Janus, the two faced god ~ looking backwards and forwards at the same time
Anyone who knows me even a little knows how interested I’ve always been in Roman culture; indeed, that love of all things Roman led to me doing a joint honours degree, one half English, one half Latin.
Janus is of course the Roman god who gives his name to our first month of the year, January, and while I don’t want to dwell too much on the past it’d be a good thing to have a quick look at what 2012 brought me. I’m also not one for resolutions but in the spirit of Janus, I would like to take a peep ahead too.
In many ways, the year was a maelstrom of changes and of seeming chaos. March-time my mental health broke finally and for some weeks I was incapacitated and unable to face leaving the house alone. The trigger for this was a trampled bunch of daffodils but the reasons, the causes so much deeper. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the darkness those poor flowers revealed. What I told my GP a day or two after the meltdown meant he made me an emergency appointment with the mental health support team. I’m not going in to much detail but I feel disappointed in the process. In theory moving house ought not to have made any difference, but in fact, relocating meant that I lost my place on a waiting list for some help, and had I chosen to go to my new GP to restart the process I would have been obliged to go back to the very beginning and restart the whole thing from scratch. I’ve chosen not to do so (yet) simply because at present none of the options I may be offered would actually be of any benefit to me.
I was resistant to the idea of returning to a parish, hostile even, yet there were clear signs along the way that it was the right thing. We moved here in September, and I’m still finding my feet. I’ve left my teaching job behind, as it’s too far to travel back when work comes in for the money offered. A new job has yet to materialise, though I’ve been looking. I even had a careers interview which was very helpful in identifying my key skills, and suggesting looking for work in mentoring. I can only hope that something comes along.
Writing-wise, this has been a year of surprises. I’ve put out two new books this year. The Wild Hunt came out in February on Kindle, and The Bet came out in late September. My two previous books, Strangers and Pilgrims and Away With The Fairies had been ticking over, selling both on Kindle and in paperback, but from May onwards, sales saw a steady then meteoric rise, and from May both started to appear on several of the best-sellers lists for Kindle. Strangers has been consistently in the top 100 for personal transformation and often also the top 100 for self-help/ spirituality. The highest it rose to was 8. Away With The Fairies nudged its head onto the top 100 for women’s literary fiction a few times since its release but from May it landed there and has stayed there ever since, getting as high as 14 a few times. The Wild Hunt has in the last 3 months begun to climb steadily, getting into the top 100 for fairy tales and myths, consistently, then slipping off again. The weekend I launched The Bet, it shot into the top 100 for psychological fiction, but it didn’t stay there. I believe it will start to rise soon, judging from the pattern of the other books. I don’t write this to boast but rather to encourage other writers who may read this blog that if a book seems to be dead in the water, things can and do change. Word of mouth from readers seems to be vital, and also patience. Money is tight for everyone, and any sensible reader will download a sample, take time to read it before deciding to buy. Sometimes the gap between sample and buying is many months. I know it is for me. I have been told by some who downloaded the sample of The Bet that by the time they’d finished that, they hit the buy button. Modesty aside, it really is that good. I’m intending to do a paperback copy of that and The Wild Hunt quite soon, but as I want to try Createspace instead of Lulu, it may take a little while.
Next year, I am hoping to start a few more projects. I said last year I wanted to put out a book of poetry and one of the most useful essays here, and some short story collections. Poetry is not a big seller but enough people have asked and I’d like to have paperbacks too. My biggest worry for this is getting the Table of Contents for the Kindle version right. I go blank even trying to figure out the process. Likewise for a book of essays. But I’d like to try. I’ve got a squad of themed shorts lined up for another short story collection.
But real writing, the way I’ve been unable to do, to tackle a long project of a new novel, that’s been on hold for over 18 months is something I really want to do. I had a plot arrive in my head a few weeks back and I’ve been making notes and letting it brew every since. I have 3 other works at various stages of completeness too, that need digging out and kick-starting. I think subconsciously I have been hesitating, for those 18 months (or even 2 years, now I think about it) because I knew at a deep level our life would be changing dramatically within a certain space of time. The friendship I lost last year was a factor too as I can see now it was inhibiting me, as was both my location, my job and various other things. I feel more like myself in this house; I have a lovely room at the back of the house and a view I find pleasant. I also have more time and mental space.
So next year, I will spend more time on writing than I have for many years, unless a full-time job comes along. I still have my travel job, but that is sporadic and I have long spells without work. I’ve beaten myself up continually for my inability to use my down time for writing, but I’m going to try and quell that tendency. Writing takes a great deal more time away from the page; there’s a good deal of thinking, pondering and dreaming involved, not to mention the less easy to describe process of fermentation that alchemically transforms dross into gold, without the conscious mind being able to follow the deep and very hidden journeys the pain of experience can take. I’ve long wondered how I could work through and heal through the ordeals and betrayals of the last few years, and it’s a slow process. Yet I think the time is approaching when I will be able to do this through writing, to cauterise wounds that still hurt and break open.
Wishes for next year? Many. The Bet on not just the Kindle best-sellers lists but once it’s up in paperback, to see it sell well there too. This is a book that I love deeply. It’s got two sequels, written already but just needing the same process of getting a cover etc. But the themes of the novel are deep, powerful ones; you can’t read it without being moved and also, inspired. The reviews in so far have confirmed my own feelings about the book; I’ve been touched and delighted by all the book reviews that have come this year. I’d like to see the others continue to grow and reach a wider audience, especially the USA. I sell few books there but I do not know why. I guess I’m a very English writer. I’d also like to get back into my stride of exploration of my imagination and actually feel creative again. There is so much bubbling away inside me; to learn how to channel it effectively again is a real challenge. I think a lot of my creativity got siphoned off by the teaching job. Now I need to focus on words, both poetry and stories again, not on finding ways of teaching English that is fun and effective.
Health-wise, there’s other things. I’ve realised that neither medication nor the ubiquitous CBT would be at all helpful for me, and potentially both are harmful. I’d like to find a soul-friend locally who has the experience and training to help me work through things, a kind of free-range psychotherapy that cuts both ways, so that neither participant is client. It’s something I talked about in abstract with the friend who I lost, but never found a context to explore it further. I have no idea how to go about this but it seems like an important idea I can’t let go of. My involvement in the Dandelions and Bad Hair Days project, a book about mental health, has taught me that there are many, many ways of living with mental distress and each person needs to find their own.
Anyway, I have rambled a great deal. Time to stop and just say:
May 2013 be for you a wonderful year that brings more joy than sorrow.