Well, it's that time of year again. Time to charge my drinking horn and raise a toast both ways: to the past and to the future.
So, how have things gone since last year?
Well, last year my oath was to finish my fantasy novel, which sat at 45,000 words.
That novel is still at 45,000 words.
Instead, I decided to work on Blood Rose, a piece of spuriously Historical Fiction (borderline complete fantasy) which was only at 10,000 words. I've been blogging my progress since May, under the tab Novel Idea.
I didn't make any adjustments to my oath for length, and it's not surprising I overshot my goal by... three days. Still, I did hit the 100,000k mark before midnight on New Year's Eve, which makes it the single longest work of fiction (or anything other than a blog) that I have ever written in my life.
I think that's a big enough achievement to make up for the three extra days it took to complete, so I'm going to say 'hell, mission accomplished.'
My boast last year was that I'd done a signing at Waterstones. I followed that up with a talk at Folkestone Book Festival this year, which was good fun. Especially as I appeared on the programme next to Lionel Shriver! Now that is something to boast about.
And, finally, my toast last year was to the Spirit of Adventure. My very good friend, Martine, had just quit her job, was getting married and moving to Laos. I was rather hoping some of that wanderlust might rub off on me. Sadly, 2013 wasn't the year for long-distance adventuring, but that is all about to change in 2014, I assure you - and myself.
Not a bad year 2013, all things considered. Some of the highlights included:
- Walking in the snow.
- Hanging out with Lies, Kassim, Noah & Cathryn for the last ever time in Torhout, Belgium. They've moved to Bruges now and added twins Aaron & Elias to the family! End of an era, beginning of a new one.
- Martine & Ruairí's wedding in Edinburgh.
- Spending three months walking the hills of Scotland with my mythical friend Paul, including a sojourn to Fife to run naked into the North Sea at 4am.
- Horsing around with Simon, and my riding buddies Di and Julia.
- Catching up with Gedge and Suki, two wonderful friends (and dangerous drinking buddies) from my misspent Cardiff youth. It had been six years since I last saw Suki!
- Admiring the beautiful flowers in Dad's garden, and rescuing a seagull from it!
- Exploring Puzzlewood with the Kingswell family: Cassie, Sean and wee Ryanman.
- Hollowell Steam Rally, and hanging out after hours, getting drunk with my brother and his friend Richard, who is a talented guitar maker.
- Hanging out with my summer love, Dweezle, swimming at the reservoir with Harri and my brother, and watching my nephew sail his boat at the local sailing club (dressed as a pirate!).
- Visiting Ireland to see Ruairí & Martine - my first visit to Newgrange, and the first time I saw seals in the wild!
- Giving a talk at Five Youth Centre in Folkestone, as part of their book festival.
- Winning, and drinking my way through, a £100 bar tab at Public House in Islington with my mates Cathryn, Danny and Will.
- Feeling all festive, visiting Clearwell Caves with my friend Daniel.
- Gasping in wonder at the Ice Palace, and scaling the Shard in London on Dad's birthday surprise weekend.
It's funny looking back, as I often suffer from a sense of not having done very much with my time. It's good to take a moment to reflect, because it makes me realise how long a year actually is, and how much I have managed to pack into it, even if I don't always realise it.
There's a charming idea called a Memory Jar, where you start at the beginning of the year with an empty jar, and fill it with good memories, each one written on a post-it note. Then, at the end of the year, you take out all of the notes and remind yourself of the good times you've had and the achievements you've made. I think it's a lovely concept, but I don't think that I need one - my blog seems to do the trick. It is funny how much you forget if you don't write it down.
So, with all of that said... what is my oath, boast and toast for 2014?
I was brimming with enthusiasm last year to set myself a goal, but I'm currently reading a brilliant book (The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking) and it's all about goalless living. I've also been re-watching Tim Minchin, who advocates 'passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals' and being 'micro-ambitious.' I do spend a lot of time worrying about the big picture, and I don't think it brings happiness. On the other hand, stressed as I may feel, I did (just about) manage to complete last year's oath. Then again, might I have done that anyway? And possibly even faster if I hadn't looked at it as a deadline and thus spent even more time than it took to write the novel figuring out ways to avoid writing it and tearfully accusing myself of being a serial procrastinator? Might I just have gotten on with writing it because I wanted to?
I feel like being one of those people who say "My New Year's resolution is to stop making New Years' resolutions."
But then, what would I have to look back and comment on next year?
So, let's go for a small one...
This year I will ask the question that I most want to know the answer to.
I know, that's ridiculously cryptic, but I can't tell you what the question is, otherwise I would have asked it, and there wouldn't be a challenge left for the rest of the year.
Hopefully it's just cryptic enough to keep you reading until then, when I'll have to reflect on whether or not I asked the question, thus revealing what it was.
What am I really proud of this year? Easy. I broke the 100,000 word barrier on my novel, making it the longest piece of fiction I have ever written!
I'm going to raise a glass to goalless living. To Eris, goddess of chaos.
There are things I'd like to do this year, but if they don't work out or I don't get to do them, it's not the end of the world. Having spent most of my life being quite self-critical and piling on the goals - then being gutted if they don't work out - perhaps it's time to just let go and see what happens?
To uncertainty and possibility!
Welcome 2014. Let's dance.