Brace yourselves for the billion-odd NYE and NYR posts about to swamp the interwebs. For me this year, there will be none. My modest resolutions for 2016 can now, with only 14 hours left, be consigned to the compost heap of idle dreams. The remains of my day are the remains of the year. If I could express the melancholy of another year without significant gains in my writing with anything approaching Kazuo Ishiguro’s finesse, then there would be need for neither melancholy nor resolutions. But of course I can’t. The unwieldy double-negative proves it. There’s only so long you can be a wordsmith’s apprentice.
I digress, in a way. Certainly we all look back on the year past. What do we see? Perhaps our retrospective is tinged with the satisfaction of well-earned successes, which are the best type of all. Or maybe the year was tough, a battle just to hold your place in the crowd-crush of life. You could be satisfied with neither giving nor gaining ground in a year like that. For some of us the year involved a tactical withdrawal, sacrifices made to gain a better strategic position in 2017. For many, their year was an abject rout, the midnight desertion of everything they have and hold dear, with only the slim hope of beginning from scratch next year. Where do you fall?
Reading a blog recently, I was taken back to my childhood. There’s a lot I could write about, but with living parents and at least one sibling who stalks every move I make, it would involve the gratuitous reopening of old wounds, and that’s a lose-lose game. Suffice it to say, you learn less from peoples’ successes than from their failures, and in that respect I thank my parents for providing me with so much useful material. The only thing that remains in this short aside is to ponder whether my sister can twist anything I’ve said into something poisonous she can pour into my mother’s ear. Not that I care.
Artistic pretentious and childhood adversity aside, it’s a good thing my top-gallants are well and truly aloft in the real-world. Career-wise, my ship is running before the wind ever since I took a lesson from Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, in that 2016 was the year I went straight at them. Example: instead of avoiding crowds, I walked through them. To my surprise, I didn’t die, I was welcomed! Second example: instead of avoiding difficult conversations, I prioritised them. Again, I didn’t die and everybody I spoke to (even those on the receiving end) thanked me for acting so promptly. 2016 at work was a banner year: I am rising to the top of my game.
That’s looking back without my glasses on, or at least through a roseate lens. With my glasses on, success at work has contributed to my failings at art in at least two ways. Firstly, because of a workplace policy that forbids me from (a) identifying my occupation, or (b) commenting on operational matters. John Grisham’s experiences as a trial lawyer added verisimilitude to his writing, yet the infamous advice (to ‘write what you know’) attributed to Mark Twain and echoed by Raymond Carver and so many others is verboten for me, under pain of disciplinary sanction. Secondly, and more banal, is that I don’t need to ‘make it’ as a writer. The bills are paid, there’s food on the table, we can save for holidays abroad. Writing is now my hobby rather than my obsession. There’s something 1 Corinthians 13:11 about it all — When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things — sort of thing. With great relief, I can afford to avoid all the bullshittery of literary self-promotion, social-media saturation, the fake likes and follows we’re told is so necessary. My problem is that you spend more time on Fakebook than you spend actually writing. If anybody ever ‘discovers’ me, it will be old-school and organic (he says, after three years of blogging)!
Lastly, in the background of everything, is an unsettling reconfiguration of the paradigms of my world. Look at the front page of any news site on the www right now, and tell me William Golding in Lord of the Flies wasn’t right. Does anyone feel less fearful today than they did one year ago? We are barricading the roads into the NYE fireworks in Sydney with buses and garbage trucks, FFS. if I could achieve one thing this year, it would be to oblige every white-skinned person on this planet to take a reality-check. We are not in danger, so let’s stop pretending that we are: it plays into the hands of awful people who want us to keep sharpening sticks at both ends.