2017: Reflection and Review of my year

Alright 2017, where to start?

First of all this is really the first time I’ve written something like this. Obviously I have reflected before, but one thing I’ve learnt over the year is that putting things into words is a considerably different experience than just wandering around pontificating about it.

Although it must be said even just thinking about this post and what I would write has been a bit of an insightful roller coaster ride (well I mean I am talking about introspection here so not that much of a thrill-ride, but whatever). Point is I think reflecting on one’s progress and time can be a useful thing.

P.S. I am really talking about my writing mostly here, so if you’ve jumped on board looking for an overshare, sorry 🙂

This Blog

I’ve blogged before, but Lonely Power Poles is definitely my most consistent and earnest effort. On the one hand it’s freaky to think 12 months have passed since I decided to start posting, on the other its before like an online limb for me something that feels like it was always there! My goal for the blog was to increase the number of unique visitors each month, a goal which began as supremely easy (its not hard to improve on zero) and started to become quite a challenge six months in.

Usually this projects like this I’ll maintain decent productivity for a time before some external force, an illness, a busy time, or such-like distracts me and I typically find it hard to get back on the horse. This happened again this year so my goals were met up to August, when I basically went on hiatus for the rest of 2017.

I’m not feeling too bad with it though. I’ve made some really cool connections with other writers on WordPress, and I still enjoy Lonely Power Poles. I know that all the advice sites say post 2x per week and keep consistent which I will strive for but even though my recent output has been low I’m still happy with this little ole blog of mine.

On Distraction

In writing these words I’ve come across a weird realization. At my most productive I’m also at my most distractable. Without overanalysing it I suspect it has something to do with being in a ‘do something’ mode whereas when I’m straight procrastinating I just bond with the couch.

I must confess that 2017 has been a distracting year for me. For those that know me or have caught a whiff of this I am a bit of a Social Justice Warrior (SJW) I don’t scour the webs looking for injustice, but I do get into topics of prejudice, politics, ethics and so forth online probably more than is healthy or useful. For a long time my tendencies have been pretty dormant as I’ve focused on writing in general and just keeping my head down at work, but somehow the political and social climate of the world has pushed me to start talking about these issues. I think part of it is that social media has pushed certain social processes into overdrive, for example just a few dedicated and vocal folk on any subject can really push the sense of how people are feeling on said topic so voices for compassion and ethical politics are more important than ever.

Also I watched Handmaids Tale and am freaked the F out about that ever happening. don’t let it happen people.

Anyway.

Writing Goals

It’s kind of weird. On the one hand I feel harder on myself than ever, yet 2017 has been one of my most productive years. I’m probably put out around 45-50,000 words of novel(s) and without patting myself on the back too much I think they are good words too. On of the risks of writing is that you can always imagine yourself doing more, even if you do well its hard not be critical.

Something that I’m frustrated with is being able to balance long term projects like novels with short stories. I love writing short fiction but its been devilish to find the time and head-space, we’ll see how 2018 goes.

 

Learnings

If anything 2017 has been a good year for my own understanding of fiction and writing. The really weird thing about fiction is that once you grasp a concept its not rocket science, yet if you’re stilling grasping or trying to work something out it might as well be. By which I mean if you don’t get a writing concept like tension there is very little middle ground, you either grasp the concept or its foreign, obviously writers can vary in how good they are at any given thing, but my point is that writing isn’t a textbook skills its very much a raft of aspects that one has to ‘click’ with.

Other bits and bobs.

It’s been a good year in other ways too, the creation of #redditwriters on Twitter has been fun and insightful. By having a core group on the medium its changed the experience from a nebulous showing at the storm kind of exercise to a kind of shouting at the storm nebulous but there’s kind of a group closer by as well experience.

My lovely wife has also joined Twitter which is great in terms of being able to share notes and frustrations and give each other heads up about stuff. I’m not sure she is 100% comfortable as being outed as married to me so I won’t go on too long!

