Hello everyone. Sorry for the post drought lately. I’ve been busy doing a lot of exciting things… including turning 28!
Yes, that means I have been privileged to live on this planet for 28 full years… but it also means that in two years I’ll be 30. This isn’t a bad thing… in fact, if you ask me, it’s a handy deadline. I love a good to-do list, and frankly, 30 is a nice milestone to Achive Some Stuff by. Therefore, I am taking inspiration from a variety of bloggers, including Yes & Yes and Lion & Sloth, and creating a 30 before 30 list. 30 things I want to achieve in the next two years. And…go!
1. Graduate from my PhD.
OK, full disclosure: I am starting with the ones that are most likely to happen, and — hopefully I’m not jinxing anything by saying this — this one’s pretty much in the bag. I’ve passed the viva, I’ve submitted the corrections within my alloted three months, now all I need to do is print the fancy hardback version and order my graduation gown. Nevertheless, this has to go on the list, given that, you know, it’s probably going to be one of the bigger milestones in my life!
^ Getting my MSc in November 2009. More of this, please.
2. Find a publisher for my poetry manuscript.
Thanks to the aforementioned PhD, I now have a huge stack of finished, polished poems. You’ll remember that in early 2013 I was starting to turn that huge stack into something that looked more like a manuscript? Well, it took longer than I expected, but 14 months and two brilliant mentors later, said manuscript is now sitting somewhere in the office of the first publisher on my wish list. (I say “somewhere” — I’m really hoping it’s on someone’s desk, not, you know, in a bin.) I’m happy to acknowledge that the person who eventually publishes this manuscript might well be me, or it might be someone else. I want to find that out in the next two years.
3. Knit a cardigan.
I started working at Scottish Book Trust in October last year, and quickly realised that I was surrounded not only by fellow book geeks and delicious cake, but by a rather impressive bunch of knitters! After I made wistful noises about how I’d always wanted to be a knitter, Lovely Boyfriend took the initiative and bought be a starter kit of yarn and needles for Christmas. Since then, I have become well and truly addicted, and have exhausted all my easy-peasy square (blanket), rectangular (hoop scarf) and triangular (cosy shawl) options. It’s time for a proper project, and since “I could knit my own cardigans!” was one of my main reasons for starting to knit, I need to put my money where my mouth is.
4. Do more community work.
Making it Home, which I’ve written loads about here already, was my first proper introduction to community work — that is, putting my writing and teaching skills to good use as part of a community outreach arts project. Getting involved in MiH was one of the best things I have ever, ever done — and since then, I’ve dipped my toe into a few other, smaller community arts projects and become properly addicted to this kind of work. In the next two years, I hope to find other cool grassroots and outreach activities to get involved in. Gone are my days of sitting hunched over my laptop in my flat! I want my writing to be part of something bigger.
^ Some of the wonderful women of Making it Home, at our brilliant farewell party. More of this, too.
5. Finish doing up my house.
Remember this? Well, early ten months on, our little house is looking really quite different. We have: removed every single scrap of flecked wallpaper from every single room and re-decorated most; re-wired everything; sanded nearly every floor using a terrifying belt-sander; had a brand new kitchen fitted; tiled that brand new kitchen; had a wood-burning stove fitted and used it all winter (OMG) and collected enough furniture from Freecycle and friends to furnish the entire house for free (all except our dining table, which is IKEA’s finest. But still!). However, we still need to: tile the kitchen floor; get new front and back doors fitted (gah, draughts!); carpet the staircase; sort out some plumbing in the loft; re-do the ancient and rather grim bathroom, and most importantly, find somewhere for all our books to live! Ten months since we moved in and there are still boxes of them in the bottom of the wardrobe. This must be fixed!
