It’s customary for these sorts of posts to come out in December, before the holidays and our emails (and brains) are switched to ‘out of office’ mode. This is understandable – giving yourself a pat on the back at the end of a year is a great way to round it off before looking towards the next one. And if you’re thinking you don’t have much to show for 2017 apart from simply making it through it, trust me, that matters too.
In all honesty, this is why my recap is coming now. I’ll go into greater detail below. In other years, I’ve split this post up into themes over a couple weeks but I think it’ll be better (and easier) to integrate them. If nothing else, it might show a fuller picture.
This is what I wrote about what I wanted to achieve in 2017:
This will apply across the board: work, life, family. There’s going to be a high schooler in the house, and another child isn’t far off. Even my moderately ambitious to-do list will require some focus. I suspect I’m going to have to get much better at asking for help.
Ironically, I think I’m also getting better at letting go of the things that aren’t personally satisfying, like attending certain events or reading that latest hot novel. I need to be careful that doesn’t turn into ennui or disengagement (and, frankly, after 2016 that was appealing), but overall I think perspective will be key. As it always is.
(Excerpted from: 2016 Year in Review: Work)
How I laughed when I read the phrase ‘moderately ambitious to-do list’. Two books in a year is more than moderately ambitious! I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that. Still – I did it! Writing and production wise, it was the hardest and most intense year ever as I worked four days a week at the Centre for Youth Literature (CYL) up until the end of June. While there this blog’s content was practically scuttled and I could only focus on smaller pieces for My Creative Process and for the Alan Marshall Short Story Award. (Although On The Many Shapes Bodies Will Take came out in March to a wonderful review, it had already been edited and was at the printers by the end of January.)
Prophetically, I also wrote ‘I suspect I’m going to have to get much better at asking for help.’ Yes, yes, yes. I wrote about asking for help in Trust the Process and I followed my own advice. I stress I’m still not great at it, but I ended the year much freer in being upfront with friends when I am in a bad place and ask for their patience when I cancelled lunch dates. The work eclipsed the personal quite a few times, and I got through with some deep breaths and repeating ‘this too shall pass’.
How did the books perform? I’m asked this a lot, usually by non-writers. Not that it’s a rude question (when asked nicely!), but it can be a complicated answer. Yes, best-sellers lists are an important measurable, but only a fraction of authors end up on them. The rest of us are more reliant on the cyclical nature of the book industry; of ordering, stocking and returning. Then seeing how the titles goes. I get these reports from my distributors, but I’ve always relied on the sales that I get both from this site and face-to-face encounters (events, teaching etc.). It’s very gratifying to get an email that says something like: “I saw your YouTube video/read your post/a friend recommended you and I got your book!” These quiet connections are wonderful – maybe that’s the introvert in me talking!
I also started a Patreon – but haven’t done more than let it sit there. Let’s file that under: TBD.
So – what’s next? To be honest, I’m undecided.
A month ago, I would’ve sworn to you that I was going to take a break from nonfiction in 2018. I was done; I was sick of my ‘I’ voice. Instead, fiction (my novels in particular) would come to the fore. That is still true, but the goal is fuzzy. I delivered what I did in 2017 because the deliverables were very clear: two books. (As yet) 2018 has no ‘objective’. That doesn’t jive with the half of me that needs a plan, but the other half thinks it’s liberating!
Let’s pick a nice umbrella word for the year: CREATION.
New work, exploring, making, thinking.
Personal and Travel
First, a reminder about 2017’s goals/plans:
Personally speaking, that will manifest mostly in trying to tick off Living List goals and I’m going to be circling back with more intent to those 1001 books and movies challenges. They’ve fallen away in attention in recent years, but I still think about them.
Hoo, boy. Okay, first thing’s first: I didn’t really circle back to those 1001 challenges. In fact, it wasn’t until this week that I got around to reversing the movie list to make it the same as the book one, making the titles appear from most recent down. Thanks to a fibromyalgia brain fog, I couldn’t think properly so instead I decided to focus on what I could do. Small tasks FTW.
Let’s talk about the Living List accomplishments: drinking a ‘freakshake‘, spending a week on a tropical island and running a Spartan race. (Standing up on a surfboard is technically 2016, but I only blogged about it in February.) I’m happy with these! As I was too ill from the horrible bug I picked up in Asia to do the Run Melbourne half marathon, the Spartan race was a great substitute for the big physical challenge I try to do each year. I’m about to modify the Living List a little bit and I’ll update you when that’s finished.
More on the travel front, I finally got to visit the Twelve Apostles! (I know, after nearly 20 years living in Victoria…) It’s marvellous, dramatic coastline and I’m grateful I got that opportunity. We also made a late decision to go home to northern NSW for a week in December to see my family and that, honestly, was a Good Decision. So was going back to see Adam’s family in April.
As for this year, the only travel we’ve got locked in is a trip over to Tasmania. My 40th is at the end of the year, so something pretty special might be on the cards. (Fingers crossed, anyway!?)
Finally, the favourites list!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders followed very closely by From the Wreck by Jane Rawson.
Favourite short story?
‘Air Mail’ by Jeffrey Eugenides. (I haven’t read Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian, which caused much hubbub last month.)
The favourite movie I watched at the cinema? Hmm… The Last Jedi. I haven’t opined about it on the internet yet – partly because there are enough opinions going around already and frankly, for the first few days after I saw it, I was one of those people, harrumphing and bleating. But I’ve reflected, sat with it. I love it for the great bits and forgive the dodgy bits – and every respectable Star Wars movie is comprised of great and dodgy bits, right?
And Wonder Woman was pretty cool. (I cried.)
At home, I re-watched Lawrence of Arabia. Goddamn, I’d forgotten how good it is.
Favourite TV show?
The new Twin Peaks. I also binge-watched Homeland on Netflix.
Favourite place we visited?
The favourite scary thing I did?
Either going on the trapeze (starts at 0:54):
Or doing the Spartan race:
Favourite gift to myself?
The occasional massage.
Less an experience than a moment: we’d just arrived at customs at Indonesia after getting off the ferry from Singapore. It was getting late, the humidity wet and heavy. Fat, dark green leaves poked through the timber roof. Workers were sneaking quick cigarettes around corners, just away from prying eyes. The night was loud and full of promise. All of a sudden, excitement replaced tiredness.
Not bringing ‘The Creative Life’ podcast back for another season. I just had too much on. It will be back in 2018!
Not so much a song as my Spotify writing playlist. This got me through two books. It’s mostly David Lynch.
Favourite Instagram photo
This one of the beach at Club Med Bintan Island – just looking at it makes me want to go back.
Here’s to a great 2018!