It’s tempting to see this as a ‘New Year New Me’ opportunity: to promise myself health, wealth and happiness, (based purely on my own efforts, of course); to litter my page with self-evident, self-righteous truths about how to find peace, time, myself, as though all these things are somehow loitering in the bottom of a glitter-strewn, paper-hatted, string-popped handbag, waiting for me to drag them into the harsh dimness of a January afternoon. Because, let’s face it- January, in its own right, can’t really be considered a month of inspiration; dreary weather, post-party depression, everything fresh and new still buried beneath layers of sludge, leaves and unending shades of grey as we struggle to accept the darkness without the glamourous relief of festive twinkling.
So it becomes, instead, a month of potential- the month to sow the seeds of good habits we forgot about, or abandoned, in September, and to desperately hope they’ll bear healthy, wealthy, joyful fruits in the months to come. Resolutions become the blinkers on Truth Road, blocking out the despair of daily living, keeping us focused on the steep incline of If I Just. For a day at least, perhaps even a month or three. Or maybe just the length of time it takes for a hangover to subside- which may, of course, be somewhere between the two.
This post is not for embracing or rejecting resolutions. Rather it is a collection of my thoughts about the last year, as my first year of actual writing, and thinking about the five biggest changes that have crept or bulldozed their way in.
1. I discovered how I liked to write. In yellow jotters. Why? In school my English jotters were always yellow, and I never worried too much about what I was writing in them. I just wrote. Having spent years writing nothing in beautiful, expensive notebooks, it was refreshing to return to the understanding that the important part of writing is writing, and that it’s easier to build beautiful buildings with raw materials than blueprints.
2. I got my first rejection. I was delighted. Not only was it not a PFO (a generic Please F*ck Off), the editor said she liked what I had sent, one of my poems was close to being picked, and I was welcome to submit again at the end of the year. That was enough of a nudge to show me that my writing wasn’t perfect, but it had enough potential to be worth pursuing.
3. I started identifying as a writer. To begin with I said nothing. Then I tentatively identified as an English teacher who writes, holding on to the belief that thing that pays you is what you ‘do’, who you are. I still struggle with that one, finding a happy medium in saying that I ‘divide my time between teaching and writing’. That being said, the biggest step in the right direction came from a wonderful friend of mine, Louise Kemeny. A talented opera singer (http://www.louisekemeny.co.uk/), I love to hear her sing, and had the chance of doing just that when she performed in Junefa at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow last year. It was at the opening night afters that Louise removed any temptation or reflex on my part to self-deprecate by introducing me to the company as a writer. It wasn’t an admission, revelation, or aspiration. It was fact. That was the end of it.
“AOIFE’S A WRITER.”
4. I discovered local literary opportunities. It was news to me that I wasn’t the only one writing, a default assumption an online search was quick to dispel. Poetry nights, open mic nights, writing groups, masterclasses, salons, and retreats operating within ten miles of my front door. Literary festivals within driving distance, such as those in Ullapool, Nairn, and Perth. Dozens of people actively interested in creating and telling stories through language and, what’s more, actively interested in what I had to say. These people weren’t just being polite. I knew I couldn’t fob any old nonsense on them and rely on friendship or family relations to get the nod of approval.
5. I gave myself permission to be a writer in my own home. Perhaps this sounds strange here, self-evident perhaps, or something that should have come before all the rest. But it wasn’t until late summer that I actually allowed myself to take a space in my sitting room, identify it as ‘mine, only mine’ and proceed to fill it unapologetically with a writing table, chair, poetry books, journals, and a notice board for pinning competition and submissions leaflets, deadline post-its, printed PFOs.
And of course, I set up this blog, an extension of number 5- giving myself permission to identify as a writer in the public domain, and to record the good things that have happened in this, my first year as a writer.
A year is a long time- hard enough to encapsulate, let alone predict. The one thing within my control (to slip in some self-evident, self-righteous truth) is how I react to what happens. In this vein I challenge myself to this and only this; to share my hopes and disappointments along with my successes. Nobody enjoys disappointments, but it is far more productive to commiserate with a fellow writer for five minutes than to ruminate for three days on your inherent inability to produce work of any merit or benefit to anybody.
Let’s see where that takes me. Happy New Year.