New Year’s Absolutions 2023

It’s that time again! The time of year when I reflect on the year that was, mentally and emotionally prepare for the year to come, and absolve myself from a selection of ‘must dos’. Life is simply too short to get swept up in ‘must dos’, especially those I have no inclination towards.

Aside: Looking back, I realise that I didn’t do my absolutions for 2022. This time last year was not awesome for me, as was the experience for many of you. I simply wanted to make it to 2022 and do my best to get through the year with my mental health intact (like many of you).

Also, looking back at my 2019 Absolutions, I admit to failing on two counts: I have since joined Instagram and I love Beatsaber, an extremely fun VR game in which you slash musical notes as they come towards you with lightsabers (yes, really and it is just as fun as it sounds and, yes, the tech has improved on stabilisation, so I no longer get sick―hooray!).

Onto next year’s absolutions … I hereby absolve myself from:

Not reading reviews

As authors, we’re constantly told, ‘Don’t read reviews!’ This is excellent advice when you receive a bad review because, as authors know, one bad review equals 10000 excellent reviews. Bad reviews burrow into your brain and nestle there, ready to leap out when you’re feeling your most vulnerable, when you’re crippled by imposter syndrome or awaiting the email that will tell you you’ve successfully pitched your next book and it takes months.

Yet, every time one of my books comes out, I read the early reviews. Every. Review. Every. Day.

Why? Two reasons: I am a masochist and most of my reviews are positive. This means that all those hours I spent labouring over my book have been fruitful, they meant something to someone. Some reviews even induce tears―happy ones. It’s a wondrous thing to have someone gush about how much my story or my characters or my turn of phrase impacted them for the better and how much they love my book.

So, I will continue to read reviews, even the bad ones, like this for my first book, One Summer in Santorini.

Actually, that review and others like it, make me laugh. If ever there was a reason to buy a book it’s because it’s sweary and sexy. And if that’s your thing and you’ve read all mine, check out Aimee Brown.

Paying for a blue checkmark

I have been actively building my Twitter following for years now, and have previously applied for a blue checkmark (when they still meant something). I wasn’t noteworthy enough to earn one a couple of years ago but, until recently, I was still working towards that milestone. While the verified accounts of notable people and organisations are still denoted by a blue checkmark, there’s now a cheaters’ route: the option to pay for one. Blue checkmarks have become the vanity plates of social media. I may still earn one, but I will never pay for one.

Catching up on the entire Marvel Universe

There are too many Marvel movies in the MCU. There, I said it. And because there are so many (and I have a life), I’ve missed a few―Iron Man 2, something about a civil war, a Spiderman or two (even though I’m a HUGE Tom Holland fan), and both Black Panther films. And some that I have seen, I wished I’d missed them. I’m looking at you Thor: The Dark World and Eternals (seriously, though, what the hell was that movie?). I say all this with the caveat that there are some MCU films that I’ve loved. Thor Ragnarok is hilarious and Chris Hemsworth is a massive spunk, especially with short hair. I loved Black Widow because Natasha is a bad-ass (and so is her sis). And Ant-Man is just fun, because … well … Paul Rudd.

Aside: Paul Rudd is the type of guy women both want to sleep with and have as their best friend. Fortunately, I have one of those at home.

So, while Marvel has had some hits, they’ve had enough misses―I mean, is Infinity War called that because the story goes on SO LONG it took two movies to tell it???―that I am absolving myself from watching their back catalogue, and very possibly their front catalogue too. Except Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania because (hello?!) PAUL RUDD.

Keeping track of which show is on which streaming service

When are household AIs going to get so good, I can ask, ‘Hey, Google, what the hell streaming service is [INSERT TV SHOW TITLE HERE] showing on?’ and it not only ignores my mildly rude profanity, it replies with, ‘It’s Disney+, which you pay for and share with your mum (who shares her Stan with you), your bestie, your Aunt Jackie (who also shares your Netflix account), and your cousin’s best friend, Sharon (who shares her Amazon Prime account with you)’? That’s what the brilliant minds at Google/Apple/Amazon should be working on.

