progress (or lack thereof) from last year.

In 2019, for example, I set myself a reading target of 60 books and I successfully completed 68 so, this year, I am setting my target to 65.

Also last year, although it wasn’t something officially on my list, I got into the habit of posting to this blog every week. Therefore, it is my intention to keep this up and have 52 blog posts on here by the end of the year.

September last year, I started studying an A-Level in English Literature. So my next goal is to complete that course.

Three things that showed up on a number of lists for me last year but I wasn’t able to tick off were: weight loss, admin for my writing group, and an anthology for our writing group. These things now have top priority. I hate having things hanging over me.

On that note: for the longest time, I have been going through my old fan fiction and archiving it to Ao3, so I have a goal to finish that this year. I also want to send more short story submissions, complete five fanfic works-in-progress, as well as all (five) of my short story works-in-progress.

I want this to be the year I finish my trilogy. So, between National Novel Writing Month and the two ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’s, I need to get book three finished.

Later in the year, I plan to move house. Which leaves me two last things for my list: completing a tax return and (hopefully) organising a second event with Books, Paper, Scissors.

Let’s see how this goes!

Summer Successes and Autumn Goals

This post is third in a series. You can find part one (covering January to April) here and part two (May to August) here. As outlined in those previous posts, I’m tackling this year in chunks, setting myself goals for four months at a time, rather than having a single set for the whole of 2019.

It seems to be working out.

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.

Here’s the full list of what I actually did achieve: Continue reading

Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

2019 Goals Part Two: Summer

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

Goals for my Thirties

I turned thirty in March. As of right now, at the start of May, I have written two-and-a-half novels. When I think of what I want to achieve in the next ten years, those novels play a key part.

I’ve said before that, in the past, lists of what I wanted to do with my life quickly became lists of all the books I want to write. That hasn’t changed. Most of the goals I have are career based.

Here are the few that aren’t:

  • Learn to Drive
  • Learn Piano
  • Have a Baby

That last one’s pretty big. The first one is dependant on whether my dyspraxic self is actually safe to drive, and the middle one doesn’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still something I aspire to. Continue reading