new year’s resolutions

2019 goals – writing and otherwise

It was with some trepidation that I looked back on my “writing goals for 2018” post this week to see if I’d achieved what I set out to. I somehow remembered that I’d been too ambitious and I really hate and fear failure. But I was pleasantly surprised to see I’d known from the start that this year was all about finding paid work and that would mean my own writing would suffer.

I guess it’s fair to say, I’m pleased to have achieved what I set out to do – get a job. But I’m also sad that this meant, as predicted, way less creative writing for me. However, despite saying I wouldn’t manage it, I did end up doing most of GloPoWriMo2018 global poetry month in April, so that was a bonus. I did submit a few poems, short stories and creative non-fiction but all were rejected and I didn’t have time or the jive to revisit/rework them and keep submitting. Rejection stings. Then some family issues mid-year, combined with starting work really diverted all my energy to survival-mode.

I’ve been on somewhat of a journey this year (forever). My birthday falls in January and 2018 was a significant one that made me reassess a lot of my ideas and habits. It’s a process that is ongoing but I’d also like to acknowledge here the hard work I’ve done throughout the past 12+ months that’s along the lines of trying to be my “Best self”. This has involved mental and physical undertakings.

I’ve been trying really hard to shed some outdated beliefs / habits / addictions and insecurities. I’m not 100% there (is anyone, ever?) but I think I’ve made progress. And it’s part of the journey to take a moment to congratulate myself. It has not always been easy or enjoyable, although sometimes it has! Well done, Claire.

A big part of this year has been my running, too. It’s funny, when we moved to Zurich five years ago a friend here mentioned “there’s great running trails here,” as a selling point at the time. To which I scoffed dismissively “not interested, that is NOT my thing. At all. Ever! ” Well never say never.  In 2018 I clocked up more than 1,000km of running. I’m stupidly proud of this. Not just because it’s a big number but because it means I was consistent. In rain, hail, snow, sun, heat, blahblah I kept on jogging all year. I went for runs in Zurich, Rome, Sydney, Porto, Perth, Ocean Shores, Dübendorf and Venice and I completed my first-ever Half-Marathon. And, to tie it back to my previous point: running has hugely helped my mental health.

It’s been an interesting year. When I look at my blog stats, they’re way down on 2017, which was a wonderfully flourishing period for my writing AND I did the 26Cantons52Weeks to boot. I wrote some decent stuff in 2018. I was going to say the quality had suffered, but I just read everything and… well… I like it! But I also know the difference it makes to write regularly, as I was doing in 2017. So I hope to get back to that in 2019. However, I am going to err on the side of sensible because I don’t want to set myself up to fail. So what are some reasonable goals…

  • Short stories: I’d like to focus on short stories a bit more. I had some success in placing those in 2017 when I was really working at it, and I think it’s a good way to go. If I can write or hone 4x short stories I’m happy enough with to attempt to place them in 2019, that will be a good outcome. (Actually I already have one on the boil)
  • THE NOVEL: I keep saying how I must get back to this. Maybe 2019 will be the year! I think if I can dedicate a few months of evenings / weekends to focus on it, it could happen. Maybe another NaNoWriMo?
  • Running: I would love to run another half-marathon this year. Maybe even two – one in Spring and one in Autumn. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for a full mara. That’s a goal for 2020!
  • Poetry: don’t think I need to put goals around my poems anymore. They can just come and go as they please.

 

Happy (almost) new year! What are your goals for 2019?

 

Photo: a wicked angel my son made at school

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Writing goals 2018 and a question, dear readers…

 

Welcome to 2018! I’ve found it was useful to talk about writing goals at various points in the past so this is my housekeeping/ looking forward/ looking back blog for the year. Partly for my own reference but I’ve also got a question for you guys!

Housekeeping: I was really pleased to finish #26Cantons52weeks in the allotted time. I made a snazzy (sort of) homepage for it here: https://clairevetica.wordpress.com/26cantons52weeks/

I’ve also updated my About me page and added a new pic.

