Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015: It Was a Very Good Year

No doubt about it, 2015 has been one of the best years of my life. And as I usually do around this time of year, I like to look back and see what events or turning points made the previous twelve months so special. Not that it's always been easy to do so. Some years the best I could say was, "Well, I survived!" Other years have been so filled with goodness it was difficult to keep my list down to a manageable number. 

2015 definitely falls into this last category, with the top twelve being (and in no particular order):

1. My trip to Taiwan. I can't say enough about how much fun this trip was, or what it meant to me: Life-changing, to say the least. I wrote several blog posts about my trip, starting with my Taiwan Trip Diary, Days 1 and 2. For the holidays I recently was sent a link to this lovely little video about a group of young people traveling to many of the same Taiwanese sites I visited and I can't stop watching it. I hope you enjoy it too!

2. My trip to Portugal. I never really expected to travel to two countries in one year, but somehow I got there! Portugal couldn't have been more different from Taiwan, but in retrospect I find myself remembering the trip with an equal amount of fondness. In case you haven't seen them, my Portuguese blog posts start here.

3. Finding a new direction in my artwork. Until Taiwan, I pretty much was what you could call a major "dabbler." In other words, I rarely found an art supply I didn't want, or a technique I didn't want to explore and experiment with. I had enough materials and sketchbooks and papers and brushes to open a small store. My only goal seemed to be "do it all!" Now, eight months later, I have donated 90% of my "stuff" to the library and an art center for the disabled. I've been left with what really speaks to my heart: a small set of watercolors and my favorite pencils in graphite and pastel, as well as limited sets of colored and water-soluble pencils. Pencils and drawing seem to be "it" for me and where I want to stay. I also discovered that I resonate the strongest to an Asian-Expressionist style, something I never would have known had I not gone to Taiwan and "found my art-self."

4. Keeping a daily sketchbook habit. Another great benefit of traveling. I took sketchbooks with me to both travel destinations and now I can't go anywhere without one in my purse. A day without a sketch of something is a day lost to me, and I've come to love daily sketching as much as daily writing.

5. Blogging. I wasn't as frequent a blogger as I had hoped to be this year, with long gaps in between posts, and many of my posts being about travel rather than writing (which is really meant to be the focus of this blog . . .) but, hey, I hung in there! I did have fun writing my posts when I had the time to sit down and write them, and it has been a pleasure sharing my adventures with you all. Thank you everyone so very much for reading and being there for me. Next year I'll try to get back on track with more posts on writing and creativity (although I must say it's gone through my mind how much I'd enjoy being a dedicated travel blogger, too! Maybe sometime in the future??)

6. My wonderful groups: writers, artists, sketchers . . . I don't know what I would do without my inspiring and helpful groups. I have a schedule of five to six meetings a month with all of these talented people and I couldn't be more grateful. 

7. Reading Paul Scott's entire Jewel in the Crown series, including the sequel: Staying On. For some reason in January, I became obsessed with this series and had to read every single word--sometimes twice. It dominated every minute of my limited reading time to the exclusion of not reading very much else this year. The particular volume I bought had ALL of the books in one gigantic paperback that just about broke my wrists holding it upright, but I was glad I stuck with it. 

8. Beading at last, with lots of new beads from Taiwan and Portugal. Last Christmas I was gifted some professional-quality beading tools and this year I made good use of them, resulting in some new and original jewelry for myself and others. I've still got a lot to learn, but it sure helps to have the right tools and supplies.

9. Finishing my novel, The Abyssal Plain 101% to my satisfaction and submitting it. In many ways this was probably my most important achievement. I had hoped to have had the manuscript finished last year, but then kept seeing changes I wanted and/or needed to make every time I thought I was through with editing. Well, now I am finished and I've even sent it out to some agents. Let's see what happens!

10. Our first year in the new house we spent all of 2014 renovating. Can't believe I lived through this episode, but here we are with nothing left to paint, repair, or replace. The back yard is still a bit of a work-in-progress, but we're regarding that as a "hobby for fun and entertainment" rather than "We can't move in until (fill in the blank) is fixed/finished." It feels good to now only have routine housework on the to-d0 list, as opposed to things like "buy new doors."

11. Cleared out my bookshelves to an absolute minimum. In the same manner I de-cluttered my art supplies, I emptied my bookshelves down to the bone. They're now very bare, very lean, and hold only some pottery and the books I refer to again and again. Anything else I want to read comes from the library. 

12. Discovering that I want to concentrate on writing short stories. This has been a very new discovery, like only about a month ago. And it's also been a "homecoming." When I first decided I wanted to be a writer, many years ago, I wanted to write short stories. Then I learned two things: a) I tended to write very long pieces. In fact, they were so long they weren't short stories at all. They were novels.  And, b) print magazines were disappearing at a rapid rate with very little openings to publish short stories. 

A lot has changed since then. Not only has the Internet provided hundreds if not thousands of new opportunities for publishing short pieces, but I have reached a point in my life where I'm ready to be more succinct. It may have something to do with the fact that I have four more novels in first-draft mode ready for editing and rewriting and I'm in no mood to write a fifth.  Yet I don't want to stop writing altogether just because I have manuscripts to edit. Short stories feel like the perfect answer: a good way to keep my creativity flowing, and a good way to stay in touch with publishing while I continue to revise one novel at a time.

So that was my year in review. How about you? Any special highlights you'd like to share? Leave a comment! In the meantime, Merry Christmas and I'll see you next year. Stay warm!

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