life, writing

2013 in review

December is all but over, and as I rush to fit in the last few things I wanted to get done, and start planning ahead for the new year, it’s as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the year that was.

2013 was okay, looking back. It was a really hard year for me in a lot of ways – I admitted I was depressed, had a really hard year of study, struggled a lot with finding balance and worked on continuing to find my feet with home schooling.

There were also some good parts too – I actually got really good grades for those papers, despite not enjoying them at all, I managed to get two short stories published even though that wasn’t on my goal list for the year. I even had my baby teeth necklace make it’s way onto the cover of a book! (Yeah, I think that was my highlight lol). I attended Au Contraire and met a huge number of authors I’d previously only known online, which was amazing and inspiring and wonderful, and even managed a flying day trip to ‘retreat’ with some other writer friends. And on top of all that, I’ve made some super fantastic new writer friends, and strengthened other friendships as well.

Now that I look back on all of that, it’s actually been a kick ass year for being a writer. I owe so much to the wonderful people who are in this with me. You’re not just ‘writer friends’, your friends, and I couldn’t do this without you.

So how did I go on my original goals for 2013? It was going to be a year of ‘finishing”, and looking back, it feels more like they happened last year, but possibly because I got a couple things done really quickly. I read Perdido Street Station before the end of Jan, and finished The Artists Way before February was through. I didn’t manage to get onto Writing the Other though, mostly due to the fact that once study started, there never seemed enough time to really throw myself into the book.

Aside from those, I wanted to finish Sun-Touched and submit it, which I will be doing before the year ends, as well as finish The Way the Sky Curves (previously known as Shell and Bone, which is now the title of book two), and submit that as well. I’m not going to swing that this year, but I’m going to get that done before I launch into my last year of study.

I’m feeling a lot better about the year now 😀 It might have been hard, but there was a lot of awesome in there and I’m going to be heading into 2014 with those in mind. Onwards!

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What’s in store for 2013

I love this period over the end of one year and the beginning of the next. I love the buzz that happens when people talk about their fresh starts, hopes and dreams for the new year. It echoes the way I feel and just makes it all so much better!

Obviously, after a pretty rough year last year I am hoping for a little bit of an easier time in 2013. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. No-one can predict these things.

This year, for me, is a lot about finishing things. I didn’t even realize this until I sat down just now and looked over the list I was posting to the blog. My other list is a lot bigger, and filled with each step required to achieve the goal – but I won’t bore you with all of that here. I am going to keep it really simple.

I want to finish Sun-Touched and submit it. It’s currently a finished first draft, and I’m really looking forward to diving back into that world and fleshing it out more, and then sending it out into the world.

I also want to finish writing Shell and Bone, get that ready and submit that as well. As for any other writing? Well, it’s purely a bonus. I am quite sure I won’t be able to resist starting something new, but these two projects are my main squeezes this year as far as I can tell.

I have a couple books that I am going to finish this year if it kills me. The first of which is Perdido Street Station. A friend recommended it to me YEARS ago. I started reading it at the beginning of 2011, and I am only about 30% through. It’s so long. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read, but there just never seemed to be a good time to finish it off. The quick reads have won out in the last couple years. Mindless books. Well, it’s time. As soon as I finish the book I am currently reading, I am switching back to Perdido until it’s done.

I also have The Artists Way sitting around. I read the intro and first chapter and that was as far as I got. Several of my good writers friends recommend it though, so this year I am finally going to work through it. I think its a good time to do that, as I really need to work on finding some balance in my life and making sure that I get time out from the every day grind to work on my creativity.

Another recommendation has been Writing The Other. I started reading this last year too, but started skipping exercises and forced myself to put the book down. It’s all very well and good reading books on writing, but the real learning happens when you put those things into practice. I decided that until I had time to do that, I was going to set the book aside.

I have a lot of learning to do. And I expect (hope) that this year will be a year of great growth. I am now able to admit that I’m a lazy writer, and I want to change that. I waste a lot of time on mindless, stupid crap, and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s time to stop letting that little voice in my head demotivate me. Time to push past my ‘play it safe’ barrier, time to stop waiting for someone else to tell me to fix something and just get on and do it myself, because I shouldn’t rely on other people to tell me whats wrong*. Most of the time I know what’s wrong. I do. I’m just being lazy because I’m exhausted all the time.

Well, screw exhaustion. It’s not going to beat me this year. I’ve just finished reading 2k to 10k and I’m totally ready to get on the bandwagon and outline and write, and actually make the most of the extremely limited time I do have. I want to see Sun-Touched heading towards publication of some kind or another. I want to write other novels, and edit those novels and see them out in the world too. And it’s only going to happen if I put the hard work in.

So, that’s me. Really. One novel, one novella. A bunch of reading and learning and everything else that goes along with this writers gig. There are a lot of other things I am working towards, but I think they can be summed up in the words balance, and harmony. That’s what I’m hoping, for me, and our family.

*I know my writing buddies are there to help, they are amazing writers and their input is fantastic – but think how much more valuable their feedback will be to me if what I’m giving them is free of the same old things that keep cropping up? I’m pretty certain they are getting tired of seeing the same basic issues 😉 I know I would be! Time to do them, and myself, a favour. 

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Looking back

This month has been a grand old mix of just about everything, and I can hardly believe that we’re almost to the end of the year. I had high hopes of knocking out another novella, but that hasn’t panned out quite so well. All good. I turned 32, had an amazing birthday, Christmas was wonderful and my garden got a massive clean out. So as a whole, it has been a good month. Just not so much for writing.