Thank god I live with (aforementioned Paul Rudd-like) Ben, who not only keeps all of this information in his head, but also 1. sources most the shows I tell him I’m dying to watch and 2. keeps and eye out for shows we can watch together―White LotusYellowstoneThe BearCall My Agent … (Thank you, Ben!)

Joining TikTok (still)

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the TikToks my family and friends send me. This one is the funniest thing I saw online this year and it still makes me laugh―EVERY TIME! I hope that family never has to work again for the sheer genius of filming that clip and posting it on TikTok.

BUT I already have two jobs. I work four days a week at my day job in adult education and every day as an author. I’ve published 8 books in less than 4 years and I spend 10-12 hours a week on social media and marketing. I is TIIIIRRRED. And even the thought of creating content for a new social media platform makes me queasy. The people who excel at it work so hard and do such a great job at curating and creating content. Maybe one day when I’m writing fulltime, I’ll consider joining TikTok (or its equivalent), but until then I’m leaving it to the pros.

That’s it. That’s all I absolve myself from for 2023. Wherever you are in the world, I wish you good health, love, laughter, good times with family and friends, grand adventures, and most of all, peace. Take care. Look after you. And happy reading.

Sandy xxx

A (writing) contract with myself

Six weeks ago I enlisted the help of a dear friend and fellow writer, Jen, to hold me to the terms of a contract. I drew the contract up myself – no, I am not suddenly a lawyer – so that I would be accountable for working as a writer. I got this idea from Aimee Bender’s article in Oprah, Why the Best Way to Get Creative Is to Make Some Rules, which  you should really check out if you are a writer, or you want to hold yourself to any sort of disciplined pursuit. Around the same time, I also came across this article in Redbook by Sandy M. Fernandez, Join the Accountability Club.

Both articles give great advice:

  • Set a clear, attainable goal
  • Tell others about it
  • Ask them to hold you accountable for attaining your goal
  • Check in regularly
  • Attain goal

Voila!

So, with these two great minds in mind I created my writing contract, phase one of which concludes today. It goes a little something like this:

Dates: September 17th to October 31st 2012 (1 ½ months)

Conditions:

  • Write every day for minimum of one hour
  • Can include: Book proposal; Book revision/new content; Blog post
  • Permitted: 5 ‘vacation’ days
  • Aim for 12 hours per week
  • Check in with Jen every day via text message: “Done” = completed at least one hour; “Vacation” = took the day off
  • Jen replies “Check” for each message

I am happy to report that I took only 3 vacation days, two of which were while I was actually on vacation in Napa Valley, and the last one was on the day I hosted a dinner party for 25 people.

I am also happy to report that I aimed for an hour a day, but averaged 2.5!

I am further happy to report that writing is now something I now do every day, because I am not only accountable to Jen, but more importantly to myself. As a result, I have completed a total overhaul and re-draft of part one of my novel. I started with a travel (auto)biography and now I have a work of fiction. In home renovation terms, I tore done all the internal walls until I was left with just the foundation and some structural support and completely rebuilt, refurbished and redecorated it.

I am additionally happy to report that I am close to having a dynamic, well-crafted book proposal completed. This will then go out to agents and publishers.

I am lastly happy to report that Jen and her hubby Nate welcomed their baby daughter, Ellie, nearly a week ago. And brilliant as she is, Jen was still my accountability bud while in labor and just after Ellie’s birth – a her own insistence.

Many, many thanks to Jen and to the other writers I  have in my life for your unwavering support and encouragement. Thank you to my non-writer friends and family members who have liked my Facebook updates on the progress, and support my endeavor to finish this novel. And thank you to Ben and Lucy for allowing me to lock myself away for hours at a time.

Nearly there…

No excuses

Three months and five days.

That’s how long it has been since I last blogged.

Now, as millions of people world-wide are setting (and already breaking) New Year’s resolutions, I find I have no plausible excuses left.  And so I blog.

Since I last wrote, I started working at Groundspeak, the days have turned dark and cold, and I no longer have to give myself pep talks to get out of bed in the morning.  These are all big changes for me.

