2008 Review

31Dec08

Well, here we are at the end of another year, so I suppose it’s inevitable that I’m sat here taking a moment to reflect on everything that has happened this year, before opening the ground of 2009 and setting my goals for next year.

dock1It’s been a funny year, with more than it’s fair share of ups and downs, though it feels right now that there have been more ups than downs.  That in itself is telling, given that the last 5 Christmases since my Gran died have been appalling, with depression sucking me into the darkest of black holes and suffocating me to the extent I’ve been almost completely paralysed by misery. This year is different – perhaps enough time has passed, or perhaps the therapy has paid off ;), or perhaps it’s just that we weren’t forced into a huge, pressured all-family affair and were able to stay at home, just the five of us, and not perform to any else’s timetable or expectations. Whatever the reason, it has been very welcome to have a Christmas that I’ve taken pleasure in, and felt relaxed over.

november-2008-013The single biggest change has been adjusting to Minnie Bellaboo’s arrival – last Christmas she was only a couple of months old and we were in total chaos. This year we are probably still in chaos, but it’s chaos that has our own distinct rhythms to it, so is manageable. She has grown into such a strong personality too, she’s no wallflower shrinking into the background given two very noisy, determined and extroverted siblings, and it has been a delight to watch her blossom and hold her own amongst the big ones, carving her own little niche in this family.  Rumpus started school in September, and he’s changed so much – he seems so much more settled and confident, though the maths obsession remains – his teachers are impressed, I’m more cautious about it (the A spectre will intrude, though I think I’m worrying unnecessarily). Honey continues to excel at everything she does – I’m so proud of her talent and hard work I think I could explode – she’s such a sweet, gentle soul, but she gets on and gets what she wants all the same. I feel very fortunate to have the three of them in my life – I don’t know how I ever got on without them.

We’ve made some major lifestyle changes this year, the chief of which has been cutting the supermarket out of our lives. It has worked a treat. We get a family organic fruit&veg box every week from a local supplier, and I’ve found the most marvellous farm just down the road where we can get home-produced meat and eggs and locally sourced dairy and cheese, and the co-op and other local village stores have more or less supplied all other needs this year. forest

It has been surprisingly easy, and what has astonished me is that 1) less choice is actually easier to deal with, 2) shopping can be a pleasure instead of a horrific ordeal and 3) that it costs us less to buy totally fresh produce and make all meals basically from scratch. Next year I’m hoping that I’ll get more time in the garden and we’ll be able to eat much more of our own produce than we did  this year. We’ve significantly reduced our vehicle usage – t’o-m cycles into work and we walk whenever possible (thank heavens for the baby sling), so we’ve saved hugely on fuel bills too. Ebay has been a revelation as a source of clothing for the entire family – being able to buy a massive bundle of children’s clothes for less than I’d otherwise have to spend on a single outfit has been mind-blowing, and of course the knowledge that by opting out of the textile/fashion industry we’re turning our back on a huge tranche of unsustainable and wasteful consumerism fills me with joy. I know we still have some blind spots to focus on, and that we’re not in a position to be smug or complacent about it, but I feel that we have again moved towards a much greener lifestyle, living more lightly on the world that sustains us than we were before.

2008-12-christmas-034Magpies Laundry is such a natural extension of that philosophy, I’m so pleased it’s taken off so well this year. At the beginning of the year it was nothing more than the germ of an idea and a few patchworks and memory quilts I’d done for friends and what was essentially a life-laundry service via local estate agents (bottom has *so* dropped out of that market – it’s dead and gone). At the end of the year, here I am, a commissioned textile artist in TWO craft galleries, with a full order book for the next 2 months (credit crunch notwithstanding)(so far), and I’m about to open a little Etsy store, just to see how that flies – another string to my bow – though I think I’ll hold it at that, since I don’t want it to eat into either my writing time, nor get so big that Bellaboo has to go into formal childcare. When she starts preschool then I’ll maybe expand it more, but that’s a way off and I’m not planning that far ahead just now. (big step forward, that, not overplanning my life!)

I haven’t acheived as much as I wanted this year with my writing – but then I started late. It took me until May to get back to the pc, and although I kept reminding myself that in paid employment with normal benefits and salary etc, I’d get a whole year off for maternity leave, it didn’t quite wash. But then I’m my own worst critic, so it wouldn’t be right if I gave myself a break. But when I look back on the last six months of work, I think I can be pleased with what I’ve done. Starting Holly Lisle’s ‘How to Think Sideways’ has opened an entirely new door on my writing, and I’m gaining so much from that it’s just phenomenal – I’ve got some incredible ‘doh!’ moments when something totally obvious has highlighted a huge gap in my thinking and/or writing that I’ve been blind to up to that eureka moment. And the sweet-spot map has given me the keys to understanding why a number of perfectly adequate stories have been left to rot. I haven’t written a huge amount of new material, but I have reviewed and consolidated what I do have, and I feel ready to launch into a major programme of work next year to start turning it around into saleable inventory, AND I’m building up for a novel – I can feel it growing and kicking in the belly of my mind. I listened to a Doris Lessing interview on Radio 4 this morning, and she said that writing was torture, but that not-writing was worse, so she always goes back to it no matter how painful she knows it’s going to be. I can identify with that. The discipline of maintaining a (short) story every other work is a good one, and I am glad I’ve taken it on, in part because it’s starting to yield results and in part because my critical eye is getting better in sorting the wheat from the chaff in my stories. This is helped hugely by the crit groups I’m involved in over at Forward Motion – identifying strengths and weaknesses in other writers’ stories and craft is an enormous help to my own. I think I’m going to brave the shark-infested waters of Roving next year, though I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be able to make it there, given that I had to drop out of a short-story group because I couldn’t hack the pace. One for the backburner. I relished the success of my non-fiction publications, but I’m not sure I’m going to follow it up with more, regular, journalism. Fiction is my love, and I don’t want to divert too much time away from it – I’m battling for every second and going short on sleep as it is to even get close to what I want to do.

budleigh-beach

It’s all feeling and looking good, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so positive going into a new year. I feel as though my attempt to both realise my dreams and to decompartmentalise the different areas of my life and integrate them into a coherent whole is yielding results, and I wonder why I lacked the courage to give it a shot up until now. I guess the conditions weren’t right for me to be forced into bravery? Or perhaps I just needed to mature to a point where I could understand what makes me tick and how to channel that knowledge into productive activity, rather than just running the hamster wheel of wishing and pushing and stressing and never looking to see if the view is changing. Or needs changing.

How was your year? What changed for you this year? How do you feel about next year?

Let’s hope it’s a good one.

 

And finally, some top stuff for the year . . . . not all of these were new this year, but they were new to me . . . do you agree? What’re your picks?

Best Film: Mamma Mia

Best DVD: Bourne trilogy

Best TV Show: Heroes

Best Album: Tie! Santogold and Kings of Leon

Best Book(s): The Algebraist, Iain M Banks, Runt Niall Griffiths and On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

Political event of the year: there can be only one. Barack Obama’s election.

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