Saturday, 31 December 2016

Looking Back... Looking Forward

With less than nine hours to go before 2017 dawns, I suppose it is natural to want to reflect on the past year. It was an up and down year for me, or rather a down and up year.
The Sad
Having my mother pass away in January was definitely not the best way to start the year. It was hard, and to be honest, it still is. During the launch of JOURNEY earlier this month, I declined to read from my story, Galen's Hope, as I would normally do at such an event. While the story is about grief, it is not about my mother. The hard part was the reminder that I started writing it just before my mother passed away, so I always associate that story with her. To this day I still cry when I read it, making it impossible to read it out loud during the launch.
The New Year's Resolution
Linzé Brandon, self-portrait, art, pen and ink sketch
Self-portrait: pen and ink
But things were not always sad for me. I made a resolution (the first in many years, because I don't keep to them, duh!) to do more art. My resolution was to spend one weekend each month only doing some kind of art project. And I did! Trust me, I am surprised too. Upon reflection, I think the reason I kept to my resolution was to put a measurable goal to it - one weekend every month. There was no pressure to do this project or finish that project - the goal was to do art. To enjoy the creativity and the relaxation of the process.
The Bad
Like many people, I also wanted to lose weight. I was well on track until my mother died, and once the comfort food came out.... Well, needless to say, that resolution did not work out so well. The only good thing that I have to mention is that I didn't gain more than where I started from. Something to be grateful for.
But the weight loss effort has taken a turn from vanity to necessity. Yes, I am overweight, but I have never been one to fuss about the way I look. Until I was put on medication for high blood pressure on top of having an ulcer. I had to rethink the way I live my life and deal with the extreme stress that comes from my job. More about that a little later.
The Achievements
Linzé Brandon, book cover, print book, Negotiating the Maze, non-fiction
On the writing front, I managed to finish several first drafts and publish two books: Negotiating the Maze and JOURNEY. I also let myself down with the final editing and publication of my fourth novel, Waiting for Adrian. I am however not stressing too much right now, as it will just be the first book to finish in the new year. This book has been a particular struggle for me, but after the cover design was finished, things started to look much brighter.
Those drafts I mentioned were part of the 232k words that I wrote this year. At an average of 635 words per day, it wasn't my best year, but then again it wasn't my worst year either. I joined a Facebook group where we set ourselves a target for the year and then are held accountable to achieve that. I set myself a goal of 750 words per day for 2017, amounting to 273k words for the year. More about that later.
The Surprise
As a writer, I also love to read. I finished my 80th book of the year yesterday. If you take into account the fact that I don't read during April, July, and November (for obvious reasons) it comes down to reading two books per week for the remaining 40 weeks of the year. Trust me, I was surprised at the number since I don't have a reading target. Never have. Probably never will, since it is the one activity that I can never get enough of.
I still have a few books (mostly non-fiction) that I haven't finished yet, but that's okay, they will be on next year's list.
The Challenge
If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am a student of Tai Chi Quan and have been for the past two years. I am presently learning the 40 forms, and while doing my daily practice, I came to the realisation that I am already on my way towards my goal for 2017: to live in balance.
The New Year...2017
I will be blogging about my journey to bring my life into balance: health, work, writing, and art. Creativity has always been a major element in the way I define myself as a human being. But to keep myself accountable, I am going to tackle this journey in public. For that, you need to know what my goals are and for my journey to be a success, I need to report on my progress - not for you, but for me.
So I am taking a deep breath, and making a list of what I aim to achieve to bring my life into balance in 2017.
Here we go:
  1. I need to get my weight down from 127kg (weighed myself yesterday morning) to 100kg. It is approximately 2kg per month and not an unreasonable target. Trying to lose weight faster will mess with my blood sugar which I have to keep a close eye on for various reasons.
  2. Secondary target to the above is to get off my high blood pressure meds.
  3. I mentioned my word count target for 2017 - 273k words. Very easy to measure, although sometimes tough to keep up.
  4. I have five books on my list for publication, which include two full-length novels.
    They are:
    • Waiting for Adrian (4th book in the Nations of Peace series),
    • We, the One (a standalone novel),
    • Richard's Choice (the second story of the Last Gryphon trilogy),
    • Breathe (the fifth book in the Third Gender series), and
    • Galen's Destiny (the third story of the Last Gryphon trilogy).
    Having so many is a challenge, but three of the five are in the final stages of editing, while the first drafts on other two are almost complete. I drew up a project plan, and I will divulge more details soon.
  5. My resolution to do more art still stands, and I plan to continue to dedicate one weekend every month to draw, sketch or paint. My present painting project turned out to be more work than I anticipated (and that is not a bad thing) but if I work at it as planned, I will be able to finish it in three or four months. I have many ideas and more things to learn and cannot wait to get working on that.
  6. Master at least 20 of the 40 forms in Tai Chi with daily practice. This martial art has opened my eyes to the joy of movement and the focus associated with meditation. I cannot attend a live class, but the video course is a very close second choice. As someone who dislikes exercise, I find this martial art to be the perfect alternative for me. And after having stiff muscles for two days after my second video lesson, I can safely say that it is exercise!
  7. The last on my list does not have a target. Reading. All I can say is that I will read as much as I can. It will never be a goal to read a certain number of books each year. Why bother to set a goal for something that I love so much?
I do not have a single word for next year, as many people say you should have, but that's okay - for me it will be to Live In Balance in 2017.
So join me, and share with me, an amazing new year.
Happy 2017!