At the beginning of the year, much like a lot of other people I suspect, I made some resolutions. Small ones, that were attainable and non-stressful. More like mini-goals to be honest. The previous two years have been a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Last year I published a grand total of zero new stories, and this is the first year in five years I have nothing to put forward to be nominated for an award. That feels strange but also not completely unwelcome. As much as I would have preferred it to be via my own choice, I did need a break. So when it came to resolutions, I decided to keep things manageable and in bite-sized chunks. One of those little nibbles was to write a blog post at least once a month… I guess I’m just squeaking in there with that one!
When I was trying to figure out what to write this blog post about, I found myself with lots of ideas but very little motivation. I wanted to write some essays again, maybe a short story or poem, but my brain is still a little unwell from everything that happened to it last year (TL/DR version: medical negligence via the dental profession, lots of pain, lots of trauma) and I am struggling to encourage it to “make the words good” right now. That will change, I am positive about it, but I do need to be kind to myself and be mindful of my limits.
One thing I did find easy to do was get back into doing a Life Journal, which I actually started doing in 2020, and I credit it with keeping me grounded through the pandemic. In my Life Journal, I keep track of my moods, my sleep and my motivation levels. I set myself monthly goals and create bingo squares for certain skills. I permit myself to mess it up and be as rough and haphazard as I want to, so I don’t worry about keeping it neat and perfect. Perfection is the enemy of good, and in the past, I have been so anxious about “mucking it up” that I’ve ended up not writing anything. There are no rules for my Life Journal except one: check in every day. That check-in can be as simple as colouring a box to show how I am feeling and how much sleep I got the previous night, or it can be a long-form diary entry where I write and draw much more. Keeping it small and simple means I’m more likely to keep it up. And so far, for this month anyway, I have.
It can be hard to get back into the swing of things that used to be so easy but have now become difficult. Hard to reclaim who we are after we have lost a part of ourselves. I spent a lot of time feeling sad and angry about what I’d lost, and the worst part of that was feeling like I couldn’t write anymore. I felt like something that really made me who I am had been taken away, and it terrified me. Especially as I was no longer sure about who I was. Giving myself that tiniest nudge to just scribble down a few thoughts and ideas, or make goals that mean I have to think beyond the immediate and believe in a future, has helped my brain feel so relieved. I know now a lot of the loss and despair was the trauma talking, and while that’s okay, being able to see what lay beyond that was important too.
Although I haven’t written much, I have been keeping busy creatively in other ways. I discovered metal stamping last year and made a lot of cool bangles. I drew and painted (I even illustrated some book covers for other people), I decorated my writing room, I read a lot, walked even more, and took myself outside as much as I could. I’ve kept my body busy in the hope it would also exercise my mind, and I think that much is true. Something I did very recently, just this month, was to figure out how to make a pair of custom vampire dentures. It was a project I’d wanted to do for a while, and also helped me reclaim something from the trauma I went through. Also, they look fantastic!
My writing goals for 2024 are small and tentative. I really hope to finish Rabbit, and I have a few other shorts that have been buzzing around my brain for a while. I feel like it would be quite appropriate to put together a toothy horror collection, although I’m not sure how many people would actually be interested in that! (Although Little Teeth did get a very good reaction when it was released.) I’m not stressing about it though, in fact, I’m actually quite interested in seeing where things will lead me, even if that is not at all in the direction I was aiming for. If the past two years have taught me anything it’s to just keep going. I can stop, and I can (and should!) rest, but I won’t ever give up.
Here’s to the future, and hopefully a lot more “making the words good”!