Musings on the year ahead

Ah New Year’s Eve… it’s not all about the bubbles, music and hugging at midnight – although those are all great traditions, and ones I fully intend to participate in tonight.

It’s also a natural time for reflection. Not just on how we fared (or not) with last year’s resolutions, but what we want to achieve in the year ahead. Goals to reach, habits to break, new ways to live…

Even people not remotely self analytical tend to spend a few minutes on New Year’s Eve thinking about the year ahead and what they want from it.

I have rolling resolutions (exercise more, worry less, breath deeper – you know, the usual…), so for me, my goals for the new year are less about what I’m going to do and more about how I want to feel – regardless of circumstance.

Yes, it would be easier if I just gave up sugar. 🙂

2012 is going to a big year for me. A huge part of that, of course, is the release of Shadows in June. Right now, the year is full of possibilities, opportunities and promise. I’m nervous, excited, anxious and hopeful. Frequently at the same time.

I know I’m going to wrestle with self doubt when the book goes out for review and again when it goes on sale (as I have no doubt most writers do – we tend to be a slightly insecure lot). Will people like it? Will they get it? Will anyone actually read it? Will older relatives be appalled by the bad language? Will friends who have encouraged me all these years wonder what the hell I was thinking?

It doesn’t matter that I love this book; that I am, in fact, quietly proud of it. Fear of rejection is powerful thing. Actually, fear of anything can be powerful, and debilitating. (I watched the brilliant movie, The King’s Speech, a few night’s ago, which reinforces that truth.)

But no matter what happens in 2012, I’m hoping self-doubt and fear of rejection won’t unduly influence my decisions.

I already have a bit of momentum. This year, I left my full-time job to work on my business (a writing-design consultancy with my talented friend Heather) and to pursue the novel writing career I’d already invested 16 years in. It was a decision that scared the crap out of me, but I made it anyway.

Two weeks after I left my job, I was offered my contact with Text. And work started flowing in for the business. There’s something to be said about taking calculated risks.

Good friends of mine (who have been on a far more powerful and world-changing journey than me this year*) say ‘jump and the net will appear’. I love that principal, but have always struggled to trust that it applies to me.

So this year, my goal is to keep working hard but to also let go a little more and see what might come my way if I’m not so busy trying to cover every risk and every angle.

Life is tough. Bad shit happens. I know that. And my struggles and challenges are luxuries compared to the realities faced by a huge percentage of the world’s population each day. That doesn’t mean my challenges are meaningless – I just need to keep them in perspective.

I also know situations can change in a heartbeat, and there are no guarantees with my writing career or my business. But, rather than worrying about things I can’t control (which is usually my default position), I’m trying to enjoy where I’m at right now, which is a good place.

I apologise for this slightly self-indulgent post, but it’s New Year’s Eve, so I’m hoping I can get away with it. I just felt the need to document how I’m feeling right now (before I drink the aforementioned bubbles later on), so, when I’m in the midst of whatever is happening next year, I can look back and remember how the year started.

*You can check what my friends have been up to here.

Summer reading (and faves for 2011)

Everyone’s talking about their summer reading choices, which has got me considering what I’ll prioritise in my to-read pile.

(My Goodreads to-read list is now up to 83 and my physical/ebook pile at home is sitting at 28 – don’t tell my husband… I already have to smuggle new books in.)

So… here are the titles I intend to tackle in the coming month or so (after doing my day’s editing quota, of course), in no particular order:

(I started this a few weeks’ back and then got sidetracked – keen to get back to it)

Update: forgot to mention this one (sorry Nicola!):

Top 10 reads for 2011

And, while I’m at it, here are my Top 10 reads of 2011 (some were published before 2011 – I just read them this year), again in no particular order (click on cover for my thoughts on each):

OK, I have make this a top 13 because I nearly forgot…

(And I only nearly forgot the last three because I only reviewed them on Goodreads, rather than on one of my blogs. A few fell through the gaps while I was trying to rationalise my blogging…)

Love to hear what your summer reads will be – and what your favourite reads of 2011 were.

The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

Last night, I made the mistake of attempting to tell my husband about The Scorpio Races, which I’d finished reading a few minutes before.

The problem was that I was still slightly overwhelmed by the beautiful ending and got a bit teary — at which point he nodded wisely, poured me a wine, and backed slowly out of the kitchen.

Anyone who’s read this (or my reading blogs in recent years) knows I’m a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing, so it’s no surprise I loved The Scorpio Races.

The surprise is just how much it blew me away. It is one of the most beautifully realised, atmospheric and tense stories I’ve ever read. Seriously, this novel is a master class in creating a sense of place, and populating it with perfectly drawn characters facing impossible choices.

It’s a love story, and not just one between a boy and girl, but between a girl and her horse, a girl and the wild island she lives on, and a boy and his man-eating water horse.

The story is set on the fictitious island of Thisby, some time in the past. The island is famous for its murderous capaill uisce, equine creatures that come out of the cold sea each November and are saddled and raced by the locals on the windswept beach. It’s an unforgiving, violent and bloody spectacle, and always ends in bloodshed.

The story has two narrators, Kate (aka Puck) and Sean, who each need to win the race for equally compelling reasons. They’re drawn to each other in the weeks leading up to the race, heightening the stakes and complicating their own situations.

As with Maggie’s other works, The Scorpio Races is a bittersweet story. So, yes, there are heartbreaking moments. But they serve to make the moments of triumph all the more moving and rewarding – and make the emotional journeys real.

I really loved this book. It was one that I didn’t want to put down, and equally didn’t want to end. (And yes, I can talk about it without welling up now…)

Great advice on writing (and life)

I’ve been reading a fantastic book called Bird by bird by Anne Lamott. It’s possibly the best thing I’ve  read on the art (and angst) of writing.

It’s not a traditional instruction on writing, just an excellent collection of thoughts on the process of writing (which are – as it turns out – instructional as well). Lamott talks about why people write, and what really matters in the creative process.

She writes beautifully, soulfully, and with lots of dark humour. I love it. (Thanks to my editor, who recommended this gem.)

Reading it is like eating a tasty, nourishing meal. Every mouthful is wonderful, and I want to slow down and take my time because each chapter gives me something new to think about – not necessarily about the book I’m working on, but my own creative process and what’s important to me when I write.

It’s not a new book, but anyone who’s even half serious about writing will have more than one moment where they close their eyes and think ‘thank God, it’s not just me…’

There are some great bits of advice throughout the book, and I’ll share some of them in future posts. First up, thought, is a quote Lamott includes early on in the book that really resonated with me, from American author E.L. Doctorow:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’

It’s great advice for writing and, I think, for life.