Tuesday, January 8, 2013
LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK
With crystal balls in short supply, looking forward is at best speculative, and at worst purely wishful thinking (New Year's resolutions anyone?) Still, with the refreshing picture of turning over a new leaf that the flip from 31st December to 1st January brings to mind, we all like to indulge ourselves in the somewhat bipolar activity of reviewing the old and anticipating the new.
In terms of the new, if the recent influx of joggers, walkers and cyclists in the streets is anything to go by, many of us are embracing the New Year: New Me idea. Not least among them I too have vowed to get more exercise, adopt not just one but two AFD's (alcohol free days) per week (gasp!), bitch less and empathise more, write in this blog regularly (ha! I hear you say), not take criticism and rejection personally and other such absurdly unrealistic, not to mention unoriginal, figments of someone else's imagination. What's important about any of it I suspect is that it keeps us subscribing to the idea that, with sufficient motivation and determination, we can take control of our lives, notwithstanding those hefty slabs of it that are beyond our grasp. Reaching however never did anyone any harm and illusory though the concept of self revitalisation may be, it feels good to give it a shot.
A friend of mine recently adopted the phrase "shameless self promotion" in describing her venture to put her current, very exciting writing project, as they say "out there", by means of a personalised website. At the risk of being (again) unoriginal, I'd like to take a similar approach (ideologically at least) to my own writing.
What this means is convincing myself, first of all, and then that many headed monster, the market, that I've got something worth selling. My natural instinct has always been to hide my light under a bushel (whatever the hell a bushel is), a practice that leads to fumbling in the dark and getting stepped on.
Shameless of course implies being prepared to let it all hang out, without fear, timidity, anxiety or any of those other self-defeating inhibitions I imbibed at my mother's knee. It means letting go of the idea that trying to flog your work implies seeking favours to which you're not really entitled, embracing the idea that if I think my work has merit, I shouldn't let anyone else convince me it hasn't, and finally abandoning for ever any fantasy of achieving perfection.
As much as the ability to string words together, a writer needs persistence; that vastly underestimated quality that probably takes you further than any other. I recently found a perfect (ok, pretty good) analogy for the persistence a writer needs in a quote from Edward Hoagland's "The Courage of Turtles". Here it is:
"Turtles .... don't feel that the contest is unfair; they keep plugging, rolling like sailorly souls - a bobbing, infirm gait, a brave, sea-legged momentum - stopping occasionally to study the lay of the land."
So for me, it means cut the whingeing and whining, stop resenting other writers' successes, forget expecting anything to be fair, listen to valid criticism and let the rest roll off like the proverbial duck and reminding myself every day that writers write. Pausing, like the turtle, every now and then to take stock is allowed. Stomping off in a huff, thinking I'm a loser isn't. It's as simple as that really.
I haven't devoted any space here to reviewing the old, but if you've read previous versions of the blog you'll pretty much know last year was a biggie, in that I got married, practically finished off my Masters and moved gratefully into semi-retirement, which pretty much sums it up.
At this time of year, the coming months shine with promise, especially as we surge forth renewed and optimistic. I don't know what will unfold but I doubt I'll get many clues from crystal balls, astrological charts or Chinese horoscopes and if ever I'm tempted to waste time looking, I hope I remember this quote from Shakespeare
"The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars.
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
Underlings arise! Let's make 2013 the year of shameless self promotion!!