Looking Back, Looking Ahead

If 2022 taught me anything, it was that it’s not feasible to keep on working at the pace that I have. The thinner I stretch myself, the more likely that I (or at the very least my health) will snap. The New Year started with a bit of a migraine, and a sluggish start for both the car battery and the gas boiler – let’s hope they don’t collude to make my life difficult and demand to be replaced.

So it’s clear that I need to prioritise things more successfully in 2023, and allow for some ‘slack’ instead of always working at 100% capacity, so that when stressful periods arrive, as they invariably do, I have the energy and mental space to cope with them.

Image credit: Clipart Library.

Looking back at 2022, I read 166 books, watched 102 films (a lot more than I expected, as there have been months when I just watched two or three). I have written 135 blog posts, adding up to 95 thousand words. Again, I could have written a novel instead. Especially since it has become obvious, looking at the stats, that the heyday of my blog was in 2015-2017, when I had far more comments and likes. Nowadays, it seems to be the same 7-10 good friends commenting. My posts have got longer and longer, but, although the visitor figures have risen overall, there are fewer views per visitor (in other words, it might be mostly bots and spam that raise the figures). And, although I love putting together the escapist Friday Fun posts, it is a bit grating that these are by far my most popular posts (since they require the least amount of effort) this year. None of the posts I actually wrote in 2022 were the most popular this past year. The three top ones were all older (Dazai Osamu – which warms the cockles of my heart – dates from January 2021, as does my advice about how to finish The Brothers Karamazov, while my disappointment about The Secret History by Donna Tartt was written in 2014.

After ten years of blogging, the all-time greatest views are still mostly linked to my Friday Fun posts, followed by some high scorers such as a review of Americanah (2014), my real-life experience of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), and one of my oldest posts about Japanese poet Tawara Machi, all of which barely went over the 2000 views mark.

Perhaps my strategy of at most three blog posts per week (of which one is the frivolous Friday Fun) is still too ambitious.

By way of contrast, although I had a creative writing spurt in April-June, I have written very little new stuff since, have only had one piece of flash fiction published, still haven’t finished my novel or the translation of the novel I am currently preparing for Corylus. I do have one small piece of translation forthcoming in Firmament, the literary magazine of Sublunary Editions, and I did get a ‘highly commended’ for the John Dryden Translation Prize for my take on Mihail Sebastian’s play. But clearly, this shows me that I am neglecting my more meaningful long-term work for the sake of quick feedback and likes. Understandable perhaps in a year where I felt quite fragile and there was only so much rejection I could take (there was, as always, plenty of it).

Therefore, this year, I will seriously reduce my blogging and social media consumption in favour of my writing, translating, editing and publishing. Twitter has become creaky and unpleasant anyway. Instead of posting reviews on a regular basis and trying to fit in all the good books I read, I will only respond to the challenges I choose to participate in (such as January in Japan, or the 1940 Book Club, or Women in Translation), and perhaps a monthly summary of the most notable ‘others’.

I like having tentative reading plans too (allowing enough wriggle room for wherever the mood might take me), so here are my geographical plans for the first six months of the year: January in Japan; February in France; March in Northern Climes; April 1940 Club; May: China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea (I know that’s a vast territory, but an additional challenge is to read mostly what is already on my shelves, rather than buying new books); June: the Balkans.