I want lots of things. Some of those things are achievements. Some of those things move my life along. Some of those things are things. Things I wish to own. Things that will make my living environment better. Things that will make me happy. Things that will help me achieve some of the other things I want. And some of those things are experiences I have long longed for – stuff I want and stuff I need.
It’s easy to forget what things I want in the day-to-day. So. Here is an incomplete list – mostly for me, rather than anything else.
To finish writing a novel.
Duh. Be that Courtly Intrigue and Dragons (currently 28,000 words), The Winged Guardian (currently 27,500 words), or the one with Clones and Nanites in Space (that’s not even a working title, it’s just a description – currently 8,000 words). These are, theoretically, the novels I am actively writing, although the Clones and Nanites one I apparently haven’t touched since 2016.
I’ve written longer incomplete works, most notably Cyborgs and Androids, which stalled at around 50,000 words when I was 21… depressingly 13 years ago now.
Thanks to fanfiction, I wrote around 200,000 words from November 2016 to November 2017. I could have written two complete novels in the past year if I had channelled my escapism more effectively, but I did not. And if we’re honest, I wasn’t going to. I needed to escape, and I needed to write with minimal pressure in an environment that offers immediate and almost entirely positive feedback. Fanfiction is great for that – you have an almost pre-selected audience of people who already like the characters and themes you’re writing on, and they’re getting the work for free, so they don’t mind the odd typo. It’s been very rewarding. But while some of it was good writing and even quite powerful within its niche, it wasn’t great writing, and none of it is suitable for professional publication, recognition, or payment.
I’m also conscious that although I have learnt a lot over the last ten years, overall my writing is less ambitious and less rich. I do not have the energy to do more than force out a scene that… gets the job done. I’m not steeped in literature the way I was immediately following my BA, and while that has the positive advantage that I’m not constantly shoving modernist poetry into my work left, right, and centre, a certain richness and intertextuality has been lost.
I also struggle to make time to read for pleasure. I have been struggling to make time to read through the latest book by my favourite author, Assassin’s Fate, by Robin Hobb, for months. Not because it isn’t good – it’s excellent – but because I can’t shake that ingrained feeling left over from my PhD that I should be doing something more important. Something that moves my life along… even though what’s holding back my own writing is a lack of the kind of wide reading that I used to do.
Ultimately, I need to rest and relax, and find a kind of inner calm I have been missing for a long time, and that’s part of what the other things I want for 2018 are about.
I need safety and physical health and financial security to get the kind of mental wellbeing that will enable me to write well again.
To get physically fit
This one is hard because something is wrong with my health and has been for a long time and I’ve been through an endless battle to convince people it’s even real – the ache of explaining again and again that the reason I’m ill is the same reason as the last time they asked and I don’t want to go through the long outline again of everything I have been through the last four or five years. All the symptoms. All the blood tests. All the woolly non-diagnoses. All the not-so-subtle hints in response that I’m not really as unwell as I think and I just need to buck up and pull my socks up.
I met with a doctor on Friday who has ordered more of the same blood tests that I’ve had done before, but he actually seemed interested in hearing how long it had been going on, rather than just focusing on this latest bout of illness, which has certainly centred around the ‘Australian’ flu (almost certainly what I had over Christmas and New Years), but really can be traced back through one rotten illness after another through December, November, October, September… honestly nearly non-stop while I also dealt with one stress after another trying to get my life together – moving house, applying for jobs, work shake ups… and so it goes…
He mentioned he has some theories, but doesn’t want to talk about them until we’ve had the blood tests and a fuller picture. Which is good. I am, of course, worried that he’ll come back with a diagnosis for something that isn’t going to go away, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME, but even then, a diagnosis would help stop the endless questions about how utterly wrecked I am by a simple cold.
I hope for something more than that. A plan I can act on and use to get properly well again, back to the gym, lose weight, get down the allotment… all those things I long to do. But we shall see.
I want a permanent job. Still.
This one will, again, be easier to get if I can sort out the other things in my life. Find space for the ambition and action that used to propel me. It’s hard to be ambitious when you can’t get out of bed.
