New Year again!

judgeOnce again, I find myself contemplating the new year. This is something I often do, and it seems a shame to break the chain. So looking back at last year’s entry, what did I set out to do this year and how did I do?

running: distance goals.

Didn’t really do very well on the running front this year at all. Just as I am this year, I entered the year recovering from a knee injury, and it wasn’t really until July that I’d built up the distance enough to do a 10k race. Then I did the Herne Bay 10k (similar time to last year, but better run and with more behind me than previously), the Faversham 10k (my first ever 10k was this one, and this was my third or possibly fourth time), and the Givaudan Ashford 10k (this is where my right knee proved unable to cope last year; this year it was my left knee that gave up). After that race, my knee injury, which had been niggling for a while, decided it was going to stop me running, and since then I haven’t really managed to achieve anything – apart from a parkrun on Christmas Eve that was both horribly slow and a bad idea for my knee, so I’m now back to square one. I’m signed up for Brighton Marathon at the beginning of April, but to be honest I’ll be glad if I’m just out doing parkrun again by then. We’ll have to see on that one, and keep doing the exercises to strengthen the muscles in my legs.

writing: completing both novels.

I assume by that I meant Abandoned and Gods v Heroes. Gods v Heroes is now within a couple of chapters of being a complete draft, with various sections at different levels of completion. Abandoned hasn’t been touched very much since I wrote it, although I did start to revise the beginning and it’s already in complete draft stage. Since then, I’ve added in Life Lessons, which started off as a simple romance and ended up dragging in all sorts of other issues. I’m pleased with that one – it was a fairly clean first draft, although at 50k it’s rather short, and has been out to at least one reader already, with positive feedback. Now I need to start building that up. I’ve decided I need to aim for at least three drafts – plot, character/setting and fine-tuning. The plot draft is becoming easier with each project; now I need to start developing my skills on the other two draft types.

Drawing/creativity: regular practice.

I’m not sure I’d say regular practice, but it’s something that I have dabbled in throughout the year. It’s something that I want to continue in future, as well.

Technical skills: develop.

This is one that never really got off the ground, although I’ve continued to develop my skills in the software I use regularly in my business – InDesign, mainly, and starting to learn Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as working on my editing skills. Maybe at some point I’ll get back to the programming, but that’s low on the list of priorities right now, as I’m trying to ensure that I’m developing skills that are directly useful to the business.

Personal life: create an environment in which all can flourish.

Since I found a site called habitica, I’ve really made progress on this. Using the site, I can built up a list of tasks, set either as weekly tasks on or on specific days of the week, and by using this I’ve really built up a reasonable working routine for the housework. There’s still a long way to go, but at least the foundation is now there, and I’ve discovered the motivation that was lacking previously.

So where does that leave me for this year?

Get running again

Trying to get running again, and at the very least working on my strength and mobility, because otherwise I can see myself seizing up completely and not being able to do very much at all.

Build up my creativity

My Annie’s Escapades project on Facebook should help greatly with the creativity, as I’m aiming to post a photo a day of Annie’s adventures helping me to be creative, or just to get out there and have fun.

Developing my skills

Developing skills that I need for the business, and putting a lot more time and effort into the business this year, so that I can have a little more financial security.

Developing my writing

Continue to work on my novels, and get at least two of them through another draft (it only took a month to write them, why should it take any longer to edit?!).

Taking care of the household

Continue to build up my routines and habits so that the house is more organised and so that those around me are cared for suitably.

 

Nano is over

mock-coverActually, nano has been over for about a week now, but since I’ve been laid up with a cold, things have got a little slack.

I did complete nano again this year, but not the way I’d planned. While I had a story idea and even a cover design, it turned out that the story itself wasn’t sufficiently developed to put down on paper. I’ve learned that I don’t work well as a pantser, I much prefer to have everything planned out and know where I’m going. So I abandoned Game of Life around 11k words in and switched to another project. That doesn’t mean the story itself is abandoned, simply that it needs to be developed more before it’s ready. So maybe next year.

In the meantime, I was very good last year and continued the nano tradition into December, starting another novel. I got around 8k words in before putting that one to one side to deal with Christmas, and it had been sitting there ever since.  So I felt it was a fair swap to jump to that one instead for the rest of nano. There were a few days when I wrote on both projects, and then I switched completely and managed to get most of the draft done by the end of the month, hitting the 50k target a few days before the end of the month.

Then I got this cold, and I need to sort out a chapter of Gods V Heroes for writing group next Monday, and so this new one has been set aside again…

But I must get back to it. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out, and did a lot of work on Aeon Timeline to plan it out (I wrote a blog entry on my business blog, explaining how I planned it).

