Not such a bad year after all: Reflections on 2016 and the year to come.

As the new year approaches I’ve been doing what so many of us do at this time of year – reflecting on the year that’s past, contemplating where I am now, and dreaming about the year to come. I know it’s a cliche to make a new year’s resolution list, but some annual reflection never did anyone any harm, and now’s as good a time as any…

2016 has been a tough year to celebrate. Personal and communal grief has meant it’s been hard to escape the shadow cast by the angel of death. People on Facebook and Twitter are even joking about wrapping people up in bubble-wrap until the new year to protect them!

Not only this, elections in both my countries (the US and the UK) have revealed deeply divided nations with so much bitterness and hate. There is enormous uncertainty about the future and many feel like they’re living on a knife edge.


With all this doom and gloom it’s very easy to become negative. But if I look back on 2016 in search of reasons to celebrate I can say:

  • I’ve spent some precious moments with my adorable nephew and niece who teach me the meaning of unconditional love and joy.
  • I’ve laughed and shared with a fantastic group of crafty ladies who meeting on a Monday morning in our local tea rooms. Their creative energy fuels my own.
  • I’ve met with God in beautiful moments, contemplating the sunsets over the fields, in the midst of worship, and in the song of the birds. It’s at these moments that I have known what it truly means to be alive.
  • I’ve made significant inroads into a number of writing projects. I’ve learned heaps about the writing process, found a terrific community of fellow writers on Twitter and Facebook, and for the first time ever actually believe I can do this.
  • I shared countless meals with friends, family and strangers who have piqued my intellectual interest, prompted my discussion, and fired up my passions.

All in all, I’d say, looking back at these blessings, I’ve had a jolly good year and look forward to the next one.

daily-greatness-journalFor 2017 I’ve decided to try a new route – I’ve decided to join One Word 365. It’s an opportunity for you to pick one word which you want to focus on in the coming year. You then join the tribe for that word through their website and via other social media platforms. I’ve done it before and it’s amazing how the word keeps popping up everywhere. My word for this year is GREATNESS! I’ve also bought the Daily Greatness Journal by Lyndelle Palmer-Clarke to help guide the way. Will you come and join my tribe and see what the new year has in store?


The Joys of Journaling


I kept a diary every day of my teens and well into my early twenties. I still have them, except for a six month period I tore out and burned over a boy. As I’ve been reading them a number of things have crossed my mind:

  1. They are nearly all about boys
  2. My emotions were all over the place
  3. They do mature as I get older – the voice changes
  4. They don’t have much detail in them about what life was like at the time
  5. They should never ever be published

This got me thinking about journaling today. Journaling can be good for everyone, but there is more than one approach. Here are some different journaling styles to consider.

The Emotional Journey

My teenage diaries fall firmly into this category. The journals chart the emotional development of the writer. They are of little to no historic interest and are extremely personal. Emotional journaling is cathartic. If you are dealing with complex emotions in your life I’d recommend giving this a go.

The Social History

My friend Leila Cassel had an aunt who kept wartime diaries. They are a brilliant and  insightful social history. Whilst they include personal stories about Mrs Jones next door, these tales are woven together with anecdotes about rationing, the Blitz, and life in North London in the 40s. They also contain something of a mystery. These diaries have inspired her to write a novel, The Girl in the Hat Shop, which is coming out in autumn 2016.

A social history journal is a gift to someone in the future. Who knows, an entry written today might provide the spark for a best-selling novel of tomorrow!

The Physical Journey

I have CFS/M.E. Unless you’ve had M.E. or know someone who has, it’s quite a difficult illness to understand. One way to explain to people would be to journal a physical experience of it. Others have done so with cancer, dementia, depression etc. All have been powerful and evocative testimonies that have gone a long way in spreading knowledge and understanding.


Again, a more personal style, but with less emphasis on the emotional journey, and more on what you did that day. This is a fantastic journal if you are prone to forget things and want to be able to refer back. It’s also a great keepsake. When I’ve written diaries like this they are stuffed full of theatre tickets, shopping receipts, notecards from people, pressed flowers. These little trinkets act as memory-joggers and I have a fantastic time reminiscing as I turn the pages. I even squirted my favourite perfume, Venezia by Laura Biagiotti, on one page. I can still make out the scent today if I give it a good sniff!

The Writer’s Journal

Snippets of conversations overheard at the bus stop, descriptions of people, places and things. A writer’s journal is full of nuggets. They are literary collection boxes to be emptied and counted later. They are scribbled down on the fly rather than reflected on at length at the end of the day. What writer doesn’t carry a note book around with them?

The Blended Journal

The majority of diaries contain all of the above to varying degrees. There’s nothing wrong with a blended journal. There may be times in your life – particularly when you are grieving – when writing out your feelings can be healthy and helpful. If something significant happens in history – like the lunar landing, discovery of DNA, or the invention of the smartphone, then it adds spice to your journal to write about it. If you have broken your leg it would be odd not to mention it. Write those funny conversations down! Save those ticket stubs of films you really enjoyed. I’ve still got mine from the original Bridget Jones!

Above all have fun. I have bought myself some beautiful journals over the years and some great coloured pens. My only tip is don’t write in yellow. It fades into obscurity on white paper over time. Otherwise be bold. Who knows, your journals may help you let go of painful emotions, provide inspiration for a future novel, help others understand a misunderstood illness, aid you in remembering the good times, or all of the above. Let’s get started. What will you write today?