Every year since 2013 I have posted a reflective blog post at some point between Christmas and New Year. I posted throughout my chidren’s early childhoods, when Christmastime was a welter of preparation and lack of sleep. I posted through my parents’ illness and in the wake of their deaths. I posted the year I caught a stomach bug and spent much of the holiday feeling extremely sorry for myself.
But not last year. Somehow, there didn’t seem much to say last year, after a year of anxiety and restrictions, with yet another lockdown (and its attendant home-schooling-while-full-time-teaching-on-line stresses) on the horizon. And that failure to post seems to have set the tone for this past year, a year in which I have failed to write.
I don’t mean that entirely literally. I have written syllabi, reports, and many, many comments on students’ work. I have drafted an article (currently under review following a revise-and-resubmit) and wrote three new talks on my research. I even submitted a short story to a competition over the summer (it didn’t get long-listed, so no feedback). And yet it has still been a year when I have felt blocked in my writing, when nothing has flowed, when I have struggled to find my voice on the page.
It is not just that I have not posted on this blog since July 2020. Having entered the pandemic with ideas for three major pieces of writing, all of them have stalled. The proposal for the monograph based on the research from Men, Women and Care remains unwritten. I have done nothing about the trade history beyond speaking to a couple of possible literary agents. And the novel I started so blithely remains stubbornly stuck at 25,000 words.
There are, of course, good, explicable reasons for this lack of writing productivity. The above-mentioned home-schooling-plus-on-line-teaching absorbed much of the start of the year. The hybrid return to campus in the autumn, along with the resumption of my children’s extra-curricular schedules (choir, rugby, drama, riding) brought its own set of stresses and challenges. As for the summer … I’m not actually sure what happened to the summer this year. Whatever it was did not involve putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Writing in a pandemic is hard, and I am trying my hardest to be kind to myself and not to berate myself over the lack of progress. But the fact is that reflecting on this writing block makes me feel sad and anxious in a way that is different from the sadness and anxiety I have felt (and often felt acutely) in past years.
I need to write. I need get the ideas in my head on paper (or a screen). I need to make mistakes, cross things out, find the perfect phrase, delete whole paragraphs and then rewrite them. And I have plenty to write. In addition to the monograph, trade history and novel, there is a blog post on the White Feather campaign I want to write, an article with a deadline next month and the character I have left in limbo in an incomplete AO3 story. Those three new talks should, I hope, form the basis of monograph chapters and there is a call for papers for an edited collection which could give me scope for exploring a key angle to emerge from Men, Women and Care.
So, for the first time in many years I am making a specific New Year’s resolution, one which I intend to hold myself accountable for. Every day for the next 365 days, I will write for a minimum of half an hour. It doesn’t matter what it is – a blog post, fiction, a draft chapter, a proposal. It doesn’t matter when in the day it is, although I do know I write best in the mornings. It doesn’t matter if I am working that day or on holiday, at home or traveling (as I hope to be doing come the spring). For half an hour every day I will write in the hope of getting my writing muscles working again, just as I have this past year sought to get my running muscles working again.
So there is the marker I am placing in 2022. Given the current state of the world, I have no confidence in making any predictions for what the new year may bring, but I will enter it with some hope that there will, at least, be a few more posts on this blog than last year, and maybe even a draft book (or two) by its end. I can but hope.
So I will close this piece of end-of-the-year writing by wishing you all a hopeful, health and happy new year.