The new year beckons. I've got the calendar, I've got the diary, I've got a review of 2013 as well. What I was not expecting was this dreadful New Year's Eve turning into a pale imitation of what I dreamt it would be. It's been raining all day and I can just about see a slash of yellow light below the dreadful clouds somewhere beyond the Brompton Cemetary, West Kensington direction.
The Christmas break wouldn't be quite complete without a stinking cold which arrived, hook, line and sinker, this morning. With weather like that and a nose like this... I may well eschew the fireworks and ring in the new year with a bottle of something or other at home. Last year I was in a very similar predicament. I recall spending New Year's Day in bed, grumpy, angry and sorry for myself, unable to taste food, let alone enjoy myself (well, aren't the two related, truly?).
My special word for 2013 was SOAR and soar I did, in many ways. I've just had a flick through pics from the end of 2012 and, apart from being an exceedingly painful time, it also couldn't be more different from what I am experiencing now. I started this year still between Cheshire and London, tired and adrift, and I finish it well settled, quite happy and with a plan to cover these vast wooden floors (Syberian wood, I am told) with rugs from Liberty's.
In preparation for tomorrow and for cracking open my spanking new diary, I've been scouring some of my favourite blogs for ideas. I read a wonderful post at Hanna's online home regarding 365 projects. You sure must have heard of them, yes? Well, if you haven't, they're quite self-explanatory: you undertake a creative endeavour and stick to it for every day of the new year. So you could be writing a haiku, or taking a pic, or making a collage, or a crochet doily, or an ink mandala... whatever you want. I only ever undertook such a project in 2010, when I decided to document every day with a photograph.
I know that these days everyone is taking countless photos all the time, but the point of the 365 photos project was to distill one day in one photo. Not any photo, but a meaningful one. Some people were smart in the limitations they self-imposed and went off to take 365 photos of red things or 365 photos of drinks or 365 photos featuring a flower, even in the background or as wallpaper. My project wasn't so intelligently plotted. I merely took 365 shots and uploaded one per day on Flickr.
Actually, I only ended up uploading 338. How pathetic is this? That's like running a marathon and giving up one mile from the finishing line (especially if you consider that the remaining 27 pictures are in my iPhoto library. I merely never went through the trouble to post them online, but I did take them).
And this brings me back to Hanna's splendid post about a 365 project. Without getting all doom-and-gloom over something so small in the grand scheme of one's life, she makes an excellent point when she says that you need a workflow, you need the space (both the physical and the mental one), and you need great focus in order to keep going until the end. Invariably, you're likely even to resent such an endeavour for the simple reason that it's preventing you from engaging in other activities that you also love.
Yet, there is still a part of me that is thrilled by such efforts. When I was working on my postgraduate degree years back, at some point I started posting every single day in my online diary. I was not posting anything extraordinary: anything from a few sentences about a walk in the park to a recipe were ample input at the time, but that constant sitting down to write routine kicked my brain into such a gear that doing my research and writing it up wasn't really that difficult. I guess that, in a way, that exercise worked out along the lines of Julia Cameron's morning pages... even though my input never happened in the morning (I am a slow starter...), the putting down the mundane first made space for better writing later.
Maybe you need some prompting? Maybe you'd like to combine writing and drawing? The other day I saw a lovely journal at Foyles by Chronicle Books, one which combines drawing and writing. Write on one side, and flip it over to follow the drawing prompts. I think it's genius.
Chronicle Books publishes other fantastic such journals, for example the 642 Things to Write About journal, which now also comes in a junior edition, as well as the 712 More Things to Draw, which follows on from the 642 Things to Draw. They're all brilliant and they give you loads more prompts than a mere 365.
When I used to go to college, a friend of mine and I used to select a daily sentence from our life which would encapsulate that day. As you can expect, those records are almost entirely school-related and many of them are also teacher-centric. I don't have those diaries at hand, for they live high up on a shelf at mum and dad's place, but I still recall some marvellous pearls such as 'If you don't shut up, I kill you' by Paul, our oft-frustrated Latin teacher, and 'Simon, would you mind kindly raising the sash so to ensure that its very bottom presents a gap of no more than 4.5 inches and the blind is tilted at a 30 degree angle towards the blackboard?' by Martha, our art teacher, an architect and also an absolute stickler for pointless detail.
I ask you, can you imagine a teacher telling his pupils, in the year 2013, that if they don't shut up, he'll kill them? Oh how we laughed, and how I laugh now... I'm so very grateful I am a child of the seventies, in which the nanny was at home and was not the state. But wait... if I am a child of the seventies... 2014... makes me... how ooold????