Looking back at 2019.

2019 was… well, it was exhausting and awful and the world is on fire—literally and metaphorically—and I’m glad it’s over, even though I’m not wildly optimistic that things are going to get better any time soon. (American voters: prove me wrong! Also, register to vote, and make sure you’re still registered every month or so between now and November. Please.) 

But personally… it was the best year I’ve had since… I can’t remember when. I took some good photos—not as many as I would have hoped—and wrote some stuff I’m proud of. I (finally!) finished The Black Sun, and mustered up the courage to start querying agents. I saw some real progress on my fitness goals (which I don’t talk about a lot here, but it was a good year). I started figuring out how to actually do stuff with my time, rather than trying a bunch of productivity hacks that never quite gelled. 

And, of course, there are the goals I committed to in January:

Actively seek out inspiration.

In 2019, I watched a total of 48 movies (38 of which were new-to-me), and read about 52 books (technically more, because there were a few series that I barrelled through in a weekend, and I’m counting them as single books. And there were a few that were just so lightweight that I didn’t even put them on my list). Most of the books and movies I consumed this year were genuinely inspiring; they weren’t all good, and I did have a few weeks here and there where I gravitated toward fun-and-disposable, rather than media that I can learn from, but overall… it was a good year.

Finding photographic inspiration hasn’t been quite as easy, but nothing photography-related has been easy for me this year. (But I have a plan! I’ll be going into more detail on that in my 2020 post.) That’s obviously a me problem—I didn’t actively look for it as much as I could’ve. But part of that is that… I just don’t know where to look, other than social media (again, more on that in a few days), or galleries (which I don’t visit as much as I could, admittedly). If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.

I’m going to call this a success, but a conditional one. I did well, but I want to do better going forward, and I know that it’s something I’m going to have to keep thinking about in the new year. It’s a process, rather than a destination.

Cultivate a creative hobby that isn’t writing or photography.

This… didn’t go exactly as planned. I got bored with drawing/lettering almost instantly—which is fine. They’re both things I’d like to do, but maybe not enough to actually put in the effort to get good. 

I went back and forth with sewing. I did make some stuff (nothing complicated, but at least it wasn’t just hemming curtains), but I got bogged down in the more complex projects I wanted to make. Mostly because I don’t have a dedicated space for sewing—I can’t leave the machine set up full-time, and I have to find a way to store in-progress projects so they’re easily accessible but also safe from the cat. (Also: it’s been a long time since I tackled a complicated sewing project, and some skills are rusty… which turned to frustration, because I kept running up against things that just didn’t work, even though knew I was able to do them in the past.)

So my original ideas for a potential creative hobby were a bust. But then I stumbled onto one, completely out of the blue: I’ve been learning the tarot.

Here’s the thing: I personally tend toward skepticism when it comes to this sort of thing: tarot, astrology, magic, et cetera. But I’ve always been interested in them, in a casual sort of way, and I think they’re all incredibly valuable tools, for both self-reflection and creativity. I like symbolism and archetypes and so much of it is so pretty—there are so many beautiful tarot decks out there, and I’m thrilled to have an excuse to buy some of them. It’s a fantastic way to support independent artists. 

Tarot in particular is turning out to be a good centring exercise in the mornings, one that works for me in a way that meditation never really has. My interpretation of the cards helps me figure out what I’m preoccupied with on any given day—consciously or subconsciously—and that’s gone a long way to helping me find the focus I need. (When I was finishing up work on TBS and beginning the query process, my daily draws almost all hinted at creativity and career, and I drew the Fool—new beginnings—for the very first time ever on New Year’s Day. Coincidence? Probably, but as a very wise man once said: “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don’t trust coincidences.”)

(And I’m really looking forward to using it in my writing. I’m not quite there yet—I’m still finding my way in—but that was what finally pushed me to take the plunge.)

So, yeah: this goal was a success, in a very surprising way.

For the last few years, I’ve started the year with a watchword, or a theme for the year, and I’m always a bit surprised at how apt they turn out to be, even when I don’t think of them as much as I should, or when I have to go back in December and look up what the year’s watchword actually was.

As it turns out, my watchword for 2019 was ‘growth,’ and that seems appropriate. It wasn’t a year of big leaps forward, or big announcements (despite my best intentions). There was progress, but it was slow, incremental—the kind of thing that’s going to pay off in the future. It was a year for getting ready for what comes next.

It’s gonna be good.