Something Like Gumption: New Year 2016

 

I’m not usually one for New Year Resolutions. I guess because I’ve always had a very obvious direction: complete this course, finish this class, attain that grade, win that award. Even on a personal level it’s always been simple: to create, to write, to learn.

However, now I’ve had a little over a year of my grown up job and my grown up flat and the obvious accompaniments of grown up rent and bills and taxes (joy of joys), and yet amazingly enough the tacit agreement I had for 2015 – to clear my overdraft and wave goodbye to my debts – has worked out. I’ve even started to save. I have a pension (ok this last one is through that work pension scheme thing but I didn’t opt out which in itself is a sign I’m doing better at this career human stuff).

Yet if there’s anything I understand about myself, it’s that when I don’t have goals or something to aim for, I plateau. I hit a wall because – as trite as this will sound – I need to have some sense of purpose. I don’t need a day-by-day schedule necessarily but knowing I am at ‘A’ and need to reach ‘B’ is something I find infinitely helpful. This is why, in the post-Christmas limbo days, I’ve mused on some of my short-term, mid-term and long-term aspirations to make me my own heroine.

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In the long-term I have things that are mostly future proofing – money, work, and sustainability things. Like saving to buy property (if I start now I might be successful by the time I’m 40 right?) and reaching certain points in my career. They’re not resolutions themselves, but they’re things resolutions hopefully might just build into. Then you have everything else.

As per usual, it’s mostly bookish, mostly focused on my writing, but with a large dollop of mental health awareness and self-improvement thrown in. Oh I know, I understand your rolling eyes. But this isn’t me saying I’m going to magically turn into a marathon running vegan (half was more than enough and no way am I giving up cheese) but there are a few I’m going to highlight.

Let’s start with the easiest: books.

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I have a lot of books. I love books. I love reading books. I love owning books. I love recommending books. I love being recommended books. So I’m going to be realistic, I’m not going to say I’m going to stop buying books until I’ve read my entire To Be Read list. But I do need to take control over the rate at which my shelf is expanding. Therefore I am promising to only allow myself to buy one book for every four that I finish. This should also help me stay inside the book budget (which this year was totally blown in one evening where I drunkenly purchased every book on my wish list – yes I’m that kind of girl) and actually do all the reading I want to do.

And then writing. 2016 is the year of the first drafts. Less talk, more do.

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At the start of 2015, I had the kernel of an idea that I mistook for a fully grown tree. That initial, single concept, is now three rather extensive piles of notes for three very distinct books in a series (I owe Loredana a giant bottle of champers for this). But now that I have my characters, my villain, my ‘who and how and why’, it’s time to write the first one. I’m not saying it has to be perfect, I’m not saying it has to be finished. But it has to be on paper and I’m telling you because by May I’m going to be asking you to knock on my inbox and tell me to show you some words.

In the super short term, I hope to enter three writing competitions this year. I don’t have to win. But I need to write something, enter it, and make some real concerted effort. One of the ones I’m super keen on is the medical humanities competition. I’m pretty excited to return to some of the issues surrounding neuroscience and literature (#nerdgasm) and I’ve already found a topic I’m keen to research.

Which brings me to non-fiction and blogging.

 

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Yes, hello, I’m talking about this whole shindig. I’ve been writing these posts for six or so years now (originally on blogger) and I’m receiving some pretty wonderful invitations to guest post. These are opportunities I do not want to miss – so hopefully you’ll see me contributing to the wonderful OhNoNAB and some of the mental health blogs that have recently been in touch. This may slow the average one-per-week updates here (devastating I’m sure), but since I’d like to write more book reviews as well, it’s definitely time to focus, organise, and stop writing crap about cats.

Talking of organisation, there are a few projects I’m hoping to kick-start – details under embargo – but don’t let me forget to update you in February/March.

And then there’s the whole learning thing.

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When most people say they miss university, they usually follow it by ‘not the work but the people’. I miss the work almost as much as the people (#doublenerdgasm). Fortunately I’ve found a way to combat this: Future Learn. Last year I took my first online course with them on Forensic Anthropology called ‘Identifying the Dead’. Using Val McDermid’s novels as a foundation, the University of Dundee provided the syllabus and it was absolutely one of the most fascinating things I did this year.

So for 2016, I’m taking a second course – Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Well Being. With the inestimable Dr Paula Byrne and the Man Booker judge Dr Jonathan Bate at the helm, the aim is to look at how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with times of deep emotional strain. If you’re interested, it’s free and I’m going to writing about it all over this blog so the more the merrier.

Plus this is another thing that’s high on my list of tackle-soon resolutions: building my headspace and developing some healthier habits.

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For example: I eat my greens and go to the gym several times a week but I want to get back to running because it’s good for my headspace. I want to remember to think more positively – to find the ‘but’ that’s a silver lining instead of an excuse. I want to stretch myself thin because I’m taking joy in variety instead of wasting time worrying over little errors I can’t change.

Oh, and before I forget: if you see me biting my goddamn nails, wrench my hand from my face and slap it (not my face, just my hand thanks). That habit has got to go.

So some of this ramble is goals, some of it is process, some of it is change. Maybe you’re thinking I’m asking myself to do too much. Yet there’s so much more I could add about my friendships, relationships, romances (or decided lack of what my granny calls a ‘particular friend’), and people I’ve decided to get back in touch with. The ones mentioned here are ultimately about working on my self-relationship, however, and personally, I believe that by writing this and holding myself accountable, I’ll maintain the gumption to make everything happen.

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For some more blogs on New Years Resolutions, check out these:

Gracie Actually Writes: 2016 is a’coming…and there’s so much to do! – a lovely personal blog on all the things Grace wants to take on 2016 (including the clutter in her room which should really be on my list too)

 Dan Grech: It’s important for us to share our New Year’s Resolutions. – did you know the idea of new years resolutions comes from Ancient Babylonia? No, me neither. If you want to read something that’s both interesting and poignant than this look at why it’s important to make our resolutions out loud is a good one.

Rebecca O’Connor, Good Money Blog: Becky’s Good Money rezzers for 2016 – a clever, succinct look at some of the ways we can make our money work towards creating a more sustainable future.

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