A Year in Writing

It’s the last day of 2015, and once again I am reflecting back on the year that has been. A week or so ago I did a feature on all the books I’ve read this year, but that is of course only half the story. In 2015 I probably spent more of my time staring at the ever-blinking cursor, or the empty pages of a notebook. I’m not sure if I can say this year was my best for writing, but it’s easily been the most “successful” (if we’re talking about readership anyway) and offered the highest quality yet.

I know it seems a little cocky to say my work this year has been my highest quality, but of course it’s all relative. It’s funny looking back on blog posts I have from 2013, where half the time I can hardly discern what I was trying to say. And obviously, I’m sure next year I’ll think the very same thing about the posts of 2015 (this one included), but such is the nature of life. I guess that means I may be improving, which is pretty much all a writer can ask of himself at a basic level.

I started off the year with a very thoughtful piece called “User is currently unavailable-how we all grew up in the detached generation”. I can’t remember what my motivation was for writing it, but looking back I’m fairly happy with how it turned out. As I mentioned within that blog itself, I knew it was a little cynical etc, but it wasn’t far wrong either. I might not have known at the time, but that post paved the way for a lot of other, more serious articles later. Writing it was a lot of fun, as I got to play about with past and present and see what had changed as far as our generation was concerned.

My second post a month later was a piece on Worldbuilding. It was a while since I had written a post aimed as a sort of “how to” for writers, so it was nice that my return to it was on a topic on which I was familiar. Reading it now there’s a lot of metaphor in there and a fair deal of humour, which I suppose helped to explain what can be a very dicey topic at the best of times. It took a good deal of time to write, which was a feature of all of 2015 blogs. Sometimes I’d spend 3 hours working on something, but when it was done I was happy. In 2014, I was more likely to speed through blogs and be reasonably satisfied on the other side.

May was a good month for my blog. Out of no where, my views started skyrocketing, which prompted me to investigate. It turns out I owed a fair share of these views to Reddit and an “unsolved mystery” website, where people were reblogging my “Phantom Whistler of Louisiana” post from over a year previously. This was actually my first ever “Monday Mystery”, and definitely not one of my better ones, so it was odd to have hundreds of views pouring in because of it. It was the start of a great change in my blog, where my views moved away from Facebook friends towards those thousands of miles away. In 2015, over twice as many people viewed my blog in America as they did back home. Nearly all of the American views were for my Monday Mystery series, making me consider reviving it in 2016. The views carried on for the remaining 6 months of the year, so that at year’s end I’m happily sitting on three times as many views as 2013, and over twice as many as 2014.

May was also responsible for what may have been my two favourite blogs this year. The first, entitled “Let’s re-define marriage, not education” was an angry response to Leaving Cert changes announced at the time.

I’ll admit, the only reason I ever started my blog was for a place to rant that was a little more nuanced than facebook and a little more spacious than twitter. However, with rants, all semblance of good writing tends to fall apart. In this post though, I think I found myself a happy medium. Sure, I was giving an opinion on the matter, but I was also aiming it right at the Minister for Education. It was accurate sniping rather than a spray of rapid fire, and it got a good response from a lot of people who wouldn’t often take my side in things as well as those who would usually agree.

Following on from this was “For Freedom’s empty name to die…”, a post about the marriage referendum. For weeks I had debated whether to write this, but having been snowed under by unoriginal, frankly repetitive articles on facebook, I felt I had to weigh in with something even a smidgen different. Of course I was supporting a YES vote, but focused on where me, the average voter should be drawing their motives from. That’s not to say the articles mentioned above weren’t good. A lot of them were actually brilliant. But lost in a sea of their replicates, they weren’t adding anything to the conversation unfortunately.

On my J1 I didn’t have access to my laptop, which meant an end to things as far as my blog was concerned. Fortunately man can always put his trust in pen and paper, which quickly became my alternative. It’s very different writing it out “the old fashioned way” once you are used to smashing keys on a keyboard, but it was also refreshing. I can’t write nearly as fast as I can type, which meant every word got a second more to roll around in my head. It made me consider things more, even if that was at the expense of pace. A lot of my writing then was practicing description while I sat in Old Town or lay out at Pacific Beach. I wrote a short story too, which was spawned out of a morning at the San Diego Ice Arena.

