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hello 2019
One of the questions included in my Passion Planner's end-of-year reflection is: From 1-10 how do you feel overall about the past year?

I'd give it an 8, no problem.

2018 has been relatively good for me because of many reasons, with one major reason being that last year was a game-changer for me as a writer. I spent the first half of 2018 planning and plotting, pre-writing and researching my three-act novel; writing (and editing, based on my editor's feedback) the first act and started the first half of the second act. This comes up to 123,504 words. For the later half of 2018, I stopped work on the novel to focus on writing for two Harry/Draco fests, contributing two stories with a combined word count of 76,264. I ended off the year with another story of 30,043 words, due to be published online by January 2019.

This means that my total output for 2018 was a whopping 229,811 words.

I'm so damn proud of myself, especially of my concrete progress for my novel. This achievement means so much to me, as this is a story eight years into the making: bits and pieces of the plot came to me in late 2011, and throughout the years, I've been building scenes and snippets of plot here and there. Ever since 2016, the single major wish I've put as my overall goal for each year is to work on/finish the story, but I haven't made much headway previously.

Until 2018.

The entire process of creating those 230K+ words wasn't smooth-sailing and easy, of course, there were bumps and glitches along the way, where I was mired in the quicksand of procrastination, real life and plain old-fashioned laziness, but I bounced back from months when I didn't write a single word and quickly re-ignited my love for the Harry Potter fandom. Ultimately, my passion and love for writing never faded, and I kept at it consistently through most of the year, which was unprecedented.

So yeah, this is the most singular achievement of the year.

Having a laser-light focus on writing is good, sure, but I needed to constantly remind myself that I shouldn't be so inflexible and single-minded to ignore important things too, like family, friends and keeping fit. Family and friends weren't an issue, but just like so many people, it's a challenge to inculcate the habit of visiting the gym consistently. I started my gym membership on October 2017, so 2018 was the first year that I had a membership for the whole year. Sometimes I'd say that "hey, maybe I'd skip the gym tonight after work so that I can go home and write," and guess what, I'd spend the night on YouTube or online doing nothing whatsoever.

I had to keep reminding myself that writing and fitness aren't mutually exclusive — in fact, I've noticed exercising helps my focus, which does help me in my writing (plus Tuesdays are kickboxing days!! <3). At my most ambitious, I told myself I'd visit the gym three times a week (unless I'm on my period or I'm proofreading my work), which boiled down to me going for a total of 46 times in 2018, which is roughly once a week.

Hmm, that doesn't particularly live up to expectations, does it? Although I am kinda proud of myself — from being a total couch potato to getting a lot more active.

It's something that I still have to work on. I realised that my unwillingness to visit the gym arises 'cos I tell myself that I have to run 5km every time I go, and just that thought is enough for me to burrow further into my bedsheets and open up YouTube. I need to start telling myself that hey, it's alright if you don't do 5km, just 4km would be alright, that it's essential to just turn up.

Getting fit is a lifelong process after all, isn't it, and I'm determined to do better in 2019, to cut the excuses, stop over-thinking things and just go to the gym. D'you ever notice that everything all goes to shit when you start over-thinking things; like you know it's gym time now, but then you end up looking at your bed, or that book, or your writing notes nestled under your laptop, and you end up skipping the gym instead? I've learnt that it's easier to just set things into motion — grab your bag, wear shoes and simply leave the house.

I do have a few other achievements under my belt, and although they're not as major as the two that I've outlined above, they are no more lesser in importance.

1) I've drastically improved in my usage of my Passion Planner — planning and tracking my time, narrowing down my focus for the week and the month, reflections and words of encouragement when motivation is at an all-time low, sticking my ticket (movie, concert, etc) stubs for remembering fun times with friends, and just having a blast decorating it with my colourful washi tape and markers.

I run my life with it, and it's gone a long way in helping me to achieve what I have in 2018.

