In many ways, 2017 was a quiet year. But the quietness was not a desolate, empty quiet, it was a contended, slow moving river of quiet; a thick, silvery slide of being, of just being. I am slowly learning to accept the moment, and more, to enjoy the moment and not strive and not regret, just to be here in the present. That was what I was aiming for in 2017 and I feel like I have achieved that. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my lows, I have had my wobbles, I have worried about my career, I have been bereft with grief for my daughter, for the family we won’t have, but I have not lived in that grief, I have not drowned in the very bleak lows that I have experienced on occasion this year. On the whole, this has been a good year. The highlight, of course, was my latest collection coming out with Valley Press. I’d been anxious about it, not knowing whether it was a strong enough collection to be published, but it’s out there, I’m happy with it, it’s selling well. I can’t ask for more than that, I don’t want to ask for more than that. I’ve had some really lovely feedback from readers, and that is the best sort of accolade one can have. I read a twitter post by Jandra Sutton (@jandralee) today which said:
‘Your book doesn’t have to be one of the ‘Most Anticipated Books of 2018′ to be worthwhile. You’ve done something huge, and sharing it with the world takes courage. Don’t let some arbitrary list take away your joy!’
It sums up very nicely how I feel. I am terrible for comparing myself to other people, especially on social media, where the fish eye lens exaggerates and enhances everyone you look at whilst diminishing your own successes. But I feel I am moving forward with a greater sense of my own abilities and my imposter syndrome muzzled and under control. One of my greatest memories for the year is from my book launch and the absolute happiness of a room full of smiling people, cake, wine, chatting and feeling at ease in my own skin. I’ll remember that for a long time; the way the November light etched into the window and the warm wood of the panelled room held us all. My friends from Newcastle had travelled down to see me that day and a good friend from Hebdon Bridge had travelled over too, there were friends i’ve not seen for years, people I used to work with, ex students and mentees and the room was a mixture of poetry people and non poetry people, some of which were experiencing a poetry ‘event’ for the first time. I feel honoured that that event was my book launch. So yes, good, warm, solid memories. The sort of memories that can’t be eaten up with anxiety, instead, they become the memories that when you think of that time, that moment, your back gets a little straighter, your head gets a little higher.
My other highlights include becoming a columnist for Yorkshire Life Magazine which means I have the opportunity to write about life on the coast, pretty much a dream come true for me. It was a big tick on the things I wanted to achieve in 2017. And it is part of my other big tick, which was to make headway in the plan to become a full time writer. I’d wanted to increase the amount of work I was doing that was directly related to writing and poetry, whilst decreasing the amount of work I was doing which had nothing to do with writing and I managed that. I’d given up dog walking a few months ago, but then made the decision to close down my animal care business altogether in December. I realised, after a couple of particularly manic weeks where I couldn’t fit everything in and I found myself turning down paid writing work to do some animal care jobs, that I was using it as an excuse. I was hiding behind the animal care business because I was afraid to make that big step from one boat to another. That’s how it feels, to me, when I imagine it, like I had a a foot in two boats. The time was right to give it up and trust myself to be a full time writer. I know I have done the right thing, because I can feel it in my chest, like my conscience had been tap tap tapping me and telling me I wasn’t being true to myself. It was a huge relief, making the decision, but tinged with fear. Yesterday I spent the morning clearing my office and changing my filing cabinets around to reflect the change in priorities. I came across various bits and pieces from 2014 when I was starting the animal care business: my first business cards, my first posters, all really happy memories. I have a warm, happy feeling of accomplishment looking at them. I did that, I worked with a foot in the animal care business and a foot in the writing world, juggling university at the same time to get to this point and it is a good, good feeling to now be putting both feet into my writing career. Without the animal care business I will now be able to work on my PhD more thoroughly too. I already feel like a big stress-weight has been lifted, everything is so much less chaotic all of a sudden. I don’t know how I was doing everything at once, but I have a feeling I wasn’t doing any of it to the best of my abilities.
Which brings me to next year and the plans I have. Next year is the year that I will be putting together the next collection. I’ll be spending the year writing new poems to add to the ones I already have, doing some research and really getting my teeth into it. I have deliberately kept the amount of new stuff I’m doing down to a minimum for next year so that I can give the work I am doing my full attention. I think this might be some of the best work I’ve ever produced, but no doubt this feeling will be followed by crushing self doubt once I get down to it. The three things I have planned for 2018 are getting the backbone of my PhD written, the new collection and getting my writing workshop up and running again. These are not small projects, so it’s important that I am self aware enough that I don’t put some procrastination devices in between me and the work. Procrastination, I have discovered, is much more about a lack of confidence than anything to do with laziness. I hope to pre empt that lack of confidence by being aware of it, if that makes sense. I am hoping that I may get some help with funding so that I can free up more time to concentrate on the collection but if I’m not lucky enough to get the funding I will be working on it at the weekends, which is no different to what I have always done. I’ve been juggling different parts of my life for what seems like forever. Ideally I would have three months of solid work on it, but without funding this is much more likely to take the whole year and the project would be reduced in scope, unfortunately. So fingers crossed that one of the organisations I am applying to thinks this is a good idea and wants to help me. I don’t want to say too much about it all yet as it involves some big ideas and I don’t want to jinx myself. I am very much treating it as a project that will have a degree of community engagement, but as I say, I am keeping it under my hat for now so watch this space.
Other new year’s resolutions include being a bit stricter with my daily meditation sessions; I’ve let them slip when I am busy and that’s really the opposite of how it should work. I’m also having another crack at veganism in January and my journey towards being zero waste continues, very very slowly. I guess my biggest resolution is in the form of how I talk to myself, how I use social media and how I live my life: there needs to be more living in the moment, less attachment to striving for success.less comparison with other writers. Success comes in so many different forms. I think the sort of success that I am aiming for is to just write, to do the thing that I am driven to do. I don’t want to ask for more than that. If I am writing, then I am content.
There are so many people in the poetry community that have helped me, bolstered my confidence and inspired me, so thank you and thank you to the writers who keep writing.
Happy New Year