Once back home I decided I’d update my blog with a separate short story. This wasn’t general fiction like my entry from the Ice Arena, but was instead my more trusted hand of fantasy. It didn’t garner a lot of views, but was more a “I need to share my work post” more than anything. It felt good to not be inhibited by “what will X think?”, as I probably was for much of 2014. In 2015, I got over that. Nobody has to read my blog, and if they do, I’d be hopeful (and a small bit quietly confident) that I can win them over in the end.

My next post was another of my favourites. “A voice I have written”, which was I suppose a mirror of this post, detailed how I’d got back into writing, divulging everything from why I think I write to what was a turning point for me after my Leaving Cert results. It got a lot of good feedback I wasn’t expecting, which was in a way part of the reason I thought this post might be worth doing.

After that I faced into what was my biggest project on this blog yet. My J1 summer was a perfect thing to write about, but not easy by a long-shot. I knew it would take at least three posts, and of course it ended up being five. On top of this I wanted to write the sister-post to this in terms of my year in reading.

I started the J1 blogs back in October and only managed to finish them two days ago. In total, it was about 20,000 words and hours of sifting through photos, writing introductions and trying to pick which memories made the cut. I’m happy with how it turned out to be honest. It got a consistent viewing as we went along and was a great way to re-visit what were the best moments of 2015. I also got to play around with a lot things since I had so much room, whether that was trying out new styles for my introduction or painting a picture of places I saw on my travels.

All this being said, my blog wasn’t the only place I was writing in 2015. I was very happy to get a column with UCC’s monthly magazine Motley, writing in the humour section. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the first type of thing I imagined I’d write in a university publication, but since it started I haven’t looked back. In total there’s about four or five of my humour pieces floating about. Having a piece in Motley reaches a far bigger audience than my blog is ever likely to, while also providing that all-elusive satisfaction that comes with seeing your words printed in front of you. It’s been a worthwhile venture, one I’m grateful for and one I know will help my writing in the long term.

Outside of Motley I’ve also fallen back into poetry. Poetry was something I was quite fascinated by in my teenage years, but since the age of about seventeen I’ve scarcely re-visited. This year, I decided it would be good to get back into, and so far have churned out about seven or eight poems. Unlike my blogs, I haven’t reached the level of comfort necessary to share them yet, but that doesn’t mean that one day I won’t. They’re a therapeutic form of writing, and take far less out of my day than a blog post would.

The only other thing hot off my fingers at the moment is my own fiction writing. I’ll admit, I’ve put fiction writing off far too long. Back in June 2013, the cursor was racing across the screen. Now, it’s at an uneasy crawl. Christmas has helped, with a couple hundred words here or there, but I’m still roughly where I was last January, which is to say, about 20,000 words in to what I feel is a 100,000 word climb. Still, even a hundred words can brighten my day. It is, of everything, my favourite thing to work on, but also demands the most skill, creativity and time. I’m hoping Summer 2016 will be where my real breakthrough comes, as I can step back from coursework and other forms of writing.

And that’s really it for 2015. It’s been a year where I’ve considered the “post regularly” attitude of most blogs, and found it wanting. This year I wanted to focus on quality, and think as far as my current ability stretches, have reached that goal. It might have meant only a post every month or so, but if the 3 hours put into writing them show anything, it’s that you will be far happier with a hard day’s work than taking a shortcut towards publishing.

2016 might be a landmark year. It might be a regression. It’s hard to say yet. There’s a lot of ideas I have rolling around in this head of mine, and at some point one of them might just be ready to run with. I can’t tell where my words will fall this year, but when they do, I hope they fall hard. I hope they have weight to them.

There may be a future Kyle out there, writing about his year in 2016. Perhaps he is thrilled, or even just satisfied. Or, maybe he is upset, angry, frustrated and confused.

Either way, he’s most definitely out there, and he’s most certainly writing.

 

 

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