/hugs Passion Planner 2019 happily

2) I have finally, finally cemented my habit of reading the hard-copy newspapers every day. For years, I've always had that thought flitting in and out of my mind, that hey, I should start reading the papers, learn more about what's happening outside of my little protective bubble of writing, work and the humdrum of everyday life. I've fixed this habit in 2018, and now it simply feels weird when I don't read the papers every day. I like knowing what's happening outside in the world, and when I stumble across environmental issues (which are appearing a LOT more frequently these days) and wildlife conservation, it's really useful for me to include in my classes at work too.

3) Oil painting classes with jingxiang! Off the top of my head, I can't remember how many classes our package included (ten?), but I got two paintings — both still-life of flowers — out of it! Although there were times when I got really annoyed and impatient (and it showed, 'cos jingxiang specially taught me how to paint and blend and shade those tricky colours and corners of the painting). It was something different that I explored last year.

4) Took a more pro-active stance in my investments — bought a handful of stocks and bonds last year.

So here they are; my main accomplishments of 2018, among other smaller ones that I didn't list here. Compared to 2017, I'm so much more prolific and passionate as a writer; more active thanks to gym; more organised with clearer, meaningful goals and more informed about world affairs.

Pretty alright for a year, yeah?

I learnt some things about myself along the way, too — things that I have to keep repeating to myself. The most important advice that I can give myself is to just start.

Really. It might seem deceptively simple at first, but it's not. Your laziness is always coming up with some shitty reason to keep you from reaching your goals, because it's always simpler to just go straight home after work and skip the gym, because it's less taxing to just laze in bed and play YouTube video after video, because it's easier to read fanfiction instead of writing it. Which links me back to my point about over-thinking things, because in reality, I just have to get up, open the Microsoft Word document/grab my gym bag and get moving.

Once you have that momentum and consistency locked in, you're exceeding your expectations and smashing those fucking goals out of the park. And after a hard day's work, when you're scrolling through a wonderfully-written chapter, hold on to that sense of accomplishment and fulfilment and remember how it feels, how much better it feels compared to the sense of failure and self-disgust engulfing you when you end up slacking the entire day.

Rewards are so much sweeter when you actually deserve it.

That being said, it's still an uphill battle to learn the skill of setting realistic expectations. D'you know in previous years, I thought I could finish my novel completely in one year? Bloody preposterous, when you come to think about it. At the end of the day, I'm only human with limited willpower and abilities, I need to factor in things like pure, simple exhaustion after a long day of teaching, of things taking longer than expected to finish, and that maybe some days, I really do deserve to have a proper rest and just spend it slacking.

The third biggest lesson of the year is that I have to be less paranoid when it comes to things like checking details and proof-reading. I can spend an abnormally long amount of time replying work emails and triple-checking that I didn't double-book a class. My colleagues say I'm being detail-oriented, but I say that's not using my time wisely. Worse still, I really spend an excessive amount of time editing my writing; going over every single word with a fine-toothed comb. In this case, it's really okay to make mistakes. It's also a constant struggle to remind myself to edit less and write more when I'm writing, although with every chapter, I think I'm improving.

On top of the three lessons mentioned above to improve on, 2019 comes with its new set of goals and challenges:

1) Writing — finish writing and editing Act 2, finish Act 3. This is the bare minimum I have to accomplish, with space for more, depending on how many fests I'm getting involved in.
2) Fitness — gym three times a week.
3) Read more — I still have the same eight books that I haven't touched since early 2018. If I use half the time I spend on YouTube reading, I'd finish those books, no problem. On top of these hard copy books, there's so, so many lovely fanfiction from previous fests that I haven't even made a dent in. T_T
4) Play the guitar more
5) Update investment portfolio

The details of how I'm gonna attain each goal are fleshed out in my planner to keep me on track throughout the year.

So yep, this is what I'll be busy with in 2019. I'm gonna make it even bigger and better than 2018.

Wish me luck!