First of all, Happy New Year, and happy new decade! I wish you all a year of light and love.
How wonderful to have reached another new year and to be alive and full of hope for the future. That is genuinely how I feel going into this new year. I have lots of plans which I’ll tell you about below, but before I get onto the good stuff, I wanted to do the whole decade comparison thing. It was a BIG decade.
At the start of the decade I was pregnant and feeling relived that our long journey through infertility (six years at that point) was over, we’d made it, and on our first and only NHS funded IVF cycle. I felt completely blessed and incredibly lucky. In 2010 my entire world imploded when, partly due to clinical negligence, our baby girl died during an emergency crash section. At the end of the decade I have finally dealt with her things and rehomed them, and accepted that we will never be parents and never have a family and let me tell you, it was hard hard. You can read about it here.
In between those two events, amongst other things, I…
- Fought to have Matilda’s death recognised as preventable and the protocols changed to prevent someone else gong through what we went through
- Fought to get the children’s cemetery protected to allow parents to grieve in whatever way came naturally to them
- Got a BA in English literature with the OU while working full time
- Got an MA in creative writing, with distinction, done distance learning whilst working full time
- Did part of a PhD, which I have no regrets over, and through which I learned an enormous amount about myself, no regrets about leaving that one either.
- Wrote four collections of poetry, all published
- Finally wrote my fifth collection, about my daughter, the one that I am most proud of.
- Wrote a play
- Left my secure, full time job to be my own boss, set up a successful animal care business which I used as a stepping stone to eventually..
- Become a full time freelance writer, workshop facilitator and mentor
I started the decade as a microbiologist and ended it as a writer.
I feel like I am almost unrecognisable from that pregnant woman who went into 2010 so innocently hopeful about the future. The feeling of that hope, and I can literally feel it like a bomb in my chest, even now, is painful. It broke me completely, that year, and the years to follow, but I also feel like it grew me, or grew the person I was meant to be. It stripped everything away so that only the things that were truly important were left, I’d lost the most important thing to me; the most important person to me, other than my husband.
I did alright there. i did what I needed to do to survive. i worked and I wrote and I made it through.
And now, to the future, oh the plans! The plans!
First of all, at the end of 2019 I took the decision to step away from all unpaid work. All of it. It meant making difficult decisions, but my paid work has increased so much that unless I give unpaid work up, I will never get time to actually write. I felt like I was using the unpaid work as a shield so that I didn’t have to face failing as a writer, which is crazy as I have never failed yet and besides, it’s not polarised like that, there are less successful projects and more successful projects but no writing is a failure because the act of creation is often the point of the process and the project. If that makes sense.
I have been dithering over writing a novel for about two years now, finding excuses and moaning and moaning because I didn’t have the time I wanted to put into it and suddenly it dawned on me that if I cut that unpaid work out, it would free up roughly 8-15 hours a week to write. sometimes that will be less, sometimes more depending on my paid workload, but I should always from now on have SOME time to write and also be able to take Sunday off every week to do absolutely nothing. This feels like the most incredible gift and the thing that I have been working towards for the last five years. I sat down and worked out what I want to do with the novel, worked out my research time, planning time and actual writing time, looked at plot lines and time lines an I am now seriously ready to do it.
And what’s more, I am only setting myself two goals this year and no resolutions. The novel is one goal and the other goal is myself. I want to reconnect with myself, get healthy and fit again, get myself better physically and mentally. This decade was hard, I was driven and grieving and filling the wound of my daughter’s death with work and now all that working, those fifty, sixty hour weeks are starting to pay off and I feel like I am in a good place, the sort of place that will allow me to prioritise myself and my health for a while, and my writing is a huge part of that.
As is the nature of the writer’s world, the arts world, I will be continuously applying for funded projects, commissions, grants, jobs and of course the scholarship for the new PhD, but I’m not putting all my eggs into those baskets; if they come through then I’ll adjust my plans, but at least until September I have this year to focus on the novel and myself.
I’m also hoping to build on the online courses, bring in more blogs that have less of a personal slant, more ‘how to’ blogs and I am hoping to start up some vlogs too. I’m hoping to get a chat room on my website soon so that I can make the online course system smoother and I am going to be learning how to use modern technology (yikes) to streamline further and build a proper mailing list etc. No mean feat when you are as crap with technology as I am. Watch this space!
I didn’t know how I would feel this year, my little girl would have been ten in 2020 and that feels significant. But I actually for the first time in such a long time, I feel at peace with the world and ready to take my place in it.
A massive thank you to everyone who has supported me along this journey and to the people who continue to support me, thank you for sticking with me when I was mental crazy and depressed, thank you for sticking by me now.
Happy new year, much love.