Ways To Beat January Gloom

I’ve always hated January. To me, it’s the Monday morning of all the months. And that first Monday back to work and school in January has always been something I’ve dreaded. I love the festive period and it always seems to arrive just when we need it most. The Autumn has stretched into Winter, Summer seems like it never happened, and the days are short, dark and cold. We are all tired and grumpy and need a break and Christmas arrives just in time to provide just that. This Christmas was just how I wanted it. My eldest came back from University (the first time we have seen her since September!) and I had two weeks off from all my writing clubs. I made sure everything was ticked off my endless to-do-list just before school broke up, and that meant I could totally relax over the two week holiday. It was everything I hoped it would be. Slow, lazy, snuggly and warm. We shared lazy days lounging around, snuggling under blankets or drinking hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. We had the most beautiful Christmas tree and by Christmas Eve, there was an exciting mountain of gifts piled up under it. It all went smoothly, including the dinner with my mum, and visiting various relatives. But at the back of my mind was always the grumbling dread that January was on its way.

It’s just such a bleak and depressing month. Spring feels a million miles away, Summer a distant dream. There is little to look forward to apart from dark mornings and worsening weather. I always get that intense ‘back-to-school’ feeling towards the end of December. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I am very fortunate to have a writing-related job and I come out of each of my writing clubs smiling, because it really is a joy. But life is pretty hectic and enjoying a break is something I am loathe to say goodbye to. Our normal lives consist of so much driving around in order to get everyone to their job, school or college, and then picked up again, not to mention other activities such as Beavers. Monday to Wednesday is crazy with no time to breathe, but I am lucky enough to have Thursdays and Fridays free. It gives me two days to catch up on all the admin and preparation that goes with my job and maybe fit in some gardening or writing if I am really organised!

This year, I decided to try and pre-empt my usual January depression. I don’t like wishing time away and I hate the feeling that everything is flat and bleak. I decided to rail against it and started thinking of ways I could enter January with a more positive mind-set. It’s not been easy but here is a list of the things I am trying to focus on to get through this Monday of a month!

Image by Moni Mckein from Pixabay
  • Plan my goals for 2022 – I do this every year and it really helps me feel a bit more excited about January. I write a list of ten writing and non-writing related goals and then at the end of the year I read them again and write another post about how the reality panned out. It’s quite exciting to get them written down and gives me a kick up the backside to get going!
  • Sort out my seed tin – Another little thing that just cheers me up once the Christmas tree has come down. I sort out my seed tin, add any new packets, label envelopes and so on. It reminds me that I can start planting a few things now and that always cheers me up!
  • Start planting what I can – so far I have planted garlic, leeks and onions. There is plenty more to do and I will try and get a bit done throughout the month. This always feels like quiet rebellion. Sod you, January, I am making plans for Summer! It gives me hope to plant new things. It makes me smile.
  • Tidy up the vegetable patch – It gets a bit neglected in the winter months, but I made myself go out there the other day and I was surprised that so much is still going. I picked some onions, leeks and spring onions and noticed kale, carrots and cabbages all still thriving! I was quite delighted to realise I had kept the patch going through the winter! I weeded a fair bit and tidied up, but there is plenty more to do and I aim to get out there as much as I can this month.
  • Embrace the beauty of Winter – I don’t hate Winter, I just hate January. So I try to remind myself how lucky I am to experience the change of seasons. I enjoy watching the same landscapes alter throughout the year and right now everything is cold, hard and coated in sparkling frost. The birds are singing though and daffodils are pushing up through the frozen ground. Even the bare trees have a certain stark beauty at this time of year. I just need to remind myself to appreciate it before it all changes and softens for Spring.
  • Embrace the slower rhythm of short, dark days – Everyone loves the summer with its long, hazy days and the added freedom this brings. Winter forces us all inside and its dark when we wake up and dark before dinner time. In the summer, we run around more, we pack more in, we go out more and have trips and activities. There is less of this in the Winter but that’s not a bad thing. I’m going to enjoy the slower pace, curl up under a blanket and read more books. I’ve devoured so many over Christmas, it’s been wonderful. Winter is a time for hunkering down, keeping warm and slowing down.
  • Book a holiday – We last had a family holiday in October 2020. It was a holiday postponed from April 2020 when we were in lockdown. We had hoped to book something else for the summer or even for the October of 2021, but prices were sky high! Instead, we filled our summer with free and cheap days out. However, prices for the kind of holidays we can afford (Haven caravan parks around the UK!) have gone down again and as we received some money for Christmas, we decided to book something for the summer holiday. The very last week in August, which feels like an eternity away, but it will soon be here. I booked it just a few days after Christmas and it really cheered me up.
  • Nature watching – me and my youngest are quite into bird watching lately. I’m glad he shares my joy when we spot something unusual or observe the playful habits of native birds. We also look out for deer, foxes, weasels, stoats and herons and are lucky enough to see most each week where we live. It reminds me that life goes on, and January is just a word I really shouldn’t give much power to!
  • Plan for next Christmas – This is something that cheers me up too. I normally start my Christmas shopping in January. I start a new list in my Christmas notepad and write down everyone’s names and start thinking about next year. I’ll pick up odd things or order something if I get a good idea and it keeps me smiling.