Taking stock: according to my submissions document, in 2017 I had 32 rejections and 4 acceptances. They say you should aim for 100 rejections per year so I only got a third of the way there. Partly this is because I only have about 6 hours ‘writing time’ per week but mostly because I really slowed down on sending submissions for various reasons, including making a decision not to pay for any submissions/reading fees/competition entries. Three acceptances were short stories, one is a poem that’s still in the pipeline. I love my poems but I guess in general the lit journals don’t? Or maybe I’m too impatient and I just publish all the best ones here 😉

My writing plans for 2017 were as follows

  • have a reasonable first draft of the novel by mid-year to give to early readers to feed back on – Not even close, I’ve barely touched my novel, although I did have a brainwave for a new start the other day, watch this space
  • (self-?) publish a chapbook of poetry and/or publish or contribute to a book of short stories –  The more I think about this, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I need to keep writing poems and consider themes etc.  before I go there.
  • record more poems – let’s say 6. At least one every two months – I achieved this and more, yay! Check out my soundcloud
  • perform some poetry live to an audience at least once (eek!) – haven’t made much headway here 
  • make a bit of money off my creative writing (ie: non-journalism) – not so far, still hopeful! 
  • get at least five pieces published in places that are not Claire-controlled: journals etc. – I made this target, if I include my upcoming poem and this writeCon writeup I had in The Woolf 
  • And I finished the #26Cantons25Weeks project. Woo hoo! As I say in the Woolf story, it was a valuable lesson to learn from Diccon Bewes about the amount of work it would take to potentially spin a project such as this into a book. Food for thought…

Writing goals 2018

I’m at a point where I really need a paid job. Both for myself and due to family circumstances. So I’ll be focusing on that for the next couple of months, which will mean less blogging. At this stage, I’ve had to be a bit tough with myself and decide I won’t even think about novel writing, short stories or poems too much while I focus on the job-hunt. It’s make or break time.

I’m sure a few poems will pop out, and maybe some travel stuff, but I need to give myself permission not to feel bad about putting my creativity on hold (sob!) to focus on finding work. And unfortunately, due to some travel in April, I won’t be able to participate in GloPoWriMo global poetry month this year either. 😦

Otherwise from that, I guess my goals remain much as above… I will revisit it all in May.

 

A few other bits and pieces:

  • I have created a Facebook author page if you want to ‘like’ me on there. It is mostly just publicising my blog posts at this stage but hoping to share a few articles and maybe have more writer-type discussions there. https://www.facebook.com/clairedoblewriter/
  • I’ve started using Twitter a bit more and I’m @Carabosse there

 

 

AND FINALLY…

I made this poll a while back and never published it. I was going to ask you, my readers, what you would you like to see in the next, say, six to twelve months, from Clairevetica?

Since this is mostly a place for me to write whatever, I don’t promise I’ll actually follow your advice. But it would be nice to know what some of you think!

Please feel free to pm/ speak / email me with your thoughts as well

 

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Cheers, Claire

Flat, fat, Christmas and New Year crap

My latest “Roxette” haircut. Maybe another NYR should be find a decent hairdresser!

 

A few short weeks ago I was riding high. I’d had a couple of poems published and a story up in a local newspaper (43 Habits You’ll Pick Up Living in Switzerland). I’d just completed a rough draft of my first novel and poems and even a few short stories were falling out of me all over the shop.

And now… I’m the kid after Christmas. It all just feels a bit jaded and useless. Where’s the confidence-bordering-on-arrogance? The joie de vivre for this writer’s life?

A few things I was looking forward to got derailed. After a few months of little to no drinking, I got a bit festive and the wine intake has crept up again. I kicked Facebook off my phone and I feel better, but it’s created space for loneliness — amazing how social media sort of causes but cures that. Which basically proves it’s yet another addiction. David Foster Wallace (yes, I am that wanker today!) gave what I think is the best description of addiction.  Or, if you prefer, Homer Simpson – “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

I think I’m tired, it’s been cold and dry and dark but without the joyous surprise of snow. I think a few months of sitting still at my computer tapping out the words finally caught up with me physically and I’m feeling heavy, unfit and yuk. I miss my friends and my family. Even those who are nearby. I think finishing things and achieving things, while wonderful, does result in a bit of comedown afterwards. It can be hard to keep the momentum going, especially at this time of year when things are winding up.

But anyway, it’s inching towards 2017 now and I’m trying to look forward. Play it forward.

Last year’s New Year’s resolution was to make some small, incremental changes that would hopefully make a big difference to my / our lives and I think I’ve achieved that. (Interesting to look back actually – in 2015 it was about surrendering to my fate and a year or so before that it was Don’t Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread… something I may have to re-examine given my furious forward-pace of work recently. Ha!)

So I think 2017 is going to be all about consolidation and possibly realignment – shaving off the excess to concentrate on the main game. I’ve put in some amazing groundwork in 2016 and I want to build on that. This means not getting distracted by stuff, no matter how important it may seem. And this is going to include saying no to paid work if need be, which is slightly terrifying when I think about my bank balance! Hopefully it’s all to the greater good though and the fact I’ve made this commitment to this Writing for My Life thing will eventually start to pay off, literally.

