Two years ago I set myself a challenge – a year of submissions. It was a pretty successful year for me. I went from totally clueless about writing to being published. I learned a lot about creative work, any work in fact, about what I call the law of creative statistics (keep doing enough of something some of it will have to be good even if a lot of it is shit – it’s impossible for it all to be shit trust me, some mud sticks). Fast forward to this time last year (or backwards – get your Marty Mcfly hats on for this post people!) and in my infinite wisdom I decided year two would be a year of competitions. In my naivety I imagined that I would be able to replicate the same success as I had experienced with my submissions. And in a way I was right, my best guess is if you did nothing but send of to competitions every week eventually would would win one of them. But I hadn’t factored in a complete creative breakdown into my plans and, if you are in any doubt, those things tend to get in the way. So I knew that next year I had to set myself a different kind of goal. A soul goal if you like (which I do, because it rhymes and I am very easily pleased).Утепление крыши деревянного дома
So the year in review. What went well?
* I started a local you theatre, on my own, from scratch. It’s grown from a junior class with seven students and a senior class with just two to five sessions a week – a junior, junior plus, intermediate, senior and ensemble session each week. There have been two holiday sessions where groups have devised a performance in a week. I supported one student with auditions for drama school (I seem to do at least one of these a year!) and she was accepted on the spot (has happened to me twice) and my most lovely seniors are gearing up for NT Connections which will be performed at Dundee Rep.
* I had my first (and only) script accepted for a scratch night in Aberdeen.
* I managed to establish a (more or less) daily yoga practice after two years of not managing to sustain physical activity since being ill. I’ve built it up from a measly five minutes to about 30.
* In the last quarter of the year I started to feel some real improvements in my health. Proper pain free periods and my anxiety started to get reign itself in. I also learned that I can do more than I think I can, if you’d told me 12 months ago that by the end of the year I would have given up alcohol, gluten, dairy and sugar I would have cried, I certainly wouldn’t have believed that I a) could do it b) actually wouldn’t mind that much.
* I won a bursary to spend two weeks on a theatre making course at Leeds Becket University.
* I did a lot of voluntary work at my son’s school. This was a nice way of feeling I was giving something back to the community and the kids at my son’s school are brilliant.
*After two years of nagging I finally convinced my son’s school to bring in a professional theatre company who performed for the upper school. They were so impressed that they let me arrange another one for February for the lower school. This means that by the end of the academic year every child in the school will have seen one piece of quality theatre. This feels like a good thing to have helped make happen.
* And easily the best thing I did this year, possibly the best thing I have done in my life, I went to France for a week to train with Duende on a physical ensemble improvisation residency.
What did not go so well.
* The first quarter of the year was pretty ugly in terms of my mental health. Horrible anxiety that was tipping towards depression. I couldn’t write much, certainly couldn’t submit. Which leads me to the second thing.
* My writing practice was a disaster this year. I went from a daily practice to not writing at all. I lost confidence in my self in this department. I felt disconnected from it and that in turn disconnected me from some of my friends a bit. Which did not help with the first item on this list!
* I failed to get an MA course lined up for August. I really wanted to study this year. I applied for a couple, one I didn’t get on which was a real blow to my confidence (I will admit that I did a big cry!) and the other one just randomly ceased to exist after I applied for it. I assume cuts. So no MA for me this year. It’s a source of ongoing frustration.
* Money has been an issue. The youth theatre is not paying (yet – I hope it will in time) and I will insist on popping off on courses all the time. I am at a loss as to what I can do that will allow me to make some money without totally destroying my mental health (I’m looking at you teaching) in the process. Answers on a postcard please.
So that’s 2015. Now for 2016. Initially I wanted my title for this post to be a year of practice. What I want is to re-establish my writing practice, keep up with some kind of theatre practice through the youth theatre and develop my yoga practice up to an hour a day. Finally, and this is something I’ve been trying to do for a few years now and know I really need, I want to create some kind of mediation or mindfulness practice.
But then I realised I couldn’t give it that title. Or rather I could but that it wasn’t what I really wanted or needed. A year of practice would just be another way for me to set up a whole list of things that I need to do in my day for me to feel like am an acceptable person. And of course you can’t manage these things all of the time so the day where I don’t write/mediate/do yoga etc I’d be on a fast track to feeling shitty. So I had to rethink and a year of connection was my answer.
In 2016 I want to find ways to stay connected. I don’t have a good way of explaining what I mean by that but I know there are things that make me feel connected (writing, yoga, making theatre) and things that don’t (feeling like there is a list of things I have to check off each day or else, constantly pushing myself to create some kind of external success whatever that means, any kind of stress). So yes I want to write, do yoga, make theatre etc but first of all I want to make sure I am connected, grounded, happy and calm. That first before all else.
Each day next year I want to ask myself how I can be happy, right here, right now, regardless of what I might or might not be achieving on the outside. I want stress to be public enemy number one, it makes you sick and yet we tolerate it all the time, I want it gone. I want to be present in my life, not always worrying about what I have or have not managed to get done. Life is not a big list to be ticked off, it’s more of a blank colouring book. This year I want to get the paints out and not worry about results so much, let myself play and be more and stop trying to think my way to happiness.
So here’s to 2016, may your year be full of colour, creativity and connection.