I started the year making a series of pledges to myself. Not a New Year resolution, more of a map of where I’d like to be heading. I made my manifesto public, and now I’m holding myself to account.
January has been and gone, let’s see what targets I’ve kept to.
Writing – Submissions
I’m going to submit a minimum of one piece of writing to a literary journal every single week during 2021.
Technically I’ve fallen short, but I have submitted a total of 5 pieces during January, so my average is still good. Amazingly, I’ve had one poem accepted already by Unpublishable Zine and they are going to feature a reading of it on an upcoming podcast. I’ve got another poem and a piece of creative non-fiction which I’m building up the courage to submit, so February is already looking strong.
What about my novel?
My target is 2500 words a week of the first draft. This should comfortably complete the draft by the end of 2021
I’m behind with this, I can’t lie. Although I have put plenty of work into the plot and the characters. My previously written chapters have been scrapped as I’ve decided to change the narrator. I’ve written about 7000 words of the re workings of those chapters and have the basis of the plot and timeline coming together nicely.
I’ve also had a meeting with my first reader, editorial advisor, plot hole filler who just happens to be my rather gorgeous wife. I say meeting, she patiently listened to me reeling off my ideas for the direction of the book on one of our long dog walks. This was such a valuable exercise and the change of narrator came from this brain storming session.
So no, I haven’t written 2,500 words a week, but I have moved the project on dramatically. I’m actually using some of the free resources from the excellent Writers HQ to help me with the plot and characters. I’ve also got a great book, The Creative Writing Course Book, which I picked up the last time we went in an actual bookshop, nearly a year ago.
And As For The Blog
I made quite a pledge for this:
I’m going to email at least one ‘trail running character’ every 14 days to see if they fancy being featured. I’m going to add new content to the blog. Every Single Week. I’m going to review at least one book a month.
So, my series about Trail Running Characters was always going to be a long term project. I have 3 people who I’ve emailed who are up for being involved and will reply as and when time allows. I’ve also had somebody decline the invitation!
The Journal (and other scribblings)
I shall write in my journal. Every. Single. Day. Just thoughts. Observations. Even a note to say nothing of note. Never dismiss a thought – it will end up being used somewhere.
Yup. All over this. I keep a complete record of my writing, reading, submitting progress every day. As I do with my running and anything else I feel is noteworthy. This is already paying off – a major ‘scene’ in the book came from taking the time to write some detail down before I forgot it. I have quite a few ideas while driving the van, I do wonder what customers think I’m scribbling when I’m sat outside their houses. Without the journal, I’m absolutely sure these thoughts would have been lost to an unreliable memory.
In Other News
I’ve upped the game with my Instagram presence. Why? Well, through the medium of Twitter, I become friends with a guy who has just published his debut novel. He invited me to be part of the ‘blog tour’ which will accompany the launch of the paper back version of Let In The Light. So I have been the lucky reciprocate of an advance copy of the book. I’m so pleased because I couldn’t put it down, it really is excellent. As I sit here typing, Nicky is opposite me already half way through the book herself. I can’t wait to write a full review.
I would really like to get involved with more book reviewing, and not just in the ad-hoc manner I currently am.
What About My Reading?
Funny you should ask. Remember, I pledged this:
I’m going to buy one book a month from an independent publisher, by an author I haven’t read before. And I’m going to read a minimum of 6 books during 2021 which were published at least ten years ago.
Not only that, I said I would read at least one poem a day. I’m keeping a record of the poems I read in my journal, I’ve got a couple of great anthologies I select from. I’ve also bought some sublime literary journals and am reading poems (as well as short fiction and creative non-fiction) from those too. Check out Hinterland and Under The Radar yourself.
I’d be a proud man if my work could feature alongside some of the the great writing on offer in any of the above oublications.
I’ve got a book from Galley Beggar Press on the way and I read W.S. Maugham’s A Painted Veil which is getting on for 100 years old! So I’m doing ok with my reading.
And Not Forgetting My Running Of Course
I pledged not to follow a training program but to keep myself as fit as possible whilst not becoming depleted and leaving myself weak if Covid were to strike. I’m tackling two challenges from Bys Vyken (read my piece on the Cornish event organisers here.) namely Lamps On Lockdown (run 50 miles in the hours of darkness over a 4 week period) and The Goat 2 (run elevation gain equivalent to that of the SW Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall in 4 months). I’m nearing the end of my headtorch running and about a third of my way through the hills! These have both kept me focussed and running regularly.
Other Fitness And Health Pledges
BUT, I will pledge this: I will, every single day, do either some conditioning work, strength exercises, stretches or other body maintenance.
This is also happening! Nicky and I have a strength routine which we put together ourselves. It can be done indoors and takes 25 minutes or so. We’re both doing this 3 or 4 times a week. On the other days I just do my plank – I got up to 1 min 30 secs quite quickly but haven’t shown any signs that I could better that.
And Lastly, The Dreaded Food Pledge
So, I am going to not snack at work. I’m going to only snack during evenings after big (as in 2 hours plus) training days. Puddings will still be the law after roast dinners of course.
At the time of writing, a rather delicious GU Zillionaire Cheesecake is settling on top of my roast dinner! So I’m keeping that up…..
Joking aside, this is going rather well. Combined with my consistent running and general fitness (not to mention being relentlessly busy at work). There’s the occasional lapse in the evening, but I’m really pleased to be a bit lighter than the blob I became over Christmas. I even had to get the drill out to put a new hole in my belt!
All in all, despite *everything* I reckon I’ve stayed pretty focussed on the positives in January. We’ve stayed safe and tried to enjoy every spare moment with each other and our music, fitness, writing and books.
Let’s see what February can offers us……