Groundspeak has been all that I thought it would be when I went to the first interview back in July.  I walked out knowing that I wanted to work for these people, even if they only wanted me to make coffee and empty trash cans.  Fortunately, they want far more from and for me.

There is an incredible atmosphere at Groundspeak and it comes from the people who work there.  It is a positive, creative, clever, engaging, and supportive atmosphere which makes working there a pleasure.  Every day is different, and my boss, Jenn, frequently asks, “When you signed on to work for us, did you think you’d be doing this?”  The truthful answer is frequently, “No”.

Amongst the administrative tasks and responding to emails, I have worked on a project with the Geological Society of America, I am planning a three-day event for 100 in the UK, I am learning German, and I know how to simulate a generously proportioned chest with two stuffed frogs.

I am truly enjoying my work.

The weather on the other hand…

It is winter again.  I feel like there wasn’t really a summer, so it is sometimes hard for me to see the light at the end of the Winter tunnel.  Summer 2009 consisted of some Spring weather, some Autumn weather, and about a week of Summer when the mercury hit 95+ for 7 days in a row.

Seattle-ites moaned and stores ran out of fans, but I loved it.  And then it was gone.  Before I knew it the days got shorter and the temperature dropped in increments.  I have summer clothes that I never had a chance to wear, and most of them are currently vacationing with a friend in Columbia.  I thought I owed it to them.

I should say, though, that the Winter Solstice was marked with as much celebration at work as Christmas was.  “Hooray!!!  It is the shortest day of the year!  Longer, brighter and warmer from this point on!”  I had to agree that this is something worth noting, if not celebrating.  Especially as Solstice fell during one of the coldest weeks of the year: -8C daily maximums = “Brrrrrrrr”.

The last big change is that I no longer need to have a chat with myself each morning about getting out of bed and facing the day.  In August of last year I feared I was dropping into a deep funk.  I had landed my dream job, but wasn’t able to start.  Red tape was choking me and I feared that my new employers would give up the long wait to secure my work visa.  Two months later, the only thing standing between me and a new place of work was a stamp in my passport.

I should have been thrilled that the company was flying me back to Australia to finalize the paper work.  I would get to see family and friends (and the sun), and I could start working the day after I arrived back in Seattle.

I should have been ecstatic, but I was too terrified to feel anything but all-consuming fear.  “What if they say no and I can’t come back to my home (Seattle)?” became my mantra.  Friends were reassuring, the company was reassuring, Ben was reassuring.  “It will be fine.”  “It is a formality.”  “You’ll be back here and working before you know it.”

I wanted to believe them.

Then I talked to my dad.  “Darling, what will you do if they don’t give you the visa?”  Finally.  Someone actually said it aloud: my greatest fear.  Once he said it, he immediately dismissed the thought, “Don’t even think about that.  It will be fine, Darling.”  He was right, and so was everyone else.  I flew back to Sydney, had a (worry-filled) weekend with my family, attended the visa interview and walked out 15 minutes later with the visa.

Then I was on vacation in one of my favorite cities in the world.

And you know what happened then.  I flew home home to Seattle, started work, and lived out the rest of the year.

We celebrated Ben’s 30th with a huge party at our place.  We had a Thanksgiving dinner with 5 other couples, all close friends of ours, and then took off for a weekend away in a mountain cabin.

We enjoyed my first Seattle Christmas with my mom visiting from Las Vegas, and Ben’s Seattle family, and we saw in the New Year with dear friends, Nicole and Josh.

It was an extraordinary end to 2009, but I am very happy to start 2010.

I am healthy, I have love in my life, I have a great job and even greater friends, and soon we will be traveling to Europe.  I have much to be grateful for.  I can even spin the weather: how nice it is that I get to wear winter clothes, knee-high boots and my new (extremely cute) earmuffs.

So, here they are, my resolutions (it has to be done).

1. I will blog more frequently than once every three months and five days.  In fact, I will spend more time writing for myself than I have in the past few months.

2. I will continue to volunteer my time.

3. I will do flexibility training (yoga, Pilates) once a week.

4. I will learn something new (um, not quite sure what that will be yet).

Happy New Year to you all.  May it be prosperous, filled with adventure and spirited pursuits, and peaceful.