Prospect & Retrospect

Have you ever seen your past laid out on a page? It’s unnerving.
Last week I typed up my 2015 work diary (a daily note of what I did or why I didn’t do anything) into a spreadsheet: a year at a view. It was disheartening, encouraging, and then disheartening some more.

Soviet calendar 1930 color
Consider the numbers. There were 365 days in 2015. Of these, 52 were Sundays, and therefore days of rest. That leaves 313. (Yes, I work Saturdays.)

I took four days off for public holidays, including Waitangi Day, Good Friday and Christmas. I also took three days for private holidays: my birthday, our wedding anniversary, and our family name day. That takes the total down to 306.

I had a startling eleven sick days, although nearly half of that was eye-related – having laser surgery does require a certain amount of time spent in the offices of eye-people, and also a certain amount of time resting the eyes afterwards (total: 295).

Then there were visits to friends or family, including one for a wedding – a total of five visits, to my amazement, which between them ate up 25 of what would otherwise have been working days (270).

I also took Edith Sitwell’s advice and had some days in bed – well below her suggested quota, though, as I only had six in fifty-two weeks (264). Am I super-lucky? Well, yes, but if it’s any comfort, I haven’t had a paid holiday (or sick leave) in nearly two years.

Michael Ancher 001
That’s 101 days already off the total. Disheartening, yes? So what did I do with the remaining days? Did I, you may be asking, do any work at all? I am happy to say, I did.

I did 36 days research; spent 64 days writing; another 40 days typing up what I’d written; a further 8 days reading through what I had typed and taking notes; and a whole 44 days blogging. I also spent a day on a letter to the Prime Minister about the Polish children of Pahiatua and another day on a skit for a local Light Party. 194 days of writing work, not counting the three I spent overhauling my workspace between projects, or the two I spent on working out a mission statement of sorts. Call it 199. (That’s the encouraging bit.)

The advanced mathematicians among you will have realized that if you have 264 days, and write in 199 of them, that leaves 65 unaccounted for. What happened to those days?

I wish I knew.

Some of them likely included unrecorded blogging, since the frequency of posts appearing here certainly exceeds the frequency of blogging mentions in the work diary. But bits of the year seem to have just disappeared, like the calendar of Verrius Flaccus.

Fasti Praenestini Massimo n3

For the most part, the blank days are scattered in ones and twos about the year. There are two and a half weeks looking blank in December – I don’t much mind that, we had some very special guests I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like – but there’s also a great wealth of blank days in May. After the 6th of May, there’s nothing recorded til the 3rd of June. And I don’t know why. There don’t seem to have been any external causes, I just ground to a halt for about four weeks. Except for blogging. (So thanks to you all, for keeping me writing in some form at least!)

2016, I decided, must be different. In preparation, I did my version of the Relaxed Writer’s exercise I did two and a half years ago. Three columns: I Don’t Want, I Want, and I Will. I think I meant to look at my writing life in particular, but it came out very much more general than that. And very repetitive. This is apparently normal and shows you what you’re most concerned about. Happily, this meant that my list of forty-plus “don’t wants” were reverse-engineered to a shorter list of “wants” and in the end my list of “I wills” had only six items on it to cover the lot.

Two or three of these are specific to a single matter, but the others are very general. In essence, what I need to do this year is to trust the process and trust God. I have a routine which I am gradually converting to habit;*; a routine which, if followed, will make sure that the things that need to happen happen, and nothing gets wildly out of control. Like turning the heel, I just have to keep going in faith that it will all come together if I just keep going.

faith ahead - don't panic

So 2016 will be for me the Year of Trust. Trust God. Trust the process. Keep going. And for my theme song, I could do worse than this (try here if you prefer to listen).

*In looking back at this habit post, I note it was written in late May and mentions that I’ve been sick for the last couple of weeks. This may explain a large part of the absence of May, although you would think I could at least have left myself a note. In the diary, rather than on a blog. Do I look like the sort of woman who subscribes to her own blog? Still, it’s nice to know I wasn’t slacking off entirely.

November: A Sense of Autonomy

How did it get to be the end of November already??
The year is just flying past, and the Artist’s Way chapter 11 is already inviting me to take a look back over how far I’ve come.

Before the year’s end I want to read through all my posts again, but in the meantime, I’ve considered how much change has occurred since January. Looking back, it’s actually quite a lot, although it didn’t seem so at the time – rather like not noticing the rings forming on a tree trunk.

Tree rings

I have a blog. (But you knew that.)
I write regularly. It started as morning pages and irregular blog posts; now I post regularly and have a whole day each week set aside for writing.
I take myself seriously as a writer. It isn’t just a hobby I do in my spare time when I feel like it.

I feel less anxious and guilt-ridden about Getting Things Done – still something I struggle with, but I’m learning to lighten up, without becoming totally irresponsible.

I am more generous with myself. Giving to others was a no-brainer, but with myself I played the “I bet I can carry on without that” game, instead of actually considering whether it was a good idea. For myself I had an automatic ‘no’. I was Scrooge.

Scrooge Head Maquette

I don’t mean to suggest that more is better and you should fulfil your every whim, but sometimes you lose more by going without than you gain. In the spirit of which, I had an enjoyable struggle with the AW exercises on self-nurture, over six months and during one week.

In the longer term, I plan to reward myself for finishing the current WIP draft with a new fountain pen (droooool). I also want to learn to crochet.

While I was off work sick, I managed to read nine Agatha Christie novels, three Ngaio Marshes, and two Patricia Wentworths. This was so relaxing and refreshing I had the brilliant idea of setting aside a day every now and again to do nothing at all but read. Perhaps once a month?

90124_reading_in_bed

My nurturing week includes classic things like a movie or an icecream, and simple things I enjoy like having a nice sit-down afternoon tea, or going to a charity shop to try on hats. I may also buy a magazine – no magazine in particular – and go through it for pictures to put in my scrapbook.

The Artist’s Way also challenges us to reconsider our understanding of God, particularly in the area of creativity. I have realized lately that I need to learn to trust God more and trust his dreams for me.
After all – look how far he’s brought me already.

Looking back down

Exercise 5 invites us to list the ways we will continue to change as we allow our creativity to grow and flourish. My very scientific projections suggest that I will become more relaxed, more joyful, more enthusiastic, more energetic, more generous – and more productive.

A little scrap of joy to end: sometime in the last month someone somewhere entered the words “blancmange pen” into their search engine – and they found me. My life has not been in vain.

Until next week, whether life brings pens or blancmange,
Sinistra Inksteyne hand250