6. Get out more…
I don’t have a car, and some months I also don’t have much cash. These things — added to my general prediliction for being as warm as possible and as close to tea-making facilities as possible at all times where possible — often result in me scuffing around all the same old places I always go. Problem is, I know full well that when I get out more, I write more, and I write better and more interesting stuff. Therefore, it’s time for me to stop saying “I need to come to Glasgow more, it’s only an hour away!” and actually do it. I need to start actually going to all the cool places in the UK that I love — or am curious about — instead of just daydreaming about going [back] to them “some day.” Over the next couple of years, I want to get better at snapping up Advance train tickets and going places.
7. …and travel more.
For me, visiting places in the UK isn’t really “travelling.” I’ve been to a lot of England, Wales and Scotland before, so I know what to expect. Most people speak the same language as me. I can get everywhere within a day.
“Travelling” means outside the UK… and I want to do more of that, too. My last trip abroad was Munich last October, and I also did Barcelona and Oslo in 2013. I’ll happily go back to any of those places, but I’d also happily explore pastures new, too. At present I have no firm plans, but I look forward to seeing where I end up over the next two years!
^ Paddling in the Pacific off Vancouver Island in 2007. And yes, more of this.
8. Hit 1,000 sales on Edinburgh Vintage.
Since last September, when I turned Edinburgh Vintage into a jewellery shop and moved away from the clothing, my sales have sky-rocketed (my orders went from 4 in September 2013 to 36 in November 2013!). EV is now a nice little pocket-money-earner and I really love hunting for new trinkets to list. Over the past six months or so I have developed a brilliant relationship with an amazing supplier, S, who helps me source cool stuff from all over the UK. I recently broke 500 sales, so 1,000 is the next obvious milestone — wish me luck!
9. Enter more poetry contests and Submit More Poems To Things Generally.
I am so bad at this. Last year, I let every single deadline whiz past me — the Eric Gregory, the Mslexia, loads and loads of smaller ones — all except the Bridport Prize, which is rather random. I am rather better at submitting to magazines and journals, but I could still try harder! Over the next two years, I need to pull my socks up and pay attention to deadlines. I may not get anywhere, but at least I will have tried!
10. Eat something I grew myself.
See No. 5 up there? All that house stuff? That’s before you even get to the garden, which currently consists of two scrubby bits of grass on either side of the house, and some paving slabs. By the time my 30th birthday rolls around, I want to have turned these scrappy patches into [the start of] an edible garden, and I want to have eaten at least one thing that’s grown there. It might be a sprinkling of thyme to put on my takeaway pizza, or it might be a whole salad. Anything, as long as it’s tasty!
11. Learn more about, and do more, foraging.
Last autumn I took advantage of a) moving to suburbia and b) acquiring this book, and grabbed myself a pretty impressive haul of autumn berries — including wild raspberries, elderberries and of course, brambles. But berries are easy to spot, easy to harvest, and easy to cook with. I want more of a challenge! I’d like to find out more about edible wild plants, find some, and eat them!
12. Adopt a dog.
Once that house stuff is done, Lovely Boyfriend and I are going to adopt a pup. I’m already so excited about this that I can barely contain myself! Look out for lots of excited posts and tweets about visiting cute staffies, greyhounds and Border terriers (my top three!) at rescue centres!
13 Build a book nook.
This should maybe come under the general banner of finishing my house-flip, except my desire for a book nook is something that way pre-dates any notion of owning my own house. There are loads of amazing book nook ideas out there, but this is the one that really got me thinking about the totally pointless cupboard that my house just happens to have… watch this space!
14. Commit to the next Next Big Thing, writing-wise.
OK, so the PhD’s in the bag (terrible unexpected things permitting), and the poetry MS is off visiting publishers. I have no massive project to work on WHAT IS MY LIFE?! Seriously, you’re looking at the girl who did her MA, MSc and PhD back-to-back while working full time and writing as much as spare time (ha!) allowed. Being busy is how I roll, and I especially like having something big and scary to chip away at. I don’t know yet what that will be. It might be a second poetry collection, or I’m even — whisper it — having ideas about a novel. Whatever emerges, I want to put the next two years towards making a good start.