A notebook – the laptop kind
I need to be able to write on the go. I was hoping to get one in the January sales, but even with a voucher, everything within my price range has a ridiculously tiny number of GB. 32GB was fine two years ago, but if you want to run Windows 10 (and I do – please don’t pitch up telling me to use other things, I have my reasons and you don’t need to know them) anything that size is going to keel over on its first update… which is exactly what an increasingly large portion of reviews are saying they do.
In the interim, I have bought me a bluetooth keyboard, which I am hoping to use with my phone, but it’s a stop-gap solution. A proper notebook like I used to have from my department when I was a research student would make all the difference.
A holiday. Somewhere with a beach
I have not swum in the sea since holidays with my family as a teenager – nearly two decades ago. As a child living in the US, I was practically part fish, and then later in holidays to Cornwall and Greece… You can’t really swim in the North Sea, though. I’ve managed to paddle once or twice in the last ten years, but it’s not enough anymore.
I want to swim. I want to lay on the sand and read a book and feel warm and not stressed about my real life.
I want a goddamned beach holiday.
A holiday. Somewhere with friends where I can write and read
We’re now getting into territory where it’s gonna be obvious that I cannot do all that I want. I’ll maybe be able to afford one holiday, if I get a permanent full-time job. But I have to put these things down or they will swim into the miasma of unfulfilled dreams and become a stagnant pool of unidentifiable regrets.
But me and some of my friends have talked over the past few years about clubbing together and renting a place for a week or five days or something and just… chilling. Writing. Reading. Maybe going for the odd walk. Minimal pressure – potential to do much in the way of healing and/or writing. An important ambition.
If this could happen somewhere near a beach, so much the better, but either/or would do.
A new vacuum cleaner
It’s really hard to keep my house tidy at the best of times, but it also becomes quickly clear when I try that my vacuum cleaner cannot cut it. It’s designed for small spaces, because that’s all I could afford when I moved into my last house, which didn’t have very much carpet. In this house… it’s pretty ineffectual. I’ve been on my hands and knees picking up fluff today. Ugh.
But vacuums are expensive?? Even on Gumtree the second-hand ones are expensive??
Something to remember I need next time I have a windfall.
An office chair
For the study. So I can write and paint up there. I chucked the old one, which stood me well for many years, but was a bit broken when I got it and had been worn and patched and… the plastic of the arms had gone weird and sticky?? Bleurgh.
I have a folding chair that will do for now, but if I really want to persuade myself not to spend my entire life on my laptop in bed, I need comfortable furniture that is fit for purpose.
Speaking of which: I also need a sofa
One I can lie down on comfortably to read and snuggle up in to write.
I do have two second-hand armchairs (left by a housemate who didn’t want the bother of disposing of them) and a sofa I got from the Community Furniture Store, and an Ikea armchair I got with an Amazon voucher somehow. It’s fine. It works for having people around. And I’ve got my living room into an almost stylish state that I actually enjoy spending time in sometimes. But I do tend to end up with a numb bum and eventually retreat to bed.
A proper sofa would be grand – even if it’s just a slightly nicer one from the Community Furniture Store, but I suspect I shall be making do for a little while yet.
Assorted bedroom furniture
My wardrobe came from Oxfam and spent the first two years of it’s time with me in the dining room because it wouldn’t fit up the stairs. It has been a nightmare to deal with every time I have moved and it’s starting to fall apart. It actually performs its job admirably well, but I kind of hate it and want it gone.
A new, nice chest of drawers. I have a plastic one from Argos that isn’t pretty but does its job, and a second-hand one that is falling apart. It did me good service for many years when I had nothing else, but it is not fit for purpose anymore, several of the handles are broken, and I just want something bigger and nicer.
A new bed. This one has also been a little hero, but it got mouldy in the Worst Flat and that left some ugly marks that remind me of shitty times. Also, although this mattress is a million miles better than the last mattress, I have still managed to fuck some of the springs and it sags on one side. But as this was new the year before last, I shan’t be replacing it for a while.
There are probably a whole host of other things I want (like a boyfriend – ha!), but I’m running out of energy and this is enough to get me going. To look back on and reflect.
I hope this year brings bigger and better things, but history suggests that even if it does they shall not be easily won.
Wish me luck!