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.