I have been putting off writing this post for a long time as I knew it would not be filled with any brilliant news or great successes. It’s hard to not compare myself with all my other writer friends and to wonder what I am doing wrong, but as the days creep closer to the end of the year and I try to regather my energy, I think it is important to have a quick look back and a longer look forward. It is a year that has taken its toll on many I know as we have been thrust into a global climate emergency with lame leaders. It has been hard to stay hopeful with this as a backdrop.
This year I took on full-time work at the high school where I have worked for the last five years. The one thing that worried me about taking this on was the impact it would have on my writing life. I committed myself at the start of the year to write every day after work, but I was not prepared for the effect the job would have on me. The reality is that my writing took a hit, but I also learnt a great deal about my dedication to it. The job has been a very busy one. It is managing a high school library (by myself) as well as doing all the communications and marketing for the school. I have never run a library before (other than my private one) and had no knowledge of how to do it, but I was prepared to learn. My day is busy. I start at 8 am and supposedly finish at 4 pm with a short half-hour break to eat my lunch. School libraries are not what they used to be. Our school library, which contains a cafeteria area with sandwich makers and microwaves, is the hub of the school. Kids flock to it whenever classes are not running, and during class time it is filled with kids who do not have classes, or who need to use the photocopier. To say it is noisy is an understatement, and this drew a lot of energy from me given that I am an introvert who loves her quiet time.
At the end of Term 1, I was ready to leave. I was exhausted from learning everything there was to know about running and cataloguing a library, resurrecting the library collection, and rectifying the library catalogue all while managing the students, as well as managing my household and completing another full draft of my manuscript. I began Term 2 with tears and dread. Not only was I worried about whether I would have the energy to keep going, but I also had a knockback from an agent. I sought counsel from a dear writer friend who empathised and encouraged to me keep going with my writing, to maybe write before my day’s energy was sapped from work, and reminded me that what I was doing in the school was good, that I was inspiring young readers.
During the year, my husband and I also battled various health issues with my husband having a moon boot for five months for two stress fractures, and I have had persistent plantar fasciitis all year and a torn meniscus on the knee on top of the worst year yet for my chronic migraines with more days of pain than not.
While I had hoped to have a contract by the end of this year (don’t we all?), I now know that the manuscript that I had sent out was not the one I want published. It pushed me to think more about the story: what is the best way to tell this story? I read more than I have read in any other year, with many of those sixty books being read to understand different ways to tell story.
So, while I may not have a contract (yet), I finish the year with some things I am proud of:
- beginnings of a new and brave draft that is breaking my brain
- first words of another manuscript that is making me laugh
- admiration for my ability to get up early five days a week to write, despite how tired I am
- knowledge that I am brave enough to completely break a well-written story to try to craft something more beautiful
- learning new skills, and leaving the place in a better state than I found it
- increasing borrowing by five (5!!) times in the library
- attending the Historical Novel Society of Australiasia conference in Sydney alone
- attending the School Library Association of Victoria Conference and making great and important contacts
- going to two writing retreats even though I felt I didn’t belong
- sending my young adult for a manuscript assessment
- ability to live with and manage chronic pain
- resilience in the face of rejection
- publication in the Victorian Writer magazine
- letting go of some overly ambitious goals.
I am deeply thankful for the people who have stood alongside me this year and cheered me on. It has not been an easy year and I have spent a great deal of it in pain, tired and grumpy. I have cancelled more things than what I have gone to. I have complained and cried. But with the love and kindness of my friends and family, I have picked myself up and gotten on with the work that needs to be done despite the pain and tiredness.
I am also deeply thankful for my medical team (neurologist, doctor, myotherapist, psychologist, podiatrist and osteopath) who have thought long and hard on how to help me live my best throughout. One of them told me to ‘just do a good job instead of a perfect job’, which was key to hear as it enabled me to let go of some of my perfectionist traits at work.
My family are everything. Without the chaos and laughter with my boys, I would feel bereft and selfish. I love them to bits. I am deeply proud of who they are and what they have achieved and are aiming for. They continue to ace at their studies while working part-time in various jobs and being their best persons to the world around them. I am thankful for my close relationship with each of them.
Next year is a huge year of change for our family. Two of the boys will leave home to study in regional areas. We are planning a small renovation during this time of a smaller family so that when we all come together again we will have a light-filled space to be chaotic together again. I have begun a new migraine medication that has been likened to a miracle prevention medication and I have high hopes woven with a dose of reality.
My goals for 2020 have more flexibility than other years as I am learning that this is important.
- I don’t know if I will have this manuscript ready by the end of next year, or if it will be picked up by a publisher or agent, but I will complete the next draft and let it rest while I write something different.
- I will review my young adult manuscript and see what needs to be done, or it if belongs in the bottom drawer.
- I will keep reading wonderful books mostly by Australian women writers who deserve more space than they get.
- I will spend time with my wonderful writing group who are deeply important to me.
- I will spend whatever quality time I can with my boys as time passes quickly.
I hope that 2019 has been kind to you, and if it has not I hope that you can find some sense in it or are able to put it behind you. I hope that 2020 is a year that we can be proud of the decisions that our government make. I hope that 2020 is a year that brings kindness and love to you.