My usual sort of New Year’s resolutions are to work harder, read more, write more, be braver at talking to people I don’t know, say yes to more things, try things I am scared of, see things that I don’t think I’ll be able to do and do them anyway, read more stories to the Small Fry, shout less, eat less crap, walk more, drink less, sleep less, be kinder, talk about satsumas and other little oranges less, stop making a tit out of myself in public, write better stories and better books, stop feeling envious, stop feeling shy, stop pretending I don’t hear it when people are rude to me.
No wonder I’m always tired by February.
One of the things I’ve been doing over the last few days is thinking about and writing about the last five months – the time I’ve spent, since August, as a full time writer funded by the Arts Council England (Top Banana). Evaluating the project is a condition of the funding, and it’s a really useful thing to do as this safety-net time comes to an end.
During the last five months my priority has been to complete my second novel and to try out new things in my working life. I’ve weaned myself off facebook, written like fury and said ‘yes’ to everything. I had the safety net of the money, I wanted to be brave, I wanted to try things and I wanted to ‘get out there’ and meet people. I’ve done some really amazing work – in Preston, in prisons, in libraries, in my own office and front room and car and bed. I’ve finished Cold Light and had some brilliant feedback on my final draft, with just a little bit of editing to do (more on this later). I’ve spoken, without notes, at a conference. I’ve compered things. I’ve been interviewed on the radio. (These are all things that fall into the ‘do things that terrify you’ category.) I’ve spent whole days in my pyjamas and brown cardigan eating oranges and typing. I’ve been able to help other people with their writing – some who are getting ready to publish their first novels and short stories, and others who are just getting to grips with what it feels like to make things up and write things down. I shouted really loudly at a person in the school playground, and I wasn’t sorry, and she deserved it. I bought an entire box full of clementines two days before Christmas.
Cold Light starts on Boxing Day 1997 with an unexpected meeting in the car-park of a nature reserve. It ends seven weeks later, on Valentine’s Day 1998 and I can’t tell you too much more without giving it away. Since Boxing Day, I’ve been working my way through the novel, doing the finishing touches. I’m determined to get it done and dusted by Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure why it should be important I do it like this, and really, it probably isn’t very important at all, but the neatness of it appeals to me.
I think my 2010 resolution is to say yes to less things. I’m fairly sure I know what I like doing now, and I know how to go about doing it.