After all that, I really do feel better about facing January. There is lots to look forward to and before I know it, it will soon be February!

How do you feel about January? Is it a month you dread or welcome? What do you do to cheer yourself up when Christmas is over and Summer is so far away? Feel free to comment and share!

My 2022 Goals

It’s time to set my goals for the year ahead! This is a little tradition for me now, with me setting out goals in January of each year and then analysing the reality of them each December. I set myself ten goals last year and achieved eight, so that’s going to be tough to beat! But here we go, my goals for the year ahead.

  1. Publish my new short story and poetry collection: The Old Friend and Other Stories and Poems. This book is ready to go! I am just waiting for the front cover to be finalised and once that’s done I will choose a date and organise a two month launch plan. Totally doable!
  2. Do a rewrite of The Day The Earth Turned Series. All four books are finished and at the same fourth draft stage. I am now going back to the start to rewrite them all, one by one. I have new chapters to add, some characters to develop further and I am planning to try changing the tense to present. I think this will give it the extra kick it needs, but we will see! This will be a time consuming goal but one I really must prioritise.
  3. Finalise book one of the Fortune’s Well series I’ve co-written with Sim Sansford. By finalise I mean finish our final edits, send to the proofreader, contact designer for a front cover, make the final, final edits and plan a launch.
  4. Continue to write chapters for the spin-off book to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. The spin-off idea arrived a few years back and a year ago I couldn’t resist making notes for it, which soon evolved into chapters. I wrote these up a few months ago and continued writing up to chapter 22. I have to prioritise The Day The earth Turned and the Fortune’s Well series this year as they are both finished and ready to polish up and publish, but I always need to be writing something fresh and new too so this is the one I will work on when I can. It has a working title of At Night They Played In The Road.
  5. Continue to add to all my other book ideas. I need to add my zombie apocalypse idea to my upcoming books page. I have almost filled a notepad with longhand entries to this diary style book but I haven’t written any in a few weeks now. I will continue to carry it around and add to it when I feel the urge. There are two other writing projects I need to add to the upcoming books page. One is another YA series, this time with a supernatural theme and one is an adult family mystery. It will be many years before I get to either but I must continue to make notes when I get ideas!
  6. Be more active. During the lockdowns I was very active in my garden and just in general but whenever things went back to normal I fell back into the trap of being tired from work and not keeping up outdoor activities. I really want to get stronger and fitter again in 2022 so I aim to be outside as much as I can. I have even ordered a campfire tripod and dutch oven so we can try cooking outside more often. I just want to be as active and outdoorsy as I possibly can!
  7. Do better in the veg plot. I didn’t do too badly last year but every year I hope to improve so this has to go on the list again. I got a voucher for Xmas from my sister for plant plugs and have ordered a lovely selection to start me off on the right track. My mother-in-law also bought me a huge bag of vegetable and herb seeds, as well as wooden labels, bee bombs and bird food. I am so excited and can’t wait to get stuck into gardening again!
  8. Launch a second community writing project with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. In 2021 we finally released our first anthology – Stay Home: A Year of Writing Through Lockdown. The anthology is a mixture of personal essays, short stories and poetry on the lockdown experience. Sales have been good and are helping to fund our next project – The World You Gave Us. We hope to collect essays, short stories and poetry from young writers only this time and eventually publish another anthology.
  9. Get better at marketing my books. Haha, this one is always up there! I will endeavour to try harder though! I have been getting better at blogging regularly and posting on social media. It’s my newsletter I need to get more consistent with and getting reviews!
  10. Be happy, don’t worry! I intend to be as happy as I can be. I aim to strive to always see the positive. I will try as hard as I can to leave the world better than I found it, be aware and informed, but not allow myself to become drenched in cynicism or dragged down by useless worrying. I must remind myself daily that I only have one short life and it’s up to me what I do with it. I must remind myself that worrying never achieves anything, that most people are good and the world is worth saving. I will continue to do whatever I can to give back to nature and do whatever I can to keep a smile on my face.

So, that’s it, my goals for the year ahead. Let’s hope it’s a good one. Let’s hope we see some positive changes, some hope, some kindness. Let’s hope things get better out there, not worse! Are you setting any goals for the year ahead? Feel free to comment and share! Thank you for following my blog and reading my posts. Its means a lot to me to know you are there. I wish all of you a very happy New Year!

My 2021 Goals

It’s that time of year again! And the scariest thing is how fast it comes back around…I swear the years are going faster and faster.

