2012 in Retrospect

What a messy year 2012 has been! I am glad to see the back of it. Chaos and change and unexpected events have been its top notes, struggling through the mud of emotional adjustment its constant underpinning. But now that so much has been taken away, my aim for 2013 is to embrace simplicity, and I say bring it on.

As for reading this year, well, I’ve done quite a lot of it. I made the most pathetic attempt to keep a reading diary, which fell apart some time in March. The thing is, I turn out not to be too keen on documenting my reading, apart from writing reviews of the books that cry out to be discussed. I suppose I like the feeling of remembering reading more than I like statistics (although I do like reading other people’s, just to add to the contradictions). I think I read quite a lot of books in 2012 but nowhere near as many as last year. When I was made redundant, and had the pervasive and rather pleasing feeling that all my time was now all my own, my reading rate slowed notably. It made me wonder how compulsive rushing is, rushing about doing this and that, totting up numbers, adding to piles, ticking boxes. I needed lots and lots of therapeutic pages to counteract the suck of time into the black hole of college. Now, I find myself savouring each page I read, and whilst the nagging part of my mind agitates, the rest of me is quite content to ignore its voice. The slower I read, the more that careful attentiveness rewards me, and I find myself doing a great deal of the sort of reading that occurs when you find you have put the book down and are staring into the middle distance. I recommend it.

2012 has been the year of the review copy, as I’ve written about more contemporary novels than any other blogging year. It’s also been the year of the online writing group, and out of this strange coupling a distinct contradiction has arisen. The writing groups to which I belong become ever more enamoured of the idea of writing ‘rules’. In fact, just the other day on one forum, I noticed someone saying of a book ‘lots of writing rules broken but absolutely brilliant!’. This drives me slightly nuts. Books are often brilliant when they break any so-called rules, which have the effect of making would-be authors write by numbers and produce any amount of lookalike-y stories whose elements feel familiar but which are better done elsewhere. The chaos of the book market is of course to blame for fostering this attitude, as well as the vast number of people out there trying to write, but it’s unhelpful to say the least. The books I have received from publishers this year have been wonderfully literary and inventive and often striking out into new ground. Thank goodness! Maybe worse lies ahead in the wake of the great bandwagon that was the Unmentionable Fifty Shades. But the publishers I’ve had contact with have been consistently keen to put interesting, well-written and quirky books out there. The only fad I would gladly see the back of is the wretched present tense (although I am actually enjoying it for the first time ever in Wolf Hall, which just goes to show that rules really are ridiculous).

I’m a lot keener to look forward to 2013 than I am to dissect 2012, which means I already have more plans for it than I could possibly follow through. I’ll be devoting myself to writing full-time and attempting for the first time ever in my working life to install a routine to my day. Part of every day will be reading time, of course, and I’m working out a sort of, well, personal reading course that reflects my interest in creative non-fiction and essay writing. You’ll hear more about that in due course, undoubtedly. 2012 was a big blogging year for me, but I will be cutting things back a bit in the future, partly because I am reading more slowly, partly because I have so much other writing to do elsewhere. But hey, I’ve been blogging for almost 7 years, and I’m not going anywhere. There will always be so much to share with you, and rehearse and mull over, and where else would I find such an intelligent, literate, kind and quick-witted audience? Here’s to 2013 being full of wonderful, life-enhancing reading for all of us.


38 thoughts on “2012 in Retrospect

  1. “Chaos and change and unexpected events have been its top notes, struggling through the mud of emotional adjustment its constant underpinning.” That’s about the most perfect summary of 2012 I have read anywhere. I look forward to hearing more about your writing adventures. Happy New Year!

    • Thank you so much! I feel better about the general crappiness of 2012 already! 🙂 I really hope that 2013 will, if nothing else, allow me to get on with writing in peace. I’d be satisfied with that. Happy New Year to you, too.

  2. I like the feeling of remembering reading, too. I know just what you mean. And I am always so grateful for the reading experiences you share here. I would never have discovered Dorothy Whipple if it weren’t for you, and I can’t begin to tell you how often the iideas and characters from her books pop into my mind during my daily life.

    • Bless you, David. I am so happy to know another Dorothy Whipple fan. She is such a star! It’s a great pleasure to introduce a friend to an author who hits the spot.

    • Lol! I’m 15,000 words off the end of a novel (this is unusual for me, don’t write fiction on the whole, but it’s been fun), and then most of the rest is essay-based stuff. I’ve promised some biographical essays to online magazines, and have some more general ones about teaching and learning that I’d like to write next year. We’ll see how it goes!

  3. I’m one of those people who love to contemplate stats but it’s always just a first step for me – to see if the numbers are what I expected, to think about ‘what next?’ and ponder what worked and what didn’t. I see my reading as ongoing self education as well as entertainment so I guess I’m a bit nerdy like that. 🙂

    I’m intrigued to hear you say the writers’ groups are trying to fit their works within ‘the rules’ – the best 2012-published books I read were the ones that blurred my expectations and the worst were the ones that could easily be summarised in one paragraph or felt a bit box-ticking… I read at least three books this year that I put down as just way too obviously MA/creative writing course products.

