One of the goals I set myself for 2014, albeit not when I wrote my initial list at the end of December, was to appreciate my achievements even when they don’t seem like much. I’m very bad at this. I always want to do more, be better, and I can’t always step outside of that drive to think, “No, you know what? Actually, I managed all these things.”
And of course, one of the areas in which this was the most difficult was writing, because of how quickly I wrote during the first half of 2013. I will always compare my writing speed to what I managed on another day, and writing 500k in six months is a tough average to beat.
At some point during the autumn term, I wrote a plan of what I was going to write and when, giving myself six weeks to write the third draft of The Quiet Ones because to me, that was a long time. I have been writing it for approximately seven weeks now (according to this timetable, I should be starting a different novel on the 9th, which is not going to happen), and it isn’t finished. The Miriam who doesn’t appreciate what she has managed would be disappointed and would probably make the mistake of trying to write it quickly. to manage that. This Miriam knows better.
I wrote a little over forty thousand words in January which is, to all intents and purposes, a respectable amount. It’s almost a NaNo total, even though I took weekends off and spent a considerable number of days too ill to approach my novel. It’s not too far off what I wrote last January (53k). It brought the total wordcount for this draft up to 65,665. And it is a victory.
The last time a whole month’s writing was done by typing rather than dictation was June, when I wrote 150k. After that, I wasn’t sure I was going to type again for a long time. July was a mixture of dictation and typing, and November was entirely dictated, but this January was about relying on my hands once more, allowing my writing time to be limited by what they were capable of doing.
Forty thousand words represents healing.
The hardest thing is learning to be satisfied and not to immediately think, “Well, then, I can manage 50k in February,” because that sort of thing leads to disaster. The hardest thing is learning to accept that some days I can’t write and maybe I should give myself two days off per week, whether it’s the weekend or not. Many people maybe wouldn’t find that difficult, but I’m not just competitive against other people – I’m competing against myself.
(It’s enough, I tell myself. If I wrote forty thousand words every month this year, I would have a lot of words. And I know I will not – exams and university will take my writing time away from me. But I will still have written more than if I gave up entirely, and every word I type is proof that my hands are healing and my creativity is still alive and well.)
I also need to remember that this month wasn’t an easy month to find time to write. I was/am pretty ill, with the number of different meals I’m capable of eating limited to about three (pasta, rice, and dry toast). I’ve missed seven days of school out of the nineteen we’ve had so far this term, and so even when I’ve been well enough to go in, I’ve had a lot of work to catch up on.
Plus, I edited, formatted, designed and released a poetry collection, and even if it still hasn’t sold eighteen copies, that’s an achievement. Though, you know, selling eighteen would be even better. You could help with that.
I wrote thirteen blog posts, which is the most regular blog posts I’ve written in a month since September 2012 (I’m not counting December because my ‘Retrospect and Reminiscing’ series definitely falls under “irregular blog posts”). And yes, I can lament how few comments I’ve received on each post compared to the numbers I used to get in the past – some even have no comments at all – but I also need to appreciate that I had more views in January than in any month since I started this blog. There are victories too, even if I only notice the failures.
I survived a trip to Paris that had been giving me anxiety attacks for weeks, even if it’s probably what made me ill. Another brave step I took was to come out, which I’d been considering for months, but only finally did on the 1st January.
I received an offer from Newnham College Cambridge, meaning that the only barrier between me and my dream course at my dream college of my dream university is getting the grades.
I wrote half of the first draft of my Extended Project Qualification, an independent research essay that I’m, predictably enough, writing about women in mythology and history.
I read 15 books, some of them re-reads and some of them new, which put me 19% of the way through this year’s ‘reading challenge’ of 80 books that I set for myself.
I started learning to sing and chose the songs that will make up my A-Level recital programme if everything goes according to plan: Dido’s Lament, Mordred’s Lullaby, On My Own and Let It Go (in that order). I also had my first harp lesson.
I need to appreciate these as achievements, even when I’m finding it hard to feel like I’ve actually managed anything. When I have bad days and I can’t get any work done, I always feel worse because I’ve not completed anything, and it turns into a vicious circle of self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy. So I’m quantifying what I achieved in January not because I want to make any of you feel inadequate or because I’m boasting, but to prove to myself that I haven’t been wasting my life.
2014, I decided, is not just going to be a year of being satisfied: it’s going to be a year of learning to love myself. Okay, so right now I hate my body because I can’t eat anything and I regularly feel awful and also my shoulder dislocated for absolutely no reason on Friday, and my brain isn’t exactly a fun, healthy place all the time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love myself.
So I decided: I’m going to take a lot of selfies. You know, last year I didn’t really take any until right at the end of the year, mostly because the front-facing camera on my phone wasn’t very good, but also because I didn’t like my face and I thought taking pictures of yourself was vain. I didn’t notice how few pictures I had documenting my appearance until I came to write my retrospective posts at the end of the year.
I figured that the first step towards being nice to myself was learning to appreciate what I look like, even if I haven’t always done so. They’re littered throughout this post not as vanity but as an active choice I made to try and be self-confident. Indeed, many of them I only took because my hair amused me; I’m frequently wearing a dressing gown because I was just sitting around the house – they’re hardly the epitome of fashion and beauty. (The hovertext explains them… or just laughs at them.)
The other decision I made was to write love poetry to myself. I tried this last year, and it made me feel awesome, once I got past the initial sense of vanity. So I’ve concluded that I need to try it more often, instead of writing further angsty poems about somebody I knew a couple of years ago, which seems to be all I’ve done recently. I’d definitely recommend it to others, too, as a technique.
Why am I telling you all this? Because my attempts to be positive about myself will likely be reflected in my future blog posts. Because I want you to know that I might seem to get a lot done but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. And because if one or two of you might occasionally tell me that I’ve achieved something, it would make me feel so much better.
I want to know what you achieved in January, too, and whether you’re satisfied; I want to know how that affects your goals for February. Link me to your selfies. Tell me about the deadlines you aimed for and missed entirely. Bemoan the New Year’s Resolutions you made and already failed to keep
My next post will probably be about The Quiet Ones, because the editing process is proving to be incredibly interesting, as well as slower/longer than I expected. But in the meantime, don’t let me turn self-confidence into egocentricity, and tell me about yourselves.