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I Am (Barely) Walking Into a New Year

'I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it.' ~ Joan Didion

No matter how often I remind myself that the ‘new year, new start’ mentality is a fallacy, I’m always eager to embrace it when those first fresh days of January arrive. Of course, it never lasts long because there is no such thing as a magical do-over when the clock strikes midnight on the 31st - everything just continues. And even though the break I take over the seasonal period is always welcome and supportive of helping me consider how I might want to realign a few things in the months ahead, the fact remains that the realignment process will require work from me and only me.

Despite the break, I am still tired.


A social media influencer shows up in my feed, advocating for a slower start to the year. It’s still winter, she claims, and the world doesn’t come alive until spring, so we can do the same. Except I live in Australia, and it’s summer here, so pretty though the idea is, it doesn’t quite apply. 

I’d love it if it were winter.


I’ve set a spectacular writing goal for the first part of the year because I know if I don’t get it all out upfront, I never will (again). After all, it’s what I’ve done for the past four consecutive years (and the idea haunts me). I’ve made good progress so far, but now the end of January is looming, and I realise it was quite a lofty goal. And instead of just working on things, steadily building the word count, I get consumed by the notion of goals and word counts and racing to the end, and I wonder what I am even doing this for. I look at all the books in the op shops and remember when I did a tour of the local warehouse for City Mission with my year 9 and 10 students—the back room filled with piles and piles of discarded books. 

What did they do it for?


Lately, I’ve been picking up books from street libraries and the dollar section in the secondhand bookshops. Mainly Australian writers women - writers I’ve never heard of and can’t find much about online. It's probably because they wrote before the arc of social media. Now, every writer worth their salt needs a ‘platform’. There are workshops you can attend - ‘social media for writers’.

I honestly can’t think of anything worse.


I’ve set another goal - well, re-established an existing goal - to read the complete works of Anita Brookner. I’m lazy, though and haven’t actively been seeking out her books. But a dear friend is on the case and regularly sends me a photo of another Brookner she found in an op shop. She is a good egg, and I am grateful for her commitment.

Anita Brookner wrote twenty-nine books over her lifetime. She published her first book in her forties. On the surface, this slim piece of information makes me hopeful - and then I realise I’m only a couple of years away from my forties. What have I achieved? Or, more importantly, what am I achieving?

I’ve only read four of Brookner’s books. 


The Paris Review shares a post on social media from Amy Hempel. It reads: Some writers feel that when they write, there are people out there who just can’t wait to hear everything they have to say. But I go in with the opposite attitude, the expectation that they’re just dying to get away from me.

And I think, fuck, it’s me. 


Even though I’ve set myself a big writing goal and told myself not to worry about smaller writing projects, I get stuck in any way. Because creativity is generally a bit like this, I write two short stories and a couple of flash fiction pieces that have been on my mind for a while. I like them, and I know I’ll keep liking them until I engage in the editing process and decide they’re all trash. It doesn’t stop me from looking up potential competitions and thinking, wouldn’t that be nice?

I’m yet to figure out what it is that I think separates my writing from the writing of those I admire.

You know, the ones that win the competitions.


Now and then, I log into my Submittable account despite knowing everything has stayed the same because I would have received an email if it had changed. I check my data for last year. Thirty-three submissions in total. Twenty-two rejections. Two withdrawn pieces (because the publications took over three months to get back to me). Six acceptances. Three are still waiting for a reply. 

When the calendar ticks over to February, I’ll also withdraw those too.


I read about the concept of getting to one hundred rejections in a year, and I used to think this would be a fun little anti-perfection/productivity game to play. But then I realise one hundred rejections is a LOT. How do you even write that much work in a year to send out to be rejected? I know the same piece can be rejected multiple times, and I know the true objection is just to get so comfortable with the submitting and rejection processes you stop fearing it, but one hundred is … a lot

I’m not sure it’s necessary.


My husband is very particular about cleaning our dog’s water bowls every day after reading that they’re common places where bacteria can gather and cause gut issues for them. I find it very endearing that he does this.

Especially as I have to regularly remind him to clean his own water bottle. 


Another goal [but not really a goal, more a commitment] I have is to swim at least twice a week because I love the pleasant weight it gives my muscles and how it calms my mind. While the weather is good, I’m trying to ensure one of these swims takes place in a natural body of water. While I swim, I think about swimming and how far back I can trace my love of being in the pool. I have so many memories from primary school and swimming in the outdoor pool, freezing even in summer. For some reason, as kids, we always wanted everyone to know we’d been swimming, and one way we felt sure we could show this was by having wet hair. We had to wear tight, plastic swimming caps to keep our hair dry so we could return to class afterwards, but we’d bite or cut a small hole in them so the water could seep in. I’m still not sure why this was so important to us. But we were kids. It doesn’t have to make sense.

Despite how scary I find open bodies of water and the innate, natural fear of the unknown they spark in me, I am getting braver and better at jumping in.


I’m not overly emotional, and I rarely cry, but sometimes, when I’m walking the dogs, I think about everything happening in the world, and it sits so squarely in my chest I just can’t imagine how we all just bear it. Just keep living with it all while we write and clean water bowls and walk dogs and go swimming and make coffee and check Submittable accounts.

And my eyes burn.


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