15. Create a space I love writing in.
At my last rented flat before the house-flip began, I had a spare room that I sort of turned into a writing room. I was shocked to find that creating this space for writing was really effective in changing my thinking about writing. At this new house, the spare room is currently a storage facility for all the things we can’t yet unpack because we still need to do building work and DIY. However, I have my eye on it as a potential zen-like space for writing. It’ll be a communal space — Lovely Boyfriend is halfway through a novel, you guys (!!) — but I’m keen to also make it light and bright and productive and full of exciting books. Yipee!
16. Develop a proper regular writing routine…
…a thing I am putting off because I don’t have No. 15 yet (which, I know, is basically BS). I just finished a life-changing (not hyperbole) year of mentoring with the brilliant Sarah Ream, and one of the things she forced me to do was write regularly, to deadlines, and send her what I’d done. She says this is something I must keep up… especially now I’ve also finished my PhD and have total free reign and no deadlines at all (OMG first time in nine years!). So by the time I hit the big 3-0, I want to have sorted out Writing Time from Work Time and Housework Time and Dicking Around On The Internet Time. Eek.
17. Go on holiday with my brother.
My brother Nick (more commonly known as “Mole”) and I used to go off on adventures all the time when we were teenagers. Then we both went off to Uni and ended up living in different cities, and although we still see each other a lot and get on famously, our Megabus-ing, Youth Hostel-ing, campfire-building, countryside-stomping opportunities have diminished somewhat. However! I am determined to do something about this! We’re in the process of plotting a mega-exciting trip even as I type, so… hooray!
^ This was taken on Granton beach. Clearly we need to have better adventures.
18. Read for fun!
When I started my PhD, everyone was like, “OMG, you’ll have so much time to read books! You’ll be living in the library! I am so jealous!” However, the reality of writing a thesis — even a thesis on a subject you really like — is that quite quickly, reading becomes work. I mean, I absolutely love this textbook and it was my bible throughout the process, but re-reading the same essay for the sixth time trying to find that perfect quote that you keep forgetting to highlight is not exactly “reading for fun.” Over the next two years, I want to do as much fun reading as I can… and report back. Recommendations of great fiction, non-fiction and (of course) poetry are welcome!
19. Build a blog for Edinburgh Vintage…
Ugh, OK. This one seems like a huge chore, but I have decided to put it on this list in order to make myself do it. I mean, the business is ticking along quite nicely, and I have both a Twitter and a Facebook page for EV, but I know from observing other vintage traders who sell almost solely online that having a blog makes a big difference. I know I’d enjoy it once I got it up and running… I’m just very busy, and it always drops to the bottom of the to-do pile. Time to get it done!
20. …and get better at doing my books.
This is another one I’m putting here to make myself do it. I’m terrible for selling an item, and then going to pack it up for dispatch and having no idea where it is. I’m also terrible for not filling in my tax return until two days before the deadline, and having to do all my year’s books in one sitting. These things are not fun, why do I do them?! It’s not exactly a sexy, exciting goal… but it’s a good one, and I am pretty sure my business will benefit!
^ I sell shiny things.
21. Discover new vegan eats.
As you can see, going to vegan restaurants and raving about the amazing food is one of my hobbies. And as you can see, I’ve been to a fair few cities in order to do so. I guess this item shouldn’t really be on my “goals” list, as it’s something I am sure to continue to do, likely forever. But let’s see how many exciting new eateries I can discover in the next two years!
22. Throw a kick-ass housewarming party.
I know. We’ve been in our “new” house for ten months. However, it’s been a building site for most of that time, and also… our next door neighbours are a lovely sweet old couple who totally wouldn’t want to put up with my friends and I quaffing wine and playing records into the wee hours. Therefore, the housewarming, when it comes, is going to have to be strategically planned (my sweet neighbours go on a big overseas holiday once a year). And if our partying opportunities are few and far between, we’d better make it a really, really good one… right?
