The first round-up of graphics for the THR newsletter in 2020 happens to round up the last graphics created for the newsletter in 2019. It’s almost as if I planned that. (I didn’t.)
I’ve been thinking about the idea of writing as discipline lately. I think it’s because I’m coming up on the year anniversary of posting three times a week on here, which feels at once an achievement and nothing at all, given how rambling and free-associating this can be. Nonetheless: a year. (Technically, it’ll be a year next week.)
I’m far enough away from the decision to be suspicious of any recollection of why I decided to write here more regularly, never mind on a thrice-weekly basis, but I know that part of it was a selfish desire to do something for me; writing that wasn’t work, wasn’t fulfilling an external brief or purpose. I didn’t have any intention at the time to even re-read what I’d written and posted — I still haven’t, for the most part — and I knew pretty clearly that no-one else was reading, either, so the point was the act of writing itself. Doing the thing.
(I know at least two people read now; thankfully, it’s my two favorite people in the world, so I don’t feel too self-conscious about the rambling. If there are others, don’t tell me.)
Despite the fact that I was only doing it for myself, I found myself surprisingly strict when it came to the structure of the thing; it was quickly obvious that three posts every week was very important to me for some inexplicable reason. Tradition? Superstition? Simply keeping a promise I made to myself? Whatever the reason, the idea of skipping posts was almost immediately anathema to me: there would be a post on Monday, a post on Wednesday, and a post on Friday no matter what.
And here I am, a year later, having done that, feeling quite pleased with myself. Even though, as I said, I don’t re-read what I’ve written and it might all be nonsense. (It probably is, let’s be honest.) Is it simply that I’ve kept up the routine, maintained the rhythm? Possibly, but that didn’t happen accidentally. There’s a sense of genuine achievement in knowing that I managed to be that self-disciplined all year, no matter all the everything else that was going on at the time, even if it was “just” this personal, private space. That I continued to make time for something just for me, after years of writing myself off or talking myself down.
It’s a good feeling, really.
I’m surprised just how quickly the year started. By Friday, it felt like we were already midway through the month even though the calendar told me it was just the third day. How did that happen?
Part of it, I’m sure, was the combination of having visitors throughout the holidays and also spending the last couple of weeks low level sick, with a cold that faded in and out depending on how little time relaxing I was allowing myself; they teamed up to just leave me run down and tired no matter how much sleep I was getting.
More of it, though, came from the fact that… well, the year just started quickly. I grew up with the Scottish holiday cycle, which ends with time off on January 1st and 2nd, if not a day or so after that as well. But here in the States, that kind of break is almost comically ludicrous, especially for a freelancer; I was back in front of my laptop by the morning of the second, and my workload was suddenly, somehow, overwhelming all over again.
(Part of that comes from one of my editors asking, out of the blue, if I could hand in a ~1000 word piece the very next day, adding, “Yeah, I thought I’d mentioned it before the break” in such a way that it was clear that they didn’t expect either of us to buy it. That was a fun Welcome Back present, let me tell you. Also a reminder that work in 2020 is going to be like work in 2019, but more so.)
And if January second seemed a lot, the third was even worse; on my second working day of the year, I produced about as much as one of my heavier days running up to the holidays, although a lot of that was future planning and things that wouldn’t be seen for awhile yet. The third was when everyone else had caught up with themselves and started emailing with questions and plans that needed a response immediately. It was a curiously exhausting, overwhelming day that left me glad that the weekend was around the corner, as if I hadn’t had time off two days earlier.
I like the old way of doing the holidays, with having an actual holiday from work being central to things. This brave new world leaves me craving time off, wondering how and why we push two days worth of work into one day of reality all the fucking time.