When the first day of a year falls on a Sunday, I suspect it’s a good idea to look back on the previous year. A yearnote, if you will.
I could look back at the year’s posts and pick out highlights, but as it’s about a year, I think it’s better to look at the key themes that defined 2022. Obviously, these are things I can talk about — so there’s nothing about work here — and I’ve chosen to look at the positives rather than the negatives, which I will save for my journal.
With that context, the year has three themes: rediscovering writing, focusing more on my health, and reading. A lot of reading.
I’ve been a journalist for (as of two days from now) 28 years. That seems fantastical to me as I still think of myself as the new kid on the block. This year forced me to accept that wasn’t true, and I realised that what I do now in journalism is managing, mentoring and advising. I don’t really write much.
And one thing that’s been consistent throughout my career and life is that I love writing. I got a typewriter as a teenager because I liked writing stories which turned into Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and my handwriting was… not great (it still isn’t). I learned to touch type at 16 at further education college because you had to do a Wednesday afternoon activity, and sport bored me. After that, I was a student and wrote, and then I was a journalist and wrote. So writing has always been there.
I needed an outlet for my writing. And importantly, I didn’t want to just do more blogging about technology. One thing I hadn’t done was a lot of creative writing because I’ve always believed I don’t have the imagination to make stories up. So I decided I wanted to give it a go.
First, I took a small weekly course based in a pub with a lovely writing tutor and a friendly group of people. I can’t think of a better introduction to creative writing than doing it in a summer pub’s garden, and we have continued meeting since.
That led to doing a five-day fiction introduction down at Arvon in Totleigh Barton. Tutored by the wonderful pairing of Charlene Teo and Michael Donkor, it was enormous fun and super-helpful in terms of my writing. But, most importantly, I think I found my voice: I had been writing how I felt I should note, and now I write how I want to write. And again, our group has stayed in touch. I don’t think I had realised quite how social writing can be.
One of the lovely moments was talking through a story idea I had been working on with Michael, which I had always envisaged as a short story. I had struggled a lot with it because I had to write short — and Michael said, “this isn’t a short story. It sounds like a novel to me”. I had always veered away from writing a novel, and it started me thinking about why. I realised two things: first, that I lacked the confidence to complete it, and second, that I have so many friends who have written novels that I think I’ve been intimidated by the idea. Michael helped me get over that, and if I ever finish a book, it will be down to the help and encouragement they gave me.
Focusing on my health
The big revelation about my health this year was that post-COVID, I need to take regular care of myself. Getting COVID the first time coincided with increased blood pressure and, because of less activity, putting on weight. Going from 10,000 plus steps per day when I was in the office to less than 5,000 working from home was always going to have an impact.
But this year, I started making some positive steps. For the first time in my life, I’ve been a regular attendee at our local GP for everything from booster vaccinations to blood tests to check that I’m not developing anything more serious. I’ve started taking medication to reduce my blood pressure (now at a decent level), and I’ve been looking after my vision with more regular check-ups at the opticians.
In 2023 this will continue as I develop more healthy eating and exercise habits, where simple changes will make a lot more difference.
Doing more reading
I was pretty surprised to find that I read 27 books in 2022. That’s the most I had read since the internet happened when all my reading shifted to computers. And it’s also been a wide range of books, not just trash science fiction (there’s been some good science fiction).
I’m really pleased with this. Reading and writing go hand in hand. The biggest thing you can do to improve your writing is to read more. So it’s probably not surprising that rediscovering my love of writing has also prompted much reading.
What’s also helped is using a new Kindle, the Scribe. I have always wanted a bigger Kindle. While the Paperwhite I have is excellent, it’s always felt just a little too small. And being able to write on the Scribe with little notes is also a fun way to add commentary, even if the comments don’t show up in my Readwise notes. It’s always interesting to me how a shift in a device can also shift your interest in a process.