23. Celebrate big time when Lovely Boyfriend finishes his novel.
OK, this is totally not my goal to be getting. But it matters to me so much that LB, currently 40,000 words in, finishes his novel… not least because I desperately want to know what happens! I don’t mean to suggest that I’m going to bully him into it, or anything. But something I’ve learned from watching him write what he’s written so far is: it’s hard. It’s really hard. Lots of times you don’t want to go near it, and then other times you’re really anxious to start but you get to the keyboard and there’s just nothing there. Being the partner of another writer means respecting their process, but it does also mean cajoling (/nagging), praising (/offering crit) and generally providing whatever support they need to get the words out of their brain and onto the page/screen/whatever. It also means holding a freaking parade for them when they’re done. I can’t wait for that bit!
24. Get tattooed.
This is pretty much always at the top of my mental to-do list. I now have seven tattoos and about five million potential designs worked out “to maybe get next.” I wanted to put “get tattooed into double figures” — i.e. be the proud wearer of at least ten bits of ink by the time I turn 30. But that’s too dependent on factors I can’t always control (like, you know, having cash handy), so I’ll keep it modest. Oh! I’m also interested to hear about cool new tattooists. My current favourite, Gentleman Jim, has moved to Sheffield, so… who’s brilliant and in Edinburgh/Glasgow? Tell me, tell me!
^ This was my last tattoo and it was OVER A YEAR AGO. That’s way, way too long.
25. Bring home my first big project at work.
I’m currently taking the lead on a very exciting, very complex project at work — and I am amazingly grateful to my utterly wonderful boss, Koren, for trusting me with it (also helping me with it when I need help!). It’s all still a work in progress and I’m still not sure what the end product will look like, but I know I have a brilliant creative team gathered round me, and I am super excited to see what we can cook up together. I wish I could say more right now, but you’ll have to read on for the next few months to see if I can pull it off! Watch this space!
26. Get into lotus.
OK… I am still a baby yogi (in fact, calling myself a ‘yogi’ at all seems completely ridiculous… but so do all the alternatives. A baby yoga-er?!). I’m still trying to work out which poses/routines set off a problem with my neck that only doing yoga taught me that I have. Heck, I’m still trying to make myself do yoga regularly instead of being lazy. However, even at my beginner level, I’m frustrated that I can’t get into lotus. I know this is vanity and vanity is kind of the opposite of yoga, but it’d feel like a real mark of yogaish achievement if I could get flexible enough to do it! I can get into half lotus, so I feel like it’s do-able.
27. Learn to cook more things.
I’m sure you’ve all noticed that I like to bake. However, since I moved in with Lovely Boyfriend three years ago, I’ve got really lazy about cooking… because he’s basically my personal chef. However, that means that whenever he’s not around, I end up eating boring pasta. It also means that I’m totally intimidated when it comes to LB’s birthday, or our anniversary, and I feel like I ought to cook him something. I just can’t keep up with his mad skillz! So in the next couple of years, I’d like to learn how to cook a few easy but reasonably impressive dishes that I’d feel OK to feed to other people!
28. Have an amazing 89th birthday!
My birthday is the day before my dad’s, and most years we have some kind of joint celebration. Next year is his big 6-0, so I’ll need to plan something extra, extra special. Obviously I can’t mention much here, but let’s just say… plans are in the works!
29. Set up a pension.
OK, boring life admin this may be, but it’s pretty important. I can’t really claim to be a proper adult if I turn 30 and still don’t have a pension, if you ask me. The whole idea is Greek to me at the moment, but I’ve given myself two years to translate it all and get it done. Again… advice would be appreciated!
30. Have a great two years.
Look out for my “in 2016, I…” annual year-end round up. I hope it’s going to be major.