So I’ve come up with some more ideas – why not. And because this has worked for me in the past, I’m going to make it into a statement of intent. With SMART goals even (yes, I’m that wanker too today)…

In 2017 I would like to

  • have a reasonable first draft of the novel by mid-year to give to early readers to feed back on
  • (self-?) publish my novel by the end of the year. [I’m not sure how realistic this is – may need to be revised, depending on how well point 1 goes!]
  • (self-?) publish a chapbook of poetry and/or publish or contribute to a book of short stories
  • record more poems – let’s say 6. At least one every two months
  • perform some poetry live to an audience at least once (eek!)
  • make a bit of money off my creative writing (ie: non-journalism)
  • get at least five pieces published in places that are not Claire-controlled: journals etc.
  • complete A2.2 German (I admit, this was rather an afterthought!)

PLUS – I’ve also had an idea for this blog that I’d like to reclaim some of the travelogue stuff and so Himself, the kids and I are going to do a 26 Swiss Cantons in 52 Weeks challenge where we’ll visit all 26 cantons of Switzerland throughout 2017. I’ll aim to take at least one photo (if not a whole gallery) of each and do a writeup of something we saw or somewhere we went. We’re planning to go alphabetically but we’ll see how it pans out.

Phew – that should probably be enough for now. I’d better go get some rest before NYE !  Oh, and I’m hoping to do a year-in-review of this blog at some point in the next week or so as well… stay tuned. 🙂

Mountains: I think I finally get it

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New year ahoy! I approached the start of 2016 full of plans for the new year. I figured now that my baby is nearly a toddler and we’ve been in Switzerland for two years, I could get stuck into a few projects as well as getting out and about a bit more with friends and such. However 2016 has also heralded an unwelcome return of those black and yellow dogs – depression and anxiety. Not quite sure why – something about overhyped expectations maybe? Or the fact I still seem to feel lonely no matter how much socialising I do (OK so it’s not THAT much but still…) But let’s stop right here, that was just a little segue in case you wondered why I’d been quiet of late (oh, you didn’t? Oh… okay…). And I don’t really want to talk about that.  I would prefer to talk about mountains.

I may have mentioned in the past that Switzerland is quite an outdoorsy country that’s full of outdoorsy people and and since I’m not, I do wonder if I’ll ever truly gel with this place. Himself loves The Nature and in the past year has started doing regular mountain hikes, which he finds is an enjoyable “me time” break from the everyday. Oh wait, I had some “me time” right before Christmas, do you know how I spent it? Catching a train for 1 hour to meet another parent to buy 5kg of secondhand Duplo off them. Then I caught a train for an hour back home. I also had Burger King. Wooh. Rock and roll!

But I digress – mountain climbing – as well as getting away from it all, you’re seeing stunning scenery, plus a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise etc, what’s not to like? Well… I’ve recently realised that for me, who spends way too much time alone already due to working from home, or with only young children for company, the ideal “me time” – actually, can we ban this term now – the ultimate Good Time is preferably spent with other adults – it’s just the way I am: an extrovert who needs to bounce off people. I’m OK on my own but my best times are with people I love, and/or who make me laugh and/or who I can have an interesting conversation with and/or who are champion drinkers. A combination of all these is the ultimate, obvs.

Anyway – so we had our niece and nephew staying and we went up this mountain (Mount Titlis) and I was blown away. It was a bit of a faff to get to, involving three trains, a walk and two cable cars but… wow. I think now I see how this can be addictive. It was funny because to get on the cable cars, there’s a bit of a crowd, right? Most people clomping along in their ski boots (to this non-skier, they looked very uncomfortable to walk in, but I guess it’s worth it). Anyway, I felt a bit guilty, as I always do, being in the way of civilians with our giant buggy and travelling up to the ski fields as mere “pedestrians” (as we overheard some guy in the queue grumpily calling us – he was Australian of course!)

But as we crowded onto the second cable car to begin the final descent, everyone’s faces suddenly got happy. We were looking out over this incredible vista of mountain peaks and the sun was shining off the sparkling snow, the sky was blue and everyone was grinning from ear to ear – like we were lovers who shared a secret: How good is this?

