My year laid bare.
Or, 2011: everyone else is doing it so why shouldn’t I?
I had no idea how to sum up my year. So I went through my blog month by month and this is what I’ve come up with:
2011 has been all about me taking myself more seriously. Getting learnéd, finding my own way and trying to accept myself for who I am.
In January, I had some short stories published on the Ether Books app, and I took part in a River of Stones. I felt like a fraud. Me? A writer?!
In February I began a Health & Social care module with the OU – overlapping it with the Advanced Creative Writing module I’d already started in October. It was also, very sadly, the month my father-in-law died and I wrote a poem for his funeral.
In March I started to really assess myself as a writer. I began to worry less about what I had to do to define myself as a writer and instead I found myself thinking and writing about what kind of writer I was and realising that success for me simply meant writing what I wanted to write. I felt I had advanced from budding/wannabe/potential/whatever and was giving myself permission to say, ‘I am a writer,’ instead of waiting for some sort of golden ticket to Writer Land.
In April I struggled with unwelcome feedback on my blog and began to see how when people read your writing they can sometimes try to own a bit of it. They see things you didn’t intend, they offer alternate ways of writing, and they can criticise where it’s not wanted. They can even dare to tell you that you are wrong! I also noticed how people can wave experience or credentials in your face and try to beat you down. When people say something you really totally disagree with you absolutely have to stand your ground and I find that difficult.
In May, after a whirlwind of juggling two OU modules, I finally submitted my final assignment for my Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. I wrote freely and experimentally away from the course and really enjoyed the release. I decided to stop entering competitions – which made me write total cardboard crap. I think I’ve entered three and also submitted to one magazine and when I look at that work it is the worst stuff I have written!
In June I wrote a blog post about my own late father for his seventieth birthday. I wanted to commemorate everything he was to me and how much of him has been passed down to me. He would have liked the me in my early forties that I am now, and it was a comfort to write positive things after two years of bad memories. I also found myself writing a lot of other non-fiction in reaction to things I saw going on in the world.
In July I wrote blog post after blog post after blog post, loaded with opinions and observations. Some fiction, some non-fiction and some a combination of the two. I was enjoying the freedom of owning my own words and knowing they were just to be read and not graded by an academic marker. I began to feel confident that I could say what I wanted on my own blog without fear of being judged. People that didn’t like what I wrote could bog off.
In August I found out I had passed my diploma and the realisation that I was only one module away from a degree began to sink in. I had taken courses to look at things more closely, discover things of interest, and on the way I was getting a degree. It is, to me, a wonderfully fulfilling way of learning – without a specific end goal. I sent in my final assignment for my final module a month early and celebrated the achievement. I wrote a blog post about the experience and had dozens of comments. I adore that feeling, like no other, of sharing and connecting that comes from writing.
I received my course materials for my Twentieth Century Literature module in September and have really enjoyed reading about other writers’ struggles, the way their writing was received in its time and how there is so very much disagreement between critics and writers about what is good and bad, right or wrong in writing. It’s quite reassuring really. I also turned forty-two and began to notice how much I was ageing. I couldn’t help noting how late I’d come to writing compared with famous and successful writers and it upset me. It still upsets me that I didn’t start sooner.
October was a time of more realisation. I started, and then pulled out of, National Novel Writing Month. I took part last year and managed to reach my target but think perhaps once was enough for me. For now I am a short story writer. The way my life is arranged and the way my head explodes with thoughts seems to suit the short story and flash fiction format. I was also very flattered to be invited to take part in the first National Flash Fiction Day which takes place next May!
In November I finally learned how to deal with negative feedback. I realised that if someone doesn’t “get” your writing you can’t make them. I realised that if you like something and don’t want to change it, even after taking onboard someone’s feedback, then you should get a second opinion. I realised that I mustn’t overreact or take feedback personally ( I’m still working on that one. I find comments about my writing very personal!) All writing needs a cooling off period. As do writers.
In December I haven’t really liked my writing. I’ve been bogged down with Christmas and a very demanding literature course (well, I think it’s demanding). There’s something about tension in my real life that screws up my creative flow. Having looked at December’s posts just now, I’m not very proud at all. It’s great to take nationally enforced time off with the family but I’ve had enough now and am starting to stress about everything I need to catch up with.
I had my degree confirmed this month, though, so I am now officially intelligent even if my writing has got worse!
So that’s brief snippets of my year. In summary: I am older, wiser and a kind of graduate-on-hold while I try to up my degree to honours.
I also noticed today – whilst trying to get a photo of myself, that I have started to sag around the jawline, I have a face that is too fat for my upper body and I have ludicrous nostrils.
Ludicrous, I tell you.
I have to write a writer’s profile for the National Flash Fiction Day site now and have no idea what to say… Should I mention the nostrils?
If you’re reading this, thank you. There are some fantastic people who I have met through Twitter that have given me much encouragement and support this year. I had absolutely no faith in myself or my own abilities and you have changed my life by reading and commenting on my blog/and/or my blipfoto journal. I can’t mention you all in case I forget someone but hopefully you know who you are.
If you’re a stranger – Hello!
The photo is a brave one for me. I usually like a facefull of makeup before I can even open the front door. It’s me, at home, at my usual end of the dining room table, in my favourite black jumper. (Check out the nostrils!)