So, it’s that time of year again.
Firstly, I’ve been a little silent on the blog in 2015. I suppose I should apologise. That said, I’ve not exactly been neglecting my career. Quite the opposite, in fact. The very fact that I haven’t posted much all comes down to the sheer amount of new novels I’ve been working on. When it comes to fiction vs non fiction, fiction is my primary love. I enjoy writing non fiction, but it’s the fiction that pays the bills, so I’m sure it’s pretty understandable that it’s where my priorities lie.
Plus, in fiction you get to set zombies loose on people. Wouldn’t be quite as moral in non fiction.
Anyway, I figured I’d do a little end/start of year thing here. The bulk of my non fiction posts these days go through my newsletter, so be sure to check that out if you want an insight into my life (for whatever reason, preferably one that doesn’t require a restraining order). But in the spirit of the new year, what better time to get down a few resolutions and publish them to the world to be mocked when I don’t stick to them?
Some people have one New Year’s Resolution. I’ve gone with five. Over-ambitious/Deluded. YOU DECIDE.
1.) I will be vegetarian for the whole of the year, cooking something fresh every week. This will make me healthy and happy.
Vegetarianism is something I’ve been dabbling with for about six months now. I won’t go into the morals and ethical baggage that comes with it, but for several reasons I pretty much cut all pig and lamb out of my life last year, and have been making moves to transition away from beef and chicken too. I’ve been tempted by the smells of bacon cooking, almost put off by lacklustre veggie alternatives to sausages. But I’m trying new things, broadening my palette, and genuinely enjoying exploring new foods — all that make me feel a lot healthier after eating, too.
I’ve never been overweight (lucky me, I know). I’ve never even been that unhealthy an eater (let’s forget about university cooking for a moment). But the realisation that healthier = happier a few years back has galvanised me to give this vegetarian thing a full go. It didn’t start for health reasons, but that’s a nice little bonus that comes with it.
I’m looking forward to seeing how a year of healthy, meat-free eating goes.
And yes. I did eat turkey on Christmas. But that’s why they’re called “new year’s resolutions” right?
2.) I will get up at 7am every weekday and 9am every weekend. This will make me energised and motivated.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a terrible early-riser. Actually, that’s not even true. I’m not a terrible early-riser because I’m not an early-riser at all. I like the idea of getting up early. I like the notion of rolling out of bed full of energy, taking my dog out for a walk in the early morning fresh air, then getting back to my desk for 9am.
Truth is, I’m the snooze button’s prisoner.
I’m probably exaggerating a little. I always tend to get up before 9:30. But I still get frustrated with myself if I get out of bed past eight. I feel like I’ve wasted precious morning hours.
The resolution? Get up a whole lot earlier. Make 7am my target instead of 8. That way, even if I can’t physically (read: mentally) get out of bed at 7, I’ll still be up with enough time to get all my daily tasks done.
Just don’t speak to me at 7am. Please.
3.) I will write x words a day 5 days a week without fail, sticking to the tried and tested methods I know work. This will keep on making me a living doing what I love, and keep me productive.
No, I didn’t make a typo. I really did just write “x words.”
I dabbled with publicising daily word goals in the past. Truth is, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It sets a level of immense pressure for myself to live up, as well as baffling (and sometimes upsetting) people who can’t quite write as much a day.
I know not sharing my goal is a bit of a cop out. After all, what’s the point of me putting this out in the public sphere anyway? But just know I’ve got a very tight schedule to stick to through 2016, which means a rather massive number of words per day.
I love writing, fortunately. I love spending eight hours a day getting the words down. It’s my job. It’s what I do. So I need a goal to make the most of this opportunity.
How will you know if I’ve stuck to this goal? By the number of releases to my name by the end of the year, and the quality of those releases. That’s how.
Until then, you’ll just have to take my word for it…
4.) I will switch my phone off at 10 every night, and only turn it on after walking my dog the following morning. This will make me more present and less distracted.
The idea of “present living” is another thing that I’ve been very interested in for a long time. To cut a long story short, I’ve seen for myself that a less cluttered, less connected life is beneficial to me. Don’t get me wrong–being able to access a constant stream of information is absolutely fantastic. But it’s also draining, even if we don’t sometimes recognise it.
I’ve made a vow to switch my phone off at ten every night. I go to bed an hour or two after that, so it’ll allow me to wind down and hit that 7am wake-up target. Staring at a screen before bed is bad for you anyway, so I have to do what I have to in order to hit the targets I’ve set for myself.
The delayed switch-on is another interesting element to this. Usually, when we wake up, the first thing we do is rush to read our news feeds, scan our emails, browse the news, get distracted by Instagram, send a Snapchat… We connect to the stream before actually taking a moment to live life.
I’d like to stay present over breakfast. I’d like to stay present while walking my dog. Then, I can get back and see to my notifications quickly, allowing myself to clear my mind before starting my day at work.
Seriously, give this one a try. I’ve done it on and off over the last two years, and it’s been a life-changer. Now just to stick to it…
5.) I will read for one hour and watch one hour of television every day. This will broaden my mind and build my storytelling skills.
Okay, this is a bit of a treat/cheat resolution. But there’s plenty to it.
I love watching television. Not mundane stuff. I mean good, well-written series. I’m currently on Bloodline, which I love. I have Netflix, Amazon and NowTV accounts. It’s a wonder I ever get any work done, I know. But serialised television is my vice, and it’s in a damned good moment of form right now, too.
And because it is in a damned good moment, that means that us writers can pick things up as we’re watching. Sometimes subconsciously, other times consciously, through post-watch analysis and study. Same goes for books–we can learn what we enjoy, what we didn’t enjoy, and use those lessons to broaden our skills.
The result of this? 365 hours of reading in a year. Say it takes 5 hours to read an average size book, that’s 73 books a year. And assuming a standard TV series has ten episodes on average, that’s around 36 series. If that isn’t a crash course in storytelling and pop culture education, with only two hours of time investment* per day, then I don’t know what is.
*We’ll ignore the ridiculous costs all my subscriptions add up to, though. Not really. It’s education. Education costs, education pays. At least, that’s my excuse for all the episodes of Fargo I’ve watched and re-watched.
Have a very happy new year. And cheers for checking out my books. I had a new one out at the end of December. You’ve probably heard about it via my newsletter/Facebook page. Dead Days Season Six is available. You can check it out here.