Thursday 28 December 2023

2023: Year of the memoir

Happy endings and beginnings, friends. It feels strange to be writing here, having been so absent from this blog space, and from so many other places, this year. I barely even did any sustainable - or any other kind of - travel, or travel writing. Because I've been deep in book-writing mode, working on a memoir about the experience of building my tiny house, with all its inherent (and surprising) ups and downs, observations and life lessons. 

So this might be a short post* because I've spent a large part of this year inside my own head. That's the thing about writing; it's no spectator sport. From the outside, it can look as if nothing much is happening. It's just someone sitting at a desk, her attention turned inwards to where all the (invisible) action is going on. 

And when I wasn't writing, I was reading - also not a spectator sport! - trying to get my head around this new-to-me way of writing. 

For the longest time I felt self-conscious calling my book a "memoir"; it sounded pompous and self-indulgent. But that was before I learned about this often-misunderstood genre, that humans are hard-wired for story, the difference between celebrity memoirs and "literary memoirs" (the kind I'm writing - usually about an interesting part of a non-famous person's life with universal themes readers can relate to, like romantic love or grief) and how to write one. (You can read micro-reviews here, of the memoirs I most loved this year.)

Like building the tiny house, writing a memoir has been like visiting a destination I'd long heard about but didn't know anything about - until I dived into it. Also like building the tiny, it's been one of the most difficult, emotional and satisfying things I've ever done. 

Some days I felt so content and happy that I got to sit at my desk in my tiny house and write about this experience that changed my life so profoundly. Other days, not so much. (I think I'm now halfway between #4 and #5 in the pic above.)

In many ways 2023 was a holding-steady kind of year, one in which I tried to keep my external environment as stable and as plain as possible so I could focus on writing. 

To that end, I still live in my little house - and feel grateful almost every day to have a place where I can live and work in peace. It's still parked in the same spot - though I'm hoping to move in the new year, somewhere nearby with more green space. I'm still doing my best to live simply, frugally, sustainably. 

And I'm still not-travelling. It's four years now since I stepped on a plane, and although that's mainly been due to the book-writing (and Covid before that), it's also a small act of defiance against the status quo destroying our planet's climate and ecosystems. I'm still not sure how to reconcile my love of travel in faraway places with my desire for a liveable climate (for everyone), but I'll have to figure that out one day - or make a permanent peace with not flying. 

(I did write a few sustainable travel stories this year. At the risk of sounding like the Elisabeth Zott - from Lessons in Chemistry, another book I loved this year - of travel, here are two of them: 7 sustainable travel terms every traveller should know and Sustainable travel trends to look forward to in 2024.)

The book is almost done now. I have a manuscript, a publisher, an editor. If all goes to plan, this time next year there'll be a paperback out in the world with my name on it. A memoir not just about building a tiny house but about love, letting go and finding my true home. 

Until then, bon voyage for your next trip around the sun, departing next Monday. I hope 2024 is full of love and wonder, for all of us, and daily natural delights that remind us we're all so interconnected it's incredible anyone could have imagined it to be any other way. 

*So much for this being a short post!