Thursday, 18 September 2014

Best Year Ever

These posts don't usually materialise until we get a little closer to Christmas. However, I've started measuring my time in academic years now that my life pretty much revolves around the PhD I'm working on.

On 20th September 2013, Culture Night, I escaped my dayjob for at least three years. It was magnificent. My colleagues, either encouraging my crazy plan or just plain happy to see me get out of their lives, gave me a nice send-off. Lunch, generous gift, drinks. The hangover was monumental. If I'm honest, I was a little sad to be leaving. It wasn't the worst job in the world, by any stretch of the imagination. It just wasn't my first choice.

Writing is.

But it was weird at first. I didn't warm up to this full-time student and writer gig for a few months, really. Sure, I had more opportunities to read, wrote quite a bit, spent more time with the kids and whatnot. But it all seemed weird. Like I was throwing a sickie from work rather than settling in to my role as a bona fide scribe. I'd say it took until late November or early December to get into the swing of it. And by then I was convinced that I'd wasted half a year. Maths was never my strong point.

Other obstacles popped up throughout the year. I'll not list the details, but basically I thought that I'd become an utter writing machine this year. It doesn't really feel like I've managed that, though. I always feel like I'm playing catch-up. Always.

So, in an effort to calm my twanging nerves, I thought I'd list the significant stuff that I managed to do over the last 12 months. I'm hoping I surprise myself.

Started work on two novels (one for the PhD, one for me; both still unfinished)
Figured out that working on two novels simultaneously is silly
Attended the Killer Books festival in Derry (early November)
Released my novella, BOUNCE, in the form of a free booklet at the festival
Released the novella, BREAKING POINT, through Blasted Heath
Worked on edits for UNDERCOVER, a novel to be released by Blasted Heath in a few days
Wrote and sold some short stories; including spots in Belfast Noir and Streets of Shadows
Read like a motherfecker
Attempted to master academic writing (with marginal success)
Attended various courses and events through QUB
Hosted an event at No Alibis; the launch of Helene Gestern's The People in the Photo
Passed my PhD differentiation
Landed some funding from Northern Ireland screen to work on a screenplay based on my novella, WEE DANNY
Decided to go to Bouchercon 2014 (Long Beach CA, baby!)
Joined a gym and stuck with it long enough to get in shape
Started a health and fitness blog (then ignored it over the summer but continued to train!)
Signed up as a Teaching Assistant in the School of English (and will begin teaching at QUB in October)
Went on holiday to Portstewart
Took part in a panel at the On Home Ground festival
Spent more time with the family

There may be a couple of things that slipped my mind that belong on the list, but looking at that now... I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself. But I also need to be careful about getting too complacent, I reckon. And I should be wary of distraction and procrastination. Writing has to be a priority this year. I have to finish the PhD novel to leave myself time to work on the trickier academic/critical element.

I'm hesitant to post this now. It all seems a little braggadocious...

But feck it. I'll compromise. I'll post it on a day when the world only wants to read about the Scottish #indyref, I won't include an eye-catching image and I'll not share the link on social media. I'll just leave it here and look at it from time to time. When the nerves start twanging and I start to freak out about not getting enough done now that I have so much more time on my hands. It'll be cathartic, right? Or I'll freak out about not getting as much done this year. Most likely the latter. I'm a tube, like.


Dana King said...

I think it's common for people who do a lot to wonder if they've wasted too much time, and for those who accomplish little to believe they busted their asses. You've had a very productive year, by any measure, and, from what I've read on this blog over time, you're poised to push forward from the foundation you laid to become even more fruitful. Remember, how much you accomplished cannot be measured solely by the number of words written. It's a complex equation.

seana graham said...

Well said, Dana.

And you should be chuffe, GB!

Gerard Brennan said...

Interesting to see the commenters who show up without a Twitter or Facebook nudge. Pretty much the same wonderful people who comment when there is a nudge. Makes you think about the effectiveness of social media.

Anyway, thank you, Dana. I do tend to think too simplistically when it comes to measuring my output. For instance, I didn't mention the fact that I have more thinking time now. I think that might be linked to misplaced guilt.

And, Seana... I'll do my best to remain so.

Thanks again, folks.