We all have our mountains to climb, challenges in life that test our merit. Health challenges, family challenges, work challenges. Life throws you curves that you're not expecting. It's the way that it is.
Some challenges we accept head on, dive into with gusto, welcoming wholeheartedly. We see it as an opportunity, and it is our challenge to accept or decline. Like applying for a new job, taking on a new project, deciding to start a family, or move to a new city. They can be scary, but exciting opportunities, a chance to move our lives in a new direction. Some people see that opportunity and jump in with both feet and let life take its course. Others may consider it for a long time, research, weigh up the positives and negatives and consult family and friends before taking the plunge. Regardless, these type of challenges, although they may be stressful in many ways, are welcomed and taken on willingly.
Other challenges are thrust upon us without consent or prior knowledge of what may be coming. A major health crisis, bushfire, losing your job, family conflict. We deal with these as best as we can, with the skills that we have. We can prepare for the possibility to a certain extent. We can build up savings for a rainy day, eat well and exercise to maintain our health, put together a bushfire survival plan. But if and when that unexpected event occurs, everyone reacts in different ways. Some will face the challenge head on and keep moving forward. For others the path will be more bumpy, and for good reason, as there are frequently setbacks and unexpected hiccups along the way. These are the challenges that we face every day that are unwelcome, but push us to push ourselves.
I've faced both types of challenges in my life. I've taken on challenges, accepted opportunities - I wouldn't be here living in Australia if I hadn't. I've also let opportunities slip by me, scared to move forward, seeing the challenge as too much to handle, perhaps doubting my ability to do it. Or to do it well enough to satisfy myself. And I've dealth with death, family conflict, health issues, as we all have to do.
Some opportunities that I've accepted, however, have had that element of the unwanted challenge as well. The challenge of writing a novel, albeit a big challenge, was one I gladly accepted, and I broke it down into pieces, took it day by day, chapter by chapter, page by page and got it done. Having the opportunity to see that novel in print was a dream come true. What comes with it is something that doesn't come naturally to me, and I don't think I'm alone in this as a writer - publicity. Social media for one - it's been a learning curve, and I'm still pretty amateur, but I willingly took it on, and I get out there and do my best.
Public speaking is another, much bigger challenge. It's something I avoided in the past. In fact, I didn't even really like going to big events or parties where there would be lots of people I didn't know who I'd have to try to talk to (who am I kidding, I'm still not too keen on those). When weighing up the positives and negatives, this would have been in the negatives column of publication. But the prospect of having my book published far outweighted this negative. It wasn't something that was going to stop me from achieving my dream. So I took on the challenge. I went to events, I got to know people, I networked. I even joined a Toastmasters Club so that I could practice speaking to an audience. I practiced, and practiced some more.
Has it helped? Yes. Definitely. I have a couple of events coming up soon, and I can truthfully say I'm excited to be part of them. Have I become an outgoing, social butterfly? That's never going to happen. There are days when I'd still prefer to stay at home with my golden retriever and my cranky tabby cat and tap away at my story. But I no longer avoid public speaking. I've got to the point where it's now a challenge I will happily accept. I've done it, and I know I can do it again. Do I still get nervous? Of course. Shaking in my proverbial boots, so to speak. But I've found there's a kind of high that comes from talking to people about your passion, sharing your work and answering questions from people who are really interested in what you have to say. And that has become a new addition to the positives column.
It's a new year and a new start for many people in many differnt aspects of their lives. Some people start a new weight loss program, others vow to quit smoking, or promise themselves they will keep in better contact with their friends and family. Writers make writing goals - to finish a first draft, complete some edits or to send off a manuscript or two for submission.
I haven't consciously made any resolutions as such, but at the same time, I've found myself doing a major clean-out of my study, packing away last year's project, and getting everything fresh and ready for something new. And starting a new blog. It seemed a clean place to start.
Last year was a busy one in terms of my writing, finishing the edits on both a middle-grade novel (Oh Brother - Orca Book Publishers) and my first adult novel (Inheritance of Secrets - HarperCollins Australia). They'll both be released this year, which is very, very exciting. I really feel as if it's been a turning point in my writing skills as well. Working on Inheritance has taught me so much about structure and character development, and I am keen to get moving on my next project put those skills into further practice.
But is this the start of a new project? Not really. It's one that's been developing in my head for quite some time. I've done a fair bit of research on it already, and started the first draft as well. Hopefully it'll be full steam ahead now that I've cleared the space both on my desk and in my head for it.
What will 2020 bring? Two new books, for one, and hopefully a completed manuscript. Stepping into the world of book publicity as well, with two events already in the calendar, sharing some wonderful writerly conversation with friends in the business and whoever wants to come along and have a listen. And a new website. Well, sort-of new - it's another thing I've been tinkering away at for quite some time. If you're new to the site, you're getting the new version here and now. Return visitors will notice a big change. But the blog is the culmination of it, so perhaps a new start for the new year after all.
Happy New Year to all. May you be successful in whatever endeavours you set your mind to this year.