Anyway, before I start dwelling too long on my imminent slide into old age and death, here are my goals for 2021! And if you missed my recap of 2020, you can find out here https://chantelleatkins.com/2020/12/10/my-2020-goals-vs-the-reality/ how I got on with the goals I set myself at the end of 2019.

  1. Do even better in the vegetable plot – Improving how much food we grow ourselves was top of my list of goals last year and it is again for 2021. There are so many reasons why this is important to me but I think the main reason is mental health. Gardening absolutely saved my sanity during the first lockdown and home-schooling. It’s addictive. It burns more calories than just about any other exercise and getting dirty is good for you physically and mentally. I could go on and on about how amazing it makes me feel to spend time in the garden, but I think you probably get it. Towards the end of this season I extended the plot and I am still popping in there whenever I can to keep on top of weeds and to add mulch and manure. I cannot wait to start sowing again!
  2. Publish the next two books in the Holds End Trilogy – This should happen. Emily’s Baby and The Search For Summer are both good and ready to go. They need formatting for ebook and paperback, they need their back cover blurbs finalised and they need front covers. All these things are in motion and I hope to release them early next year, possibly February and March.
  3. Revamp and re-release Bird People and Other Stories – This little short story collection needs a makeover. I have already contacted my designer about revamping the front cover and my proofreader is going to go over all the stories after I have. This shouldn’t take long and I hope to re-release it in April.
  4. Finish and release my short story and poetry collection The Old Friend and Other Strange Tales and Poems (working title!!)– This collection just keeps growing and growing but at some point I need to call time on it and get it out there! I will get the same designer to do the cover so that it compliments Bird People and of course there will be several rounds of edits and proofreads before it is ready, so I hope to release it towards the end of the Summer, perhaps July or August.
  5. Start the second draft to my current WIP The Day The Earth Turned- Book One – I am very close to finishing the first draft and really hope to have it done by the end of 2020…so the next step for this one would be a second draft. I was tempted to dive straight into writing book two, but as this is such a complex and challenging book to write (more on that another time!) I now feel going back over Book One would be beneficial before I start Book Two. There are already bits I want to change, for example.
  6. Move things forward with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – now that I have a creative partner, I am really excited about the CIC changing and growing in 2021. We have some exciting plans in motion which we will talk about very soon. Lots and lots of things in the pipeline – so I really hope that after the disaster of 2020 where thanks to Covid I barely earned a thing, I can finally start to see the hard work pay off in 2021.
  7. Carry on writing the screenplay version of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – this is a project I recently started and it’s not a priority. It can’t be, with all the other things going on! But if I have a spare moment in the week, I do enjoy getting back to this. It’s really challenging and fun turning a book into a screenplay and of course, it would be my absolute dream come true to see the series turned into a TV series.
  8. Get better at promoting my books! – I have been shockingly bad at this in 2020. Sometimes I go weeks or even months without so much as tweeting a link. I really need to come up with a plan and stick to it. I think I will get a separate notebook just for promotional activities and ideas and make a load of lists to tick off. This should motivate me a bit more and keep me on track.
  9. Keep adding notes to other book ideas… – I was tempted to add ‘finishing some almost ready books’ to this goals list but I think I would be setting myself up to fail. I got over half way through a first draft of the sequel to The Mess Of Me recently but then decided The Day The Earth Turned had waited long enough and I wouldn’t let The Mess Of Us jump the queue….In 2019 I wrote the first draft of a YA novel with the working title We Hate The Cool Kids. I would also love to tackle a second draft of this but again, it will have to wait. And then there is the spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series…in the fifth book I introduced two characters called Alfie and Tom. They took on a life of their own and I started to plan a spin-off book for them. I’ve actually written fourteen chapters of it in a very small notebook and they are always in my head! But no, no, no, The Day The Earth Turned series and my two collections will take priority in 2021! I have to draw a line somewhere! I will, however, keep adding notes to these books whenever I think of something. They are all very much alive and crowding my head and their time will come.
  10. Continue to Practice Self-Care – it wasn’t until the perimenopause set in last year, followed by Covid 19, that I realised how bad I am at looking after myself. I’m talking about really small, simple things – the small pleasures that calm you down and make you smile, like long baths with a good book and a drink of wine! I started making more of an effort in 2020 and I will carry this on. I will insist on time for myself in this busy, hectic life and I will make sure I get it.

