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New year’s reflections 2018-19

And I’m back!

I hope your Christmas season (if you celebrate) was a happy one or, if your circumstances mean that’s a hard ask, a resilient one.

Christmas for me is bittersweet, for reasons I might write about some other time, but the new year is a good time to stop and reflect on where the old year has taken me. I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions – I’m always working towards goals and trying out new strategies for achieving them, regardless of the time of year – so here instead are my new year’s reflections:

Mental health

In 2018 I made significant strides in understanding my brain weasels and how to manage them.

I found a psychiatrist who actually listened to what I said and asked what I wanted to get out of seeing him, which made a huge difference.

He also took the time to understand my flailing attempts to describe mental and physical phenomena that I’ve always taken for granted, instead of jumping to his own conclusions and then interpreting what I said to fit. So when I said some days I had energy and it felt great, he asked the right questions to figure out that I wasn’t exhibiting mania – I literally meant I was happy to have enough energy to get out of bed on the first try.

Trying to understand your patient seems like it should be a basic requirement of psychiatric practice, but sadly my experience says that it isn’t.

With his help, over the course of 2018 I found a combination of medication and coping skills that seems to do what I want: give me the resilience to deal with life’s ups and downs, and the perspective to recognise when I’m overloaded and think about how to deal with it, rather than just retreating from life. I’ve had a chance to find out just how much better life can be.

I still get stressed out sometimes; I still have issues with concentration and with sensory overload; I still struggle with conflict. But I feel like I’m dealing with these issues from a much stronger baseline.

There may be more to discover about my brain in 2019, good or bad – I recently realised I had to stop taking a medication that had been very helpful when I started it, because it was making me sleep 10+ hours and feel groggy until midday – but for now I’m very happy with where I’m at.

Blogging

In 2018 I started and successfully maintained this blog!

I learned that planning to write two posts a week was wildly optimistic, but I managed to reliably stick to my revised goal of one post a week, even while on holiday.

I’m slowly getting better at churning these posts out without getting too hung up on perfectionism (a skill I still struggle with when drafting my fiction), because at a rate of one post a week I just don’t have time to be perfectionist.

I didn’t write as much on asexuality in 2018 as I expected to. The problem, I’ve realised, is that it’s hard to get excited about something that to me it feels so boringly normal. It takes effort to step out of my acceptance of the way I am and think about what other people would find surprising or interesting about being asexual.

Still, understanding the problem is a good start. In 2019 I hope to continue finding ways to write about asexuality, as well as lots of other interesting subjects to explore.

Writing

It’s been a year of highs and lows for my writing, but undeniably a year of progress.

In 2018 I was no longer working full-time – in fact, for most of 2018, I wasn’t working at all. I had more time to write – but I spent less time writing than I had hoped for.

I proved that I need structure to write – that I am very bad at writing when I have a whole day stretching out in front of me and have to consciously choose, I will do some writing now, and much better at it when I have a daily routine built around a fixed commitment like work. Now that I’m back at work, I hope in 2019 to build a solid daily routine that includes writing every day.

After ‘Arguing with People on the Internet’ was accepted into Mother of Invention at the end of 2017, my expectations for my writing rose dangerously high. I knew intellectually that getting one story accepted didn’t mean all of my stories would be, but that didn’t stop me from feeling, on a gut level, like I had levelled up – like my writing had passed some kind of fixed marker from “unpublishable” to “publishable”.

Which just meant I got worse at taking rejection.

In 2018 I received dozens of story rejections, and had to relearn the art of not taking it personally or trying to rewrite every story every time. I re-established the habit of simply shrugging and moving on to submit to the next publication.

I also had stories shortlisted for publication an amazing and frustrating number of times. I have a lot of experience at being told “we don’t want your story,” but this year I had to learn to deal with being told, “actually, we do like your story – now wait and see whether we like it enough.

That one, as it turns out, is much harder to deal with. I’ve always been bad at wait and see, and having it applied to something so important to me is a special form of torture.

So one of the lessons of 2018, that I hope I will be better at applying in 2019, is to re-frame how I look at being shortlisted. I need to focus on the first half of the message, not the second. Editors like my stories – that’s a wonderful thing, even if they don’t make it to publication!

Rejections aside, in 2018 for the first time I saw a story I had written appear in a really truly published anthology – and I got to hear a story I had written recorded as an audiobook (audiostory?).

I’m still amazed and humbled by these milestones. Writing still doesn’t come as easily to me as it does to some people (in 2018 I spent another NaNoWriMo watching incredulously as other writers’ word counts ratcheted skywards). But I know that I am decent at it, and I know that I can continue to learn and improve in 2019.

It’s a journey I’m looking forward to.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash
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