Reading and reviewing has been a mixed bag, the last few years I’ve intentionally set my reading goals low (in the past I’ve managed 150+ books per year ridiculous really) which kind of puts reading on the back-burner especially balancing time-wise. In fact I barely read any books that actually came out this year! One awesome success story is that I received a hard-copy of Sam Kean’s Caesars Last Breath for review, I often get review requests via Kindle, however there is just something satisfying about getting a ‘real’ book to hold.

Looking ahead

One of my terrible habits is to set impossible and implausible goals for myself “I know I’ll write a novel over Easter weekend” so I’m going to try and strike the sweet spot between achievable but still sufficiently productive.

I’m currently sitting at about 5,000 words of a project that I’m feeling good about and have a writing friend giving regular critique which is excellent motivation. I also have a 40,000 word story which I love but is awkwardly sized to shop around, so I might (MIGHT) look into getting good cover art and making this available on Amazon, just as a scary-ass project for the future.

As mentioned earlier I need to find time for short stories, not too sure where that time is coming from though.

As a final thought 2017 is also the only year (so far) where I’ve actually sat down and made writing a habit. Historically I’ve had huge bursts of production at times but for the most part procrastinated. Writing routines don’t always feel good, realistically though getting small amounts of work done over long periods is infinitely better than the bursts of inspiration tactic, especially when there are plenty of other things going on in life.

Sorry the REAL final thought is a massive thank you to those who have read my blog over the year, and especially my friends and family who have been present and encouraging. I appreciate everyone who has stopped by for a convo and I’ve enjoyed connecting with your blogs and seeing your work.

I hope your writing and other goals are going well and all the best for the holiday season and the new year!

 

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People Pleasing versus Writing SOMETHING

I was watching a review of Justice League the other day (haven’t even seen the movie…) and something MovieBob said struck me as very interesting (I thoroughly recommend MovieBob’s work as someone who really likes to overanalyze film)

In his review he basically compares Justice League to Batman vs Superman, a film which prompted, so far, 3 hours of material from Bob about why its so bad. And yet favourably says about Batman vs Superman that at least as a train wrecks it is interesting, whereas Justice League is fluffy and safe doesn’t really do anything.

This got me thinking about the nature of writing and art in general and what we’re trying to achieve. As writers we are often trying to people please, to produce work that won’t offend or at the very least we feel there are so many boxes to tick in terms of “good” writing we can lose track.

Now I’m not saying its time to throw off the oppressive shackles of reasonable feedback, or to deviate of the path of always improving, but I think it is useful to reflect on your work and what you’re trying to say with it and put that first. I’ve probably said this before, but for me crafting and improving a work of writing is about how to best emphasize and communicate the message of the piece, and sure that crafting may be to make the work more accessible or easy to read for a wide audience but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the message. If that message is something that isn’t bestseller material so be it – I’m pretty sure that most people prefer to be challenged by something that makes them think twice then consume another piece of cotton candy sanctified piece of writing.

One of the really weird perfectionist issues of writing is human beings have a hard time dealing with being less than 100%. The reason its odd is that I don’t actually know anyone who is a cliche ‘perfectionist’ its an odd quirk of (I think) Western culture where its considered a waste of time to do anything if you’re not going to put your best into it, by which I’m trying to say none of the writers I know are desperate perfectionists in the sense of locking themselves in rooms and being terrible pedants for details, but rather psychologically struggling to deals with this ‘less than 100%’ issue (well I certainly do).

Again obviously this isn’t a permission to do an average job, but what I’m building up to is to point out that our writing isn’t going to be 100% awesome for its readers either. If we’re all honest with ourselves I think we write hoping for best-seller type acclaim and even if we accept that’s a slim possibility I suspect there is still a sense that what fans we will have are fanatical.

Realistically there is going to be a range of responses to our work and that’s OK – however going back to my original point is that the more we try and please everyone the more boring and sanitized a work might become. In my opinion if I have three readers (probably an overestimate) it would be far more interesting to see a range of responses than a bland equality of ‘good I suppose.’

So anyway – what are your thoughts? Do you try to people-please in your writing?

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According to Google this quote is attributed to at least 10+ different people!