    Good luck with your new writing/reading schedule in 2013. 🙂

    • Oh but I love other people’s stats! I always read them with enormous curiosity, and then I come to do my own and somehow it never quite happens. Don’t stop with the analysis! 🙂 I’m so glad that your experience of the value of writing ‘rules’ has been similar to mine. I know just what you mean about those MA/creative writing courses. They have their own particular flavour and can be short on oxygen. And thank you for the good luck wishes – I will need them!

  4. Happy 2013 to you too! I’m so glad to see the back of 2012, though 2013 isn’t starting off wonderful at work, I have hopes of somehow resolving it at long last. What are you writing full-time? That sounds exciting 🙂 and is long a wish of mine as well.

    • Susan, I will cross all my fingers and toes that you get to do more writing one way or another. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I can spend more time with it now, and I’m determined to make the most of the opportunity. I hope to finish off a novel first, and then turn my mind to a series of essays about writers. What are you writing? I’d love to hear more about it.

  5. How I’ve loved your blog in 2012, Victoria. Obviously I’ve been reading it throughout five or so years, but I think meeting you made me love your blog all the more.

    I remember reading some very heated stuff in the Rules vs. No-Rules camps of writing groups. It made me never want to join a writing group – although I seem to have been inveigled into one at church, so we’ll see how that goes.

    2012 has been a pretty rubbish year for me personally (although – those darn contradictions! – did include one of my very happiest days ever, at my best friend’s wedding) so I’m hoping 2013 looks up.

    • Oh bless you! I am sending a big Happy New Year hug your way. I really hope our paths will cross again in 2013, due to the munificence of publishers! 🙂 And when that happens you will have to tell me ALL about the church writing group as I am now hugely curious! In the meantime we can join hands and lug the carcass of 2012 into the dustbin of history (notwithstanding the odd day here or there). Here’s to 2013 and the hope of better things to come.

  6. 2012 has been a mixed year for me – good, bad etc. I like keeping records and statistics, but think they don’t actually mean much – it’s the reading that counts for me. I began my blog to keep track of what I thought about the books I read, but am thinking of not doing that so much next year – it no longer seems so relevant.

    I too wish I could see the back of the use of the present tense – I think Mantel’s books are the exception, as I forgot the tense as I was reading. And as for writing by rules – it sounds like painting by numbers – stiff and artificial.

    Good luck with your writing next year and a happy new year to you and your family.

    • Dear Margaret, a very Happy New Year to you, and I shall begin it by finding out why your posts don’t show up in my feed reader! Grrr, silly technology! It was very interesting last year, when I managed to keep a note of every book I read, just to remember what had passed through my hands. I think I may simply be lazy when it comes to it! Glad to find another lobbyist against the present tense, and yes, that’s exactly how I feel with Wolf Hall – for once I don’t notice it. And stiff and artificial are good words for that rule-driven kind of writing. I also think it creates situational cliches, which I find more annoying than the ordinary kind.

    • That’s so lovely – sending hugs, Alex, to you and to the Bears. And oh yes please to a cutback in emotional strain. It is such an expensive energetic expenditure.

  7. Here’s to a much, much calmer 2013! You have had a very rough year indeed, and it surely can only get better next year. It’s so cool to hear you say you will be devoting time to writing–doesn’t that feel very satisfying (though maybe a little scary, too?). I often find myself staring off into the middle distance, too, but I think my staring is mostly mindless and not quite so productive as yours! 🙂 I want to read slower and find myself thinking about that a lot, too, though I get so enthusiastic about reading stories that I want to consume them all–must take it slower. Hope you have a really lovely New Year and best wishes for 2013–I hope it is quiet and peaceful and all you want it to be!

    • Happy happy New Year, dear Danielle! I love your enthusiasm when it comes to books – it never fails to cheer me, so nurture it whatever way suits you best! Ouf, 2012 was an unusually taxing year, but at least if I don’t have a job, that is one less thing to go wrong now! I have this belief that I won’t get published in my lifetime, but am writing for my son’s children or grandchildren. I have this dream that one day they will be in dire need of ready cash and someone will say, but what about eccentric granny’s writings in the attic? Ah well, this is the sort of thing that comes to me sometimes in the act of middle-distance staring too. 🙂 I hope we both get lots and lots of really peaceful reading time. Whatever else happens, it makes life better.

  8. I can’t complain about 2012…much. But you blog has been a very bright spot. I am gratified someone has finally mentioned the present tense writing! I thought I was the only one who noticed it. It was difficult getting used to it in Wolf Hall and I only got through half of Bring Up The Bodies (not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because I had to return it to the library…such a long wait list there was no renewing it.) I found it really slowed me down. Happy writing!

    • Aw, you are a dear heart, Grad, and I am delighted you are also a protester against the present tense. I agree that Wolf Hall is a slow read (haven’t got to the sequel yet but will do so), and I can’t imagine getting through it on a library loan. Here’s wishing you a very happy and peaceful 2013, my friend.

