A year of specificity, challenges and getting personal.
It’s always important to me that I keep finding ways to grow as a person and as a writer. There is this need to keep things fresh and not let them go stale, but one must do this without sacrificing one’s core values and ethos. Fate can be a fickle mistress when venturing out into the unknown, but we must hold onto hope, for it is a good thing…maybe the best of things.
I’ve highlighted three words that will form the backbone of my writing for 2024. They are “specific”, “challenge” and “personal”. Why these three? Well, if you’ve been following my writing you’ll know I have a tendency to make broad and generalising points that are universally applicable. Now, while these are still important, I have made it a point this year to get (more) specific, to narrow in on the detail or particular circumstance, perspective or person. One can still be direct and precise without losing their openness. I feel I’m up for this challenge.
Speaking of challenges – and while I like to think I challenge myself every year – I feel I need to challenge myself intellectually (amongst other things) because you don’t really learn anything from arguments you win, and it’s possible I’ve gotten too comfortable in what I know and understand. As my mentor, Professor Michael Sugrue (who sadly passed away recently), said to me “steel sharpens steel”; you have to be willing to engage in the dialectic process and not take it personally along with fielding criticisms and questions from people you disagree with. It’s not about picking fights/starting conflict/deliberately instigating or being combative…or at least I don’t see it that way. It’s more along the lines of how did I set myself up for that? Why couldn’t I handle this alternative argument? My challenge is not about just doing more stuff or more of the same. It’s as much a challenge to me personally as anything else.
Gradually, year by year, I’ve been introducing personal bits of me into my writing, in part as opening myself up to the world as well as…well, you guessed it, make my writing more personal, relatable and emotive. Now, there’s a difference between oversharing one’s private life online (which I’m not a fan of) and utilising it to connect with like minds and hearts. Sharing life experiences comes with it an inherent vulnerability. This year I’ll do a better job at writing about things personal to me, be it aspects of my own life or things of interest that may not necessarily have mass appeal and benefit. This decision comes with it an inherent risk, but one I feel I must make in order to continue to grow as a person and a writer.
I know I have a habit of only talking about serious subjects, but I intend to illustrate more of my comedic side into my writing. This is not to downplay the nature of the topics I discuss, but to bring a sense of joy and laughter with moments of levity, along with the fact that it’s one of my underutilised strengths. It’s important to laugh and see the funny side of life especially against the hardships it throws us.
My love of beauty and art is unwavering in spite of modern man’s attempt to render both concepts as irrelevant. I will attempt to bring more beauty and art to my work this year by way of photography (real and virtual). I’m certainly not an expert behind the lens, but the aim is to share in the beauty of this world, living and non-living, and the realisation that we don’t always have to go far to experience it. Beauty and art is as much looking inward as it is outward, perhaps more so, and we have moments where the two worlds appear as one seamless joyous experience.
I know it might seem like a terrible cliché, but does anyone remember when the world was fun and optimism was in the air? Now, I’m going to shoot down quickly anyone who dismisses this as nothing more than mere rose-coloured glasses nostalgia – because it isn’t – it’s much deeper than that. I do my best to try and not succumb to such feelings, but I’m still only human, living in the same time as you all. People throw the term “oxygen thieves” around, but I think I’ve found something worse: joy thieves. So, I’m going to do my best to facilitate the experiences of joy against the constant stream of negativity and misery plaguing our society. This, however, will not be achieved through hypocrisy, ignorance, naivety or blind stupidity.
People seem to get confused and think they have to move mountains in order to enact change or to achieve a desired outcome, but a lot of the time it’s small, daily changes that end up having the greatest impact. Think of it another way, it’s why so many people think they need a post-holiday holiday, it’s really a cry out for an overhaul of their daily/weekly routines. Help you help yourself and control what you can control. I find many people are aiming downwards and placing too much of their agency in other people’s hands – sometimes without conscious thought (which is why I always preach and try to make the unconscious conscious – there’s a lot going on in there that can help us, we just have to want to look which can require some courage).
“Get busy living or get busy dying” is more than just some feel-good motivational tagline or throwaway quote from a movie, there’s so much out there trying to rob us of our life energy, joy and will to live that it is easy to become overwhelmed by the death and decay of our spirits and souls and have it consume us. I will not let the darkness spread like Agent Smith through the matrix. I might not be “The One”, but I will provide sincerity amongst the sycophants and hope amongst the haters. We wrestle, we struggle, but we keep finding something to fight for.