Provisionally entitled The English Teachers, it even ended up with a new title by the end – Life Lessons – and now I need to design a proper cover for it, finish the last couple of scenes, clean up the draft so it’s readable, and then seek beta readers before polishing. I wouldn’t normally jump to beta readers so early, but in this case I want to make sure the setting and background are right.

The story is a romance (although at the moment the romance is very low key) set in a school. Nic falls for a teacher at another school, until she learns that the two schools are to be merged and they will be rivals for the post of head of department. In the meantime, there is a joint school project to work through, and issues with students that just won’t wait.

 

More stories from the workhouse

As Sunday is a day off from the A-Z challenge, I thought I’d better get back to stories from the workhouse.

A reminder – I’m researching our local workhouse, the Blean Union Workhouse in Kent, and these are notes taken from the minutes of the Guardians of the Board, the locals who were charged with overseeing the administration of the workhouse. The first collection of stories is here, and searching the workhouse category on this blog will discover other articles I’ve written about my research.

In February 1879 a fire was reported in the drying closet. The firm who installed the closet were called in to inspect, and discovered that a grating had been removed that should stop clothing falling on the pipes. They made it secure and advised that when used for airing purposes a smaller fire should be kept.

Later that year, a builder, Mr S. Stupple, was accused of theft of an iron bar belonging to the guardians. Upon investigation, the accusation was found to be unfounded, and made by an apprentice whom Mr Stupple had recently discharged for misconduct.

Around 1880, issues were reported with the contracted coffin maker, who caused “serious inconvenience and scandal” when a coffin supplied was larger than ordered, the hole then proving to have been dug too small. A further, similar complaint was made a few weeks later and he was told to pay any charges accrued from the inconvenience. He reported that the confusion was due to measurements not being stated as internal or external. By the end of the year he had lost the contract for workhouse coffins, the contract instead being awarded to Daniel Stupple, who was presumably related to Mr S. Stupple (above).

In January 1880 three boys in the school were “brought before the Board by the Master, two having absconded from the workhouse by getting through the dormitory window, visiting a public house and stealing therefrom a bottle of gin, which they brought and consumed with other boys in the yard, and the other having used grossly insubordinate language to the master; they were ordered by the Board to be severely flogged and confined to the Workhouse until further orders.”

An order was put in for about four tons of flints to provide work for the able-bodied inmates and vagrants.

Parcels were opened because it was believed that money was being sent and kept by inmates. The sender was admonished and the money was “appropriated towards the paupers’ maintenance”.

In September of 1880, a year after a trial change in diet had been initiated, it was taken to the Local Government Board for permanent approval, the change having proved beneficial for the children and aged at the workhouse.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the library and continuing my research – there’s still a lot more to read through!

 

 

O is for obsession

Are you ever obsessed? I usually have some kind of obsession on the go. Often it’s something that finds an outlet in fanfiction, or at the very least in stories I make up and keep to myself. Obsession can be a real positive. It can help you keep focus and achieve great things.
But become obsessed with the wrong thing and you become distracted. Your obsession works against you and holds you back.
So what’s your obsession and does it help you or hinder you? I guess my current one is my allotment, as I work on it and plan for it.

K is for karma

Do you believe in karma? Apparently the way we all think about it is wrong; karma is supposed to only happen as part of reincarnation, passed on from life to life, but popular thinking is that it can also happen within one life, that things balance out.
I’d like to think that’s true; that the world has a way to ensure balance. What goes around comes around. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
It can be satisfying, when wronged, to put aside thoughts of revenge in the belief that nature/fate/call it what you like will at some point take your revenge for you.
Whether that’s true or not, letting go in this way is surely far better for us than holding on to bitterness.
And surely those who are nasty in some way attract nastiness, as those who look only for the good in people bring out that good.

E is for energy

What is this thing called energy? I keep chasing it, keep trying to find it – and then I find myself unable to settle, wanting to be up and doing something, and I wonder – have I just forgotten what energy feels like?
My writing is being rather neglected at the moment. I can’t seem to find the energy and enthusiasm to care about my characters, or maybe I just have the wrong characters.
They say to get energy you have to spend it. I’ve certainly felt better the more active I am. Is it the same with enthusiasm for writing? The more you write, the more enthusiastic you start to feel?
But how do you get started in the first place?

Challenges and pioneering adventures

I ache all over at the moment, especially my legs and shoulders. I also have my legs up, with one leg up higher on a cushion because I have a painful reaction to an insect bite on it. All this is as a result of an adventure I’ve just started.

We have a fair-sized garden, but overhanging trees means there’s not much I can actually grow, especially in the way of vegetables. Despite this, I have been busy sowing seeds in trays and trying to persuade hubby to abandon his occasional bonfire site so I can dig it up for growing things in.

Then, having read enviously of the adventures of friends on facebook who have taken over allotment plots, I made enquiries locally. I vaguely remembered hearing something about a new site being used for allotments, and was pleased to learn that there were still plots available.

