I knew I’d end up writing another fragmentary as the last daily post of 2022, but I didn’t think I’d be telling you that, after two days of awful toothache, I ended up having a wisdom tooth removed by an emergency dentist at noon today. I do have the tooth if anyone wants to see it. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience, but the lingering pain is annoying, and that, and the gaping hole in my upper right gum, not something I was planning on spending New Year’s Eve with. In fact, the whole episode has wiped out a lot of the day’s plans (sticking cuttings into my 2022 journal, getting 2023’s journal sorted – I stick a calendar in the front of my journals that show entire months but with enough room to make notations in the days so I can keep a record at one view of my walks, my press-ups, my glasses of water consumed etc etc; quite anal, I know, but my self-care needs this sort of external note-taking sort of motivation).
The final wordcount for the first draft of Aggie’s Art Of Happiness is 184k, which means it’s the longest book I’ve ever written. Dead Men started out as 120k in the first draft, and we edited that down to about 80k. All my other novels are about 73k-90k long. The Mortality Code may turn into about 110k at first draft stage, I reckon. Of course, going through the first draft to remove the blog posts and then run the first spell check, I did go through what I had anticipated yesterday – thinking it was dreadful rubbish. But I shall persevere and no doubt get round to designing a cover once it’s all edited and formatted.
So, now the end-of-year reckoning (decides to disappear for a smoke before he puts virtual pen to virtual paper on this):
The negatives first – to commit to writing something every day is a much more arduous task than I had anticipated. The constant pressure to make sure I produced something was intense and sometimes dispiriting, although I do know that I can produce work, useable work, when under pressure. That’s the way it’s always been – leaving essays until the night bfore or the morning of, leaving many things until the closest I could reasonably leave it to a deadline; but that’s not actually been a healthy way of living. The most difficult times have been when I’ve not started the day with writing the blog but have left it to early evening, because the brain does get tired. And one thing we all have to realise is that having a day job as well as being a writer is a difficult, challenging, exhausting, and bitter thing. And what had at first seemed like just a half hour commitment every day turned into a constant drain on my mind, and often a 2-hour job. Lastly, I think my private output shrank as a result of my public one, ie the use of poetry as therapy that will never be revealed to anyone. 99% of what I have written this year has been written with a view to putting it on here, rather than 50% of it being secret. Those are the only negatives I can think of right here, right now, under the desk light.
The positives. Pushing myself to write every day has been a revelation; it has made me more creative, has made my use of words often more delicate and subtle, and has also taught me (again) that it’s best to write lots and lots because it can always be changed rather than writing little which has no room for changes or amendments. It has taught me that, yes, actually, I am a writer, albeit one struggling for public recognition, a man who can string useful and moving and illuminating words and sentences together into a meaningful whole. It has confirmed my belief that this is what I was born to do – to write. And if that sounds overly dramatic and emotive, so be it. It has brought me closer to a lot of people, not just my family and friends, but to a new audience which hasn’t been afraid of messaging or e-mailing me privately and sharing its thoughts and thanks and constructive criticisms. That means so much to me, that people have reached out, almost physically, and bared their souls to me, whom they know only through my writing, whom they have never looked in the eye to know what sort of man he really is. Writing every day has allowed me to cope with many things – the pressures at work (deadline and content and poverty and need and daily deaths), issues at home (even if not voiced publicly – there’s that self-censorship thing again), mental health issues, self-confidence issues, low self-esteem, struggles against hopelessness inside and around the world. It has been a glorious thing a lot of the time. And remember, it is in the nature of the beast that is a writer to wants some sort of acclamation. And to come to a blank page every day and be challenged to write something is something worth doing, even if it’s just for 365 days, for one year, of my life.
And now, the future – I can’t envisage not keeping this blog updated every day, even if it’s just with one sentence, or even just one word. I can’t commit to writing something substantive every day – there are possibilities ahead which might affect any such undertaking (self-censorship), and I want some time back to do other things, think other thoughts, write privately and secretly as an alternative healing method for the parts of me that will always be broken in one way or another (and that’s not a negative statement; it’s a fact that most of us have something about us that’s broken). Mastodon does a daily poetry prompt for short poems – I may just do that every day and post it here. I may just post one post a week that always starts with What have I learned this week, although I can somehow envisage that being quite labour-intensive. We shall see.
Well, it’s been a hell of a ride for the last 365 days. I’m not very good at farewells of one sort or another. Let me just end with this: Thank you to everyone who has read and not communicated (and I haven’t got a stats package installed on here to measure my readers; don’t really want to); thanks to everyone who has read and communicated. I owe you all a debt of sincere and immense gratitude. I hope 2023 is kind to all.