We had such a wonderful day up there above 3,000m (or 3 kilometres, as my nephew was tickled to note) where the sun always shines (I guess – it’s above the clouds, right?). I think I finally get why people are so fanatical about mountains. Maybe Himself is onto something. He’s usually right about these things, damn him. So, while I may be dogged by loneliness even when I’m among friends; clawed by anxiety over my “hands-off” 1970s parenting style (it’s all cocktails and swingers’ parties… yeah right) and beset by depression over where the f*ck my life is going, maybe it’s not so bad after all. I’m here, you’re here, there be mountains… Happy New Year.

 

Tips for Not Drinking

Snow Martini, tea or water

So it’s a new year: 2015! And lots of people will be keen to cut down on the alcohol. But I’m way ahead of you… because I’ve had nine months’ practice of trying to avoid one of my fave activities.

I may not have been entirely successful at cutting out drinking (ahem!) but I have learned a few tips and tricks, which I’ll happily pass on to you – and no doubt to my future self! I read this guide to Women Cutting Down on Alcohol in the Guardian today but I don’t think the tips are specific or practical enough. So without further ado…

Claire’s tips to stop or cut down your boozing

  • There’s a peak-craving time. If you get through it without taking a drink, you’re in the clear. Eg: I often start thinking about wine around 5-6pm and I’m stinging for a drink until 7 or 8ish (usually while preparing dinner). After the meal is eaten and I’m into the evening, I don’t care anymore. So the trick is: get through the craving period, perhaps by…
  • Fake it. I’ve recently discovered that putting a non-alcoholic drink in a wine glass really helps! I wish I’d realised this at any point in the past 9 months because I could have avoided many cheeky glasses of wine but hey ho, better late than never. Fizzy apple juice is working well for me right now but even water will do. However, if you’re like me…
  • Water is boring. Don’t get me wrong, I drink loads of water – definitely 8 glasses a day, sometimes up to 2 litres of the stuff – and it’s probably my favourite drink. But by the time I reach the evening, I’m pretty sick of water. At dinner time, wine feels like a reward, a treat, and/or a nice marker that the kid’s in bed/work has finished and I’m finally “off the clock”. So when tucking into a meal, particularly if it’s a special one, there’s there’s usually nothing fun about guzzling down YET MORE H2O. Therefore it’s worth getting yourself something different – cordial, juice, fizzy drink, milk, coconut water, tea, whatever. And…
  • Buy up. Even if, in general, you think of fancy waters or silly juices as an indulgence, at this tough time, it’s not. Treat yourself to San Pellegrino, Voss, coconut water, almond milk, Innocent Smoothies or whatever you want. Spend the money you’ve saved on the wine you’re (supposedly) not drinking!
  • Don’t tell. If you’re out at dinner or the pub, get yourself an alcohol-looking drink (eg: a short glass of lime & soda or pint of ginger beer) and let everyone assume you’re drinking vodka or Real Ale. This is something that works particularly well in early pregnancy before you want to announce it. But it would also work for people going dry, quitting or taking a break. I’ve found people in general hate to see you not drinking when they are (or maybe it’s just my friends, family and work colleagues ha!) so it’s often easier if they don’t notice. Once again, there’s a crunch-time involved. Buy yourself the first few drinks of the night and make them softies-that-look-hard and no questions will be asked. After that, people are too drunk to notice or care.
  • Sober socialising is hard. You get tired quicker and – surprise! – drunk people are boring. A bonus is, it’s easy to slip out early, especially if you’ve been drinkfaking it as advised above. Here’s a good blog by a Scottish woman Rachel Black with some tips for socialising sober.
  • Beware the enablers. Unfortunately, I seem to find myself often reading Modern Drunkard as well as being around people (my husband included) who are constantly reaching for a bottle, which makes it difficult, if I’m honest, for me to cry off the sweet stuff. I’m not saying it’s their fault, I’m conscious I have to “own” my own behaviour. But you have to be strong to resist a glass or two when you see others merrily quaffing away on a nightly basis. I don’t really have a good solution for this but you can employ…
  • Short pours and Water into Wine. If you feel like you simply can’t say no, you can try to negate the effects a bit by watering down your wine (note: this does not mean you can have twice as much!) If you’re making cocktails, give yourself the short pour while being extra-generous to the other drinkers. Yep – throw those dirty alcos under the bus if it protects you!
  • Tea is good. If you do find yourself drinking and craving more… or if by some miracle you’ve been good all night but get a sudden late urge, tea is an excellent “cap-off”. For me, a cuppa in the evening sends a message to myself of: that’s it, booze-time over, warm drink and bed is next.
  • Brushing your teeth can have a similar effect to a cup of tea.

Good luck, enjoy not being hungover and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS: Got any more practical tips for laying off the sauce? Let me know in the comments below…