2019 Retrospective

Hey folks. 2019 has almost reached its end, and oh boy has it been a year. The recent general election in the UK has cast something of a ghastly shadow over the year as a whole, and over the past few days I’ve been struggling to look past that, to look past all the squirming horrors that have writhed ever closer to the light over the course of the year. So this is a post that is absolutely, resolutely not about that. I’m feeling downcast, and I want to take some time to not be. Instead, I’m gonna take a quick look back at all of the things I did in 2019 that did make me happy, that made me feel like I was accomplishing something, that made me feel like I was moving a little closer to achieving my Big Life Goals. So here’s that: a little self-congratulatory pat on the back in the face of the looming apocalypse.

New Publications
One of my big goals for this year was to increase the number of poems and short stories I submitted to journals and magazines for publication. This has been a 50/50 success, which I am in fact counting as a success because I’m a glass half full kind of guy. While I definitely fell of the wagon with short stories, which I’ve been working on a lot less this year, I did manage to send out a lot of poetry. This resulted primarily in a lot of rejections, the ultimate foe of any jobbing writer, but also in a few gleaming acceptances. This year I’ve had pieces published in a couple of well-respected publications, most notably the Cordite Poetry Review, which made me extremely proud and a little bit giddy. You can find all of my works published elsewhere in my publication archive, both for this year and for all the years before.

On top of that, I’ve also spent this year experimenting with other ways to get my work out into the world. That included contributing work to the Places of Poetry collection, a project dedicated to mapping the UK through regional poetry, as well as my recent publication of an older short story through the Vocal platform. These experiments have been exactly that – experiments, attempts to find different mediums and avenues with which to make an imprint on the internet’s vast reserves of fiction and poetry, and I’m excited to keep finding more new ways to do that in 2020.

Cursed Projects & Us
Something I’ve held to across this year is my dedication to exploring weirder, more evasive forms of creative expression. As much as I’m a fan of more traditional storytelling, I never want to fall into a rut where I’m afraid to tackle a project outside of my established comfort zone. That’s why I’m so pleased with some of the more unusual projects I’ve had a hand in this year. For example, back in July I released Bones of God, an industrial noise / spoken word album of poetry, music, and shrieking, in collaboration with my friend Alex George; it’s a terrifying listen, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Then there’s Cursed Objects & Us, a zine of art and poetry I put together with Jay Fox, David Murphy and Alice Pickersgill, with all proceeds going to the mental health charity Self Help. Concieved in a single night of mania, that zine made it clear to me just how important it is to be spontaneously creative, to make art with your friends, and – above all else – to take care of yourself when playing Drag Race drinking games. In 2020 I’m gonna resolve to make more weird, difficult-to-categorise art, and to then inflict that art upon as many people as possible.

Doctor-in-Progress
Somehow, bafflingly, in 2019 I achieved my dream of embarking on a PhD in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University. I’ve just finished my first full term on the course, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the opportunities available to me here. I am beyond excited to continue my course, to keep writing, and to make more of an effort to chronicle my studies on this website, so that I can share – if not anything actually interesting, then at least my own rabid enthusiasm for being in such a lucky position.

Citizen of the Internet
Of course, if I hadn’t also used 2019 to try and create an “online presence” for myself, if you can call it that, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post, dear friend. My site and its accompanying Patreon page are tiny right now, but it’s been very rewarding to plant the seeds of what I hope will someday become a part of my life I can use to earn enough money to live on. That goal seems a little silly, sometimes, but it’s all I’ve ever wanted – to be able to make a living with my writing. Looking back on 2019, that goal feels ever so slightly closer than before, and that means the world to me.

That’s it! That’s the end of the retrospective. It’s nice to think about the things I’ve done this year, not as a disparate series of small achievements, but as a collective step forwards in the right direction. It feels like progress. So here comes 2020 – let’s hope it’s a good one! Scratch that – let’s make it a good one.

Alex xo

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