  9. I’m excited to learn that you’ll be devoting your time to full-time writing next year. And your mention of a planned daily routine reminds me what a new year can bring… great potentials and opportunities lie ahead. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, litlove. I wish you all the best in your writing and reading plans, and may 2013 be a most rewarding year for you… so far. 😉

    • Thank you so much, Arti, for your extremely kind wishes. This is the first year in a long time that I feel like I’m making a properly fresh start. So the upside of big change and loss is a horizon swept a little clearer, if nothing else! But I’m excited about the writing and the routine too. It’s a chance for me to do something really different and good for me, I think. A very very Happy New Year to you and yours, too.

    • Dear Charlotte – this will surely be the year that BG makes it onto the public arena, yes? How thrilling for you. Do keep us all informed of its progress as I hope to shake my pompoms for you very vigorously! 🙂

  10. One of my friends wish me a ‘nourishing’ year and that’s exactly what I wish for you. I can’t think of anything better than writing full-time, with reading as a side dish, as it were. I wish you every success.

    Your posts always seem to me to be full of truth and wisdom and this one is no exception. There’s a lot to be said for ‘slow reading’. I think blogging and writing reviews can encourage us to race from one book to the next, but you’ve proved that a more reflective approach can be very rewarding and readable too.

    • Oh Karen, that’s really lovely, thank you so much. Like all writers, my main worry is that I have nothing worth saying, so your encouragement is a wonderful boost to this start of the year. A ‘nourishing’ year sounds absolutely glorious – I can’t think – or hope for – anything nicer. Thank you.

  11. I do hope calm and simplicity preside for you in 2013 because 2012 was quite a doozy for you. And of course however much or little reading you do, I will always look forward to your blog posts and thoughts! Happy New Year!

    • A doozy is a truly excellent word. 2013 is already enriched because I have learnt it! 🙂 And a very Happy New Year to you, my dear friend. Coming over for a visit of your blog in about ten minutes to send you warm wishes on site.

  12. 2012 has seemed to be a really trying one for you, so I join in with the others hoping that 2013 will feel — not necessarily more settled, but more YOUR year, not a year you’ve had to get through as best you can. I’m glad you’ll still be blogging but I’m also excited about your doing a lot of other writing (about some of which, more by email soon!). And I couldn’t agree with you more about the idea of rules. If there was a right way to write, there’d be only one book. Happy New Year!

    • Happy New Year, dear Rohan! Thank you so much for your kind wishes, and I love the idea of a year I don’t have to slog through. Yes, please! I have so little to do with academia now, but your blog remains one of the few that I still read from that world with immense pleasure. I’m really looking forward now to devoting my time to writing. It will be SO nice to finally have that focus.

  13. All my best reading and writing wishes to you! Despite your tough year, your blog is as brilliant as ever, and I hope you’ll find a satisfying new routine in 2013. Hurray to writing projects! And if by chance your projects include a trip accross the channel, make sure to let me know!

    • Dear Smithereens! A very very Happy New Year to you and your family, and I hope you find ever more time in your busy life for your writing too. We can keep each other going through the tough bits! And I promise you that if we cross that Channel, you will be the first to know. 🙂

  14. I am so happy for you! 2013 sounds exciting. I want to stand up and clap for you! I also want to say that your reading more slowly is a great relief to me, since I read slowly and always feel a bit badly about the numbers that I don’t keep track of! So thank you for your comments on that.

  15. Happy New Year, dear Litlove! May it bring you the time and space and peace for your outstanding writing to find its most fruitful paths. This place, where I find the rare and precious combination of a warm and open heart and a brilliant mind, both expressed equally well, is certainly one of them.

  16. I’ve had the unusual experience to be without my laptop for the last few days and it was a good thing because it was so symbolical. My only plan for this year – blogging -wise – is to do less of it.
    All this to explain why I’m late in wishing you a wonderful 2013.
    Like you, I stopped tracking the books I read and movies I watched in March or so. I also don’t review everything. I’m not very keen on statistics.
    And this year I will not be doing any blogging plans. Knowing myself I will organize a lot anyway and anything I plan loses flavour, I go with the flow. 🙂
    Oh those writing rules… I’m not much for rules in anything.

  17. Love the thought of 2013 being a wonderful life-enhancing reading year dearest Litlove!

    One of the things I loved about 2012 was stumbling upon your blog and I’m glad to read that while with less frequency you will continue sharing here!

    Wish you a great 2013 – one that brings even more joy and laughter in your life than 2012 did.

  18. I’m so, so thrilled to hear about your personal reading course in creative nonfiction and the essay. Details, please, when you are ready! 🙂 I’m looking forward to adding to my TBR list. The prospect of full-time writing is so exciting. I wish you the best of luck and a wonderful 2013!

  19. 2012 has been such a ghastly year for me and the family. I couldn’t be happier to see the back of it. Happy 2013, Litlove! Whatever volume of posts you’ll be doing, I’ll be excited to read all of them.

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