Looking Back At 2016

I will look back at 2016 as one of the worst years of my life. Now, I am lucky because in the grand scale of things it hasn’t been as bad as some peoples, but it’s been challenging. I’ve had two close family members have life changing health problems. The complications have caused a lot of stress but I’ve just tried to crack on and something I’m trying hard to do is living each days as it comes. I used to worry a lot, and I still do a bit but after listening to Chris Hadfield’s autobiography, An Astronauts Guide To Life On Earth, I learnt that thinking things through from the worst case scenario makes problems easier to deal with. That can sound a little negative but I think it’s helped me a lot in dealing with problems as they’ve come along. One of my favourite sayings of the year has to be “We’ll deal with it when we come to it”. Another one has been “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to”.

Another, self-inflicted, problem I had this year was I decided I was ready to stop being single. This one was an epic crash and burn if I’m honest, but a few lessons were learnt and I’m not even close to being as pro-active on that front as I was. I’m back to how I was at the start of the year and quite content as I am. If I meet someone then great, but I’m not loosing sleep over it.

Writing wise, I didn’t come close to achieving any of my targets from the start of the year. I wrote 195,396 words throughout the course of the year, but didn’t really finish anything. Most of the year was spent on Penal Earth, The Space Watch, and the FanFiction piece. I did complete three short stories. Two from the same universe as The Space Watch and one that is based off a (non-writer) friends story that she wrote for an assignment years ago.

Thinking about it now, I’ve written two novellas (to a degree) this year, but only one of them is in a decent shape. The FanFic piece is all over the shop and needs a lot of work. The lesson I’m taking from this is that I need to focus better. I need to get a draft finished that is coherent and not needing a ridiculous amount of editing.

Something I learned from writing FanFiction is that I need to have better depth to my stories. I need to work on character histories, adding more depth to the settings of the stories, and to more of the plots themselves.

Reading wise I should have done much better. I read/listened to thirty books over the course of the year. I had aimed for sixty but I think as more time progressed through the year it was a seriously unrealistic target. I didn’t finish vN by Madeline Ashby, or Day of Chaos: Endgame before the end of 2016 either.

NaNoWriMo was a success in that I did my best total of 58,558 words. I ended up with a very messy draft for the second year running. Then I had a major NaNo hangover in the early part of December (part of that was hitting a speed bump in The Space Watch). So come NaNo next year I’ve got to focus on getting a decent draft done. I know I can write 50k in a month, in 2017 I need to write a story that is coherent.

My big problem of 2016 was that I felt in a rut for the majority of it. I managed to pull myself out a few times, a few times friends had to drag me out of it. I quickly fell back into that rut though. Some of the reasons were the lack of progress with dating. Other times it was because I was getting stuck with a story and instead of moving over to something else for a couple of days I’d binge watch something (I must have watched all of The Big Bang theory episodes four times during the course of the year). That didn’t help and just sucked me into a deeper hole.

Right now I’m feeling very energised and pumped. I’m trying to be pro-active and get work done. For the first time in quite some time I feel like the stories are talking to me and ideas are coming quite easily. What I’ve got to master is not letting myself get stuck into a rut. I’ve got to become more consistent and get work finished.

Book Review: An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

Like a lot of people I had heard of Chris Hadfield but I had never paid much attention to him until I heard an interview with him on the Nerdist Podcast. He seemed to have a very easy and likable personality and I enjoyed listening to him speaking about his experiences so I looked up his book on iTunes and found that it was available in audio. I hit purchase, and I’m very glad that I did.

 

Normally anything Biographical is a no-go for me. As a rule I struggle with them but that was when I was reading and not listening and with An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth I was pulled in within the first five minutes. Hadfield himself narrates the audiobook and that likable personality I mentioned earlier came through in his reading. I’m glad Hadfield did narrate the book as there are moments when the emotion of his memories comes through in how he reads the book.

 

I’ve not read many autobiographies but Hadfield’s sounds very sincere and honest. Not only does he mention his highs but he also is not afraid to talk about the times when he was at fault or did something that he later regretted. We get to see just how hard it is to become an astronaut. I’m not someone who has sat looking up into the night sky wishing I could go into space, I always thought it would be neat to do but I never seriously wished to travel into space but after consuming this book I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I stand no chance of ever leaving this planet. The skills these men and women have that get them into the Astronauts office at NASA are quite impressive. Not only do they have to be intelligent, healthy and competent they also need to have the right personality and mind sets.

Of the thousands of people who apply to be astronauts only a handful are successful and Hadfield earnt his place there through a lot of hard work which he is very humble about. He seems like the type of person that you’d get talking to in a bar where there’s a band playing and take an instant liking to him.

 

The pacing is really good, it’s not just a re-telling of his life in chronological order. It jumps from point to point depending on what Hadfield is trying to say with a particular paragraph and it’s all tied up very nicely.

 

It’s almost part autobiography and part self-help guide. Hadfield talks about how thinking about the worst outcome can help with achieving success. I think the phrase he uses is ‘Sweat the small stuff.’ or something along those lines. Basically he is saying if you think of the worst case scenario and how to solve it then if it happens you are prepared for it. This is something that sounds like NASA train their astronauts to do and it sounds like a damn good concept. To me its the ultimate 6 p’s. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I love that saying and with space exploration it seems like a good way of thinking. Hadfield gives a lot of examples of how this has helped him achieve all that he has.

 

This was the last book I read (listened to) and finished in 2013 and it was a good one to end out the year on. I’ve listened to it twice in the two weeks since I downloaded it and I’ll probably listen to it again before the month is out. It has really inspired me and given me an insight into what life as an astronaut is like and I doubt that I am the only person who has been surprised by just what astronauts do when they’re not floating in zero gravity.

If you have an interest in space then I highly recommend this book. It has changed many of my perceptions and inspired more then a few ideas for my own fiction.