So, that’s my list of goals set for the year ahead. I do hope 2021 is a better year for everyone. We can only hope! Are you setting yourself any goals for the next year? Please feel free to comment and share!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

My 2020 Goals

It’s become a tradition for me to write down my writing goals for the year ahead and then at the end of that year, to compare the goals to the reality. Last week I examined the writing goals I set myself at the start of 2019 to see how well I had done. You can read the results here;https://chantelleatkins.com/2019/12/20/my-2019-writing-goals-vs-the-reality/

So, this is my post for 2020 setting out what I hope to achieve. You might notice the word ‘writing’ is missing from the title, and that is because this time, my goals are not all writing or work related. Other things are just as important, sometimes more so. My list is a little different this time around because my life is a little different and because I feel a lot different. I have blogged about the perimenopause and how it’s affecting me here and I am sure I will blog about it again, as it’s dominating my life so much at the moment. I’m not going to go into it too much now but I will say that my goals this year are different because of it.

  1. Achieve a successful, well-stocked, functional vegetable garden! Okay, might sound strange, but this is linked to my current state of mind. Being outside, doing dirty, outdoorsy things in the fresh air, especially things that have a positive impact are very, very good for me right now. The best thing I can do when I feel down is get outside. I’ve had a vegetable patch since we moved here ten years ago. Over the years it had got bigger and better and some years I have been very successful with daily harvests in the summer months and it has been great. The last few years have been a lot less productive for various reasons, but this year it’s my top goal. Weird I know, but more than any writing or work related goal, this is what I want to achieve the most. I’m not sure why other than that I know it does me good to be outside, I know I can do it because I’ve done it before and it might be a wise move what with all the Brexshit uncertainty! It just seems really important for some reason. I will be starting in January. Making plans and buying seeds and starting some off and weeding. I can’t wait. This really is going to be my top priority.
  2. Learn to play the guitar! Another goal not related to writing or work! But another one that suddenly feels very important. Perhaps because I’m increasingly aware of life passing me by, of running out of time and chances. Perhaps because I have always wanted to try. Perhaps because I so admire anyone that can play an instrument. Perhaps because my characters in the Holds End trilogy are playing instruments and writing their own music and it would also be research? Perhaps because my daughter has agreed to teach me and it will be a good thing to do together. I don’t know why. I just know it’s important and I am really excited about trying it.
  3. Release Emily’s Baby in the Spring – Doable. Emily’s Baby is the follow-up to A Song For Bill Robinson, the second book in the Holds End trilogy. It’s having a final round with beta readers at the moment and will have another few rounds of edits/proofreads with me after that but I anticipate a Spring release, perhaps April.
  4. Finish The Search For Summer – Doable. I am currently writing the first draft of this in a notebook and I’m three quarters through. It’s going well. I should easily finish the first draft by early 2020 and will then start the next million drafts and aim to release it towards end of 2020 or perhaps the start of 2021.
  5. Finish Parts Five and Six of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side – These books are currently at draft number four. Next will be a read through on my Kindle, followed by another edit, and then it’s beta reader time. I’d like to think I will release them in 2020 but I think that’s too ambitious so I will just aim to finish them and be happy with them and plan a 2021 release for both books at the same time. It might be wise to finish the Holds End series first and get that promoted and then turn my attention back to this one.
  6. Finish the first draft of the YA series I was working on… – This refers to the post-apocalyptic YA series I started some time ago. The first draft was going very well for the first in a four book series but it got side-lined by The Boy series and the Holds End series…I hope to at least finish the first draft of book one in 2020.
  7. Do a second draft of YA novel We Hate The cool Kids – This was a book that jumped the queue in 2019. I wrote the first draft in a notebook pretty quickly but the ending troubled me. I don’t have any immediate plans to release this but I do think aiming for a second draft and a tied up ending would be good for 2020 depending on how things go.
  8. Continue working hard with Chasing Driftwood Writing Group – No specific goals this year for my little company. I have three new clubs starting after Christmas and this will keep me busy enough. Long term, I would like to get more writers on board to help deliver my ambition of encouraging children and adults to write and keep writing. I hope to get a community project off the ground finally but life is so busy and the after-school clubs take a lot of time and prep, so I am not going to put too much pressure on myself here. Just keeping it all going is enough of a goal
  9. Keep adding stories and poems to a collection – I’m not putting a time scale on this next collection of short stories and poems, but I will try to keep adding to it and working on it when I feel the need!
  10. Slow down, enjoy life, breathe, cry, listen to more music, be outside as much as possible, be honest about my feelings and keep writing them down – a little jumble of goals and aims to end on, but perhaps these are what will make the others achievable. I’m only at the start of this perimenopause fun, and it’s knocked me for six. It’s brought back emotions, thoughts and anxieties I thought I had long walked away from. Sometimes it is genuinely exhausting getting through a normal day. Moods shift and change with no warning. Some days I feel totally normal. Other days I sit in the car and cry. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’ve just got to remember to talk about it, write about it and just allow it. It is what it is.

So, that’s my list for 2020. Longer than last years, but a bit less writing/work related. I feel like it’s more about just surviving!! How about you? Have you got anything you particularly want to achieve in 2020? Please feel free to comment and share!