To cut a long story short, I kind of feel that my plot chose me, rather than the other way around – the site is a fair-sized field, divided into plots, with an extra part of the field sticking out like the handle of a saucepan, and I’m down the handle. The end of my plot runs alongside the road, and there are other plots in the area, left, right and behind, but these are as yet unoccupied, so I’m stuck out on my own a little. I’ve been warned by a couple of people that my end had problems with flooding in the winter, but I’m not worrying too much because the weather was so extreme, and because – well, I’ve bonded with my plot now. It seems to suit me, and I would really hate to move elsewhere.

Oh, and the best reason? I’m in the corner of the field. The name I use for my business, and for email addresses, involves the word coinlea – which is related to the name of our house (which we never use for that purpose) and means “corner of the field”!

 

It’s the first time in my life I’ve had a little area that I can call completely mine, and I’m loving it. There’s a lot of hard work involved at the moment, of course – the whole area is new to allotments, so we’re all pioneers, digging out our own little patches and deciding how to lay things out and what to grow. I’m full of ideas on what to do, but of course some of them involve money, so might take a little time.

Still, I’ve been up there most days this week, including yesterday afternoon marking out beds (and getting bitten by something, I think) and this afternoon digging the beds out. If I can do a minimum of one bed a week, it will be mostly ready to go by the time my seeds are ready for a new home.

So the plan now is to work hard and earn money whenever I can, and sneak up to the allotment when I can get away, to keep working on it.

Jantastic challenge is just coming to a close, and I’ve done fantastically with it – the combination of the challenge itself and having a running partner for a while has meant that I’ve established a habit of running three times a week and consistently scored highly in the challenge. I’ve also been riding my bike – the allotment is 2km away from home, up a hill, and this has proved a great combination, as I’ve cycled up whenever I can (taking someone else up there or delivering tools to use has meant having to use the car, but otherwise I’ve cycled or walked). So I’m now swimming four times a week, running three times a week, cycling a few times a week (including two days when I cycle to the pool and back), and generally I’m sure I must be fitter than I’ve ever been in my life before.

I’ve also been smashing my parkrun record this year – for the past few weeks I’ve regularly beat my previous time by around half a minute or so or taken it “easy” and come in within a few seconds of my PB, so I’m really seeing the difference all this exercise is making.

Now the plan for the next few weeks exercise-wise is the 5×50 challenge, to either run 5k or participate in some other exercise for a minimum 30 minutes a day for 50 days. I’m not going to worry about speed for a bit, as that’s been going so well – instead I’ll be working on building up distance. And I’ve also signed up for Race for Life, but as I do a 5k run so often these days I wanted a bigger challenge, so I signed for the Pretty Muddy version of RfL, which involves a muddy obstacle course.

I see a busy time in my future.

 

Short term goals

It’s time for me to decide on specific short-term goals to move towards, on the way to bigger goals. So the aims for the next two weeks:

I want to beat my parkrun personal best (PB), so I need to spend plenty of time exercising and also concentrate on eating sensibly to improve health and get closer to my target weight. Both of these will help me achieve my short-term goal.

I want to get into the habit of writing regularly, so I’ll be doing morning pages every day and I’m also going to aim for 1000 words of fiction a day. They don’t have to be good fiction, in fact I’m going to aim for quantity above quality, because the idea is that once I’m actually writing I can focus on an area at a time to improve. So the first step is to aim for a habit of writing 1000 words of fiction every evening before bed (thinking constructively here: then I’ll go to bed with that in my head and dream about the next part of the story to write!).

I will know I’ve achieved my goals if at the end of two weeks I’ve got a new personal best at running and I’ve got over 10k words of fiction written.

 

U is for Undecided

Oh dear, I had a few possible words for U, but was not sure which to choose, so I delayed for a while. And then I forgot completely. Now I feel guilty that this post is a few hours late.
How many times do we miss something just because we can’t make up our minds?
Sometimes it’s important to be uncertain – when meeting someone for the first time, or trying something new, for example. It’s frustrating when people come to something already convinced they hate it.
At other times, however, we need to be prepared to make a decision and move forward on it, because it’s more important to do something than to be completely convinced it’s the best possible solution; as I’ve already said in an earlier post, it’s usually far easier to correct something wrong than it is to set off perfectly – and starting off quicker means more progress overall.
Now, need to figure out a V and catch up!

Q is for Quiet

I don’t know about you, but I hate quiet. I’ll always have the radio or tv in the background. It’s almost as though I’m afraid of silence. And yet I’m sure there’s a lot to be gained by just sitting alone with your own thoughts. Just somehow can’t bring myself to try.
My favourite way of getting back to sleep in those early morning hours, though, is to lie still and listen very hard for the birds. The peace of it soon sends me off. Another way to avoid too much quiet perhaps?