At the beginning of 2012 I posted that this year was going to be all about exploration. I knew it was going to be a ‘big’ year, but had no idea in what way that would manifest. Quite frankly, I had no idea what was in store for me. This has been a hell of a year, and while the growth that’s occurred has been great and life is on track to improve, in some ways I wish it never happened. It has been hard. Really hard.

I started back at university, which was really something. I LOVED the paper I took. I learned so much and have been able to apply a lot of the things I’ve learned to life in general, as well as using new skills to help friends through some stuff. It really confirmed for me that counselling is going to play a role in my life – whether as a career, or just as something I have in my arsenal of skills*. That said, I did drop out from the Lifeline training as I had this overwhelming sense that it just wasn’t something I could follow through on (the weekly time commitment etc).

This was just as well, because not long after that school started back up for Ivy and things deteriorated pretty quickly. She’d already been on a downward spiral, having major difficulties with her temper, her moods and life in general, but the added stress of school just seemed to tip her over the edge. It wasn’t long before she started talking about killing herself, and making plans for how she would do this. Naturally, I was beyond concerned and we went to see child mental health.

Since the beginning of April this year she’s been in therapy weekly, had a mass of testing done and been declared to have either ADHD, Aspergers, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Depression, Bi-polar or a combination of these things. They can’t really pin-point which is it, and have said she is ‘unique’ and ‘baffling’. She is also highly intelligent, but we already knew that. They got us to trial some medication for ADHD but it was like she was on speed, so we opted to discontinue that within a week of starting and haven’t looked back.

This lead to us making the decision to homeschool. School seemed to be a major source of her depression and it had got to the point where she could eat nothing at school, she had almost constant tummy aches, chronic anxiety about what might happen at school, and would begin crying or screaming at me within moments of walking out the classroom door (which would pretty much continue until bedtime).

Needless to say, none of our wee family were thriving, and it was killing all of us living in a warzone with one incredibly unhappy little girl. No child should have to feel the way she was feeling.

It was August before she got her exemption, but since then she’s been doing really well. Her desire to learn has come back, she is creative and imaginative now, and while she’s still very difficult to keep focused, at least she has a lust for knowledge. She can eat again, she has no tummy aches, and she hasn’t spoken a word about wanting to kill herself for months now.

Total win.

She’s still very explosive though and gets exhausted easily, just behaving herself on an ordinary day is tiring for her. What other kids normally cope with is very taxing for her, and I’ve learned to make allowances. If we have a busy day, an overly stimulating day, we stay home the next and she can meltdown as much as she needs to in the comfort of her own home. She’s generally very well behaved in public, which is a blessing. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s the best we can do right now. I’m so pleased we can do this for her, and even her psychologist has said that the main factor in her getting ‘better’ even this much has been home school, not therapy.

All of this has meant more stress in our collective life, but in mine mostly. I’ve gone from having two kids home full time, to having three and adding teacher to my already comprehensive list of ‘stuff I do’. I’ve got to admit I do enjoy it (thank goodness!!) but it has meant we’re still working on routines and I’m still learning to take time out for myself (I’m not very good at that yet). We’ll get there eventually. It’s clear to everyone who knows her that this was absolutely the best thing we could have done for her.

To make all of my daughters difficulties even harder to deal with, I got my cycle back finally (after years without!) only to find that I have PMDD. This is pretty nasty and meant that initially I was all but useless for about 10 days a month. I thought I had lost it, and then realized it was incredibly cyclical. The doctor confirmed it, and I’ve since tried a few things to help. I’m still working on sorting it out permanently, but after 8 or so months now, I am finally learning to go a little easier on myself in those down days, and make the most of the rest of the month. It’s a work on progress.

As for my writing, well I didn’t get a single thing published this year. I spent most of my time working on longer pieces – I finished the first draft of Sun-Touched, and I wrote, edited and submitted Burn (at least I thought I did. Turns out I actually submitted a portion of my final assignment for my uni paper… moral of the story is: don’t hand in a bunch of things at the same time, you might get confused), and started a second novella as well, currently titled Shell and Bone. I feel good about the lessons I learned regarding writing, which will hopefully pay off next year. I’m trying not to be too bothered about the fact there were no sales.

The bright spot of my writing life has been my writing friends, who are so wonderful, and so great to work along side, and the discovery that no matter how long a break I take between projects, I can slip right back into writing with ease. Beautiful.

EDITED TO ADD. OH AND I CO-WON AN AWARD. I had totally forgotten, but Anna reminded me. That was also an amazing thing that happened in my writer life. A Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Works. Epic. 

So yeah. Rough year. Big year. And that’s without all the tragedies and sadness that has happened to those I care about. If you’d asked me what I thought life would look like at the beginning of 2012, I could never have predicted that this would be it. I think we’re all still adjusting, but that’s probably just what we’ll have to call ‘normal’ for… well, perhaps forever. Who knows.

For right now I am looking ahead. I can’t see how 2013 could be any more challenging (knock on wood!!), so I am certainly hoping for more light spots than dark, more obvious progress, and more positive change within our family unit.

I’ll be studying two papers – one per semester – and as my writing group as dubbed it, 2013 is going to be the year of the novel. Sun-Touched is going to be my primary writing project and I can’t wait to knock it into submission quality.

I truly hope that your 2012 was a little easier than mine. And if it wasn’t, I’m really sorry it was so rough. Enjoy the last days of it, though, you survived and that’s something to be proud of. That said, I’ll be raising a glass on the 31st and saying thank god it’s over!

Here’s to 2013. Catch you next year 😉

*I managed to swing a B+ on my counselling theory paper (which I’m over the moon about. I know it’s not an A, but all things considered, it’s quite an achievement). As well as to complete the Mauri Ora course through Te Wananga o Aotearoa.