2023 is a tough year to gauge. I need to really think through the positives and negatives of the year.
I try not to think about the global picture when reflecting. Not that what is happening in the world is unimportant but since nothing I do has any meaningful impact on the state of the world I try not to consider it.
I also try not to consider what has happened to me that is outside of my realm of control. For example I switched jobs this year because my previous school didn't need three biology teachers. I had no control over my work situation so the negatives (having to start over at a new job) and the positives (having more control over my curriculum) can't really play into my calculus of the year.
I also am not focused on the most important parts of my life here - my family. Not that they don't matter but I don't want to think about my family as a "project". My wife and kids alternate between being a joy and a challenge but they aren't a hobby or a creative outlet.
Fundamentally all I want to reflect upon is how much I have done this year.
Total books read
Based on my Goodreads reviews I read 25 books in 2023.
I read 42 books back in 2024. So while I can't say that I did "badly" this year I have read far fewer books this year.
Taking a quick glance at the books that I read this year versus last year I see that I read a lot more "beach reads" last year. I read a whole lot of books about Space Marines fighting Orks in the 41st millennia in 2022 while this year I have read more "serious" books.
Like most things there are trade offs - I can read a lot more easy reading books or I can try and read books that require a bit more digestion. Overall I am satisfied with my reading this year I think. I should do a better job of marking when I actually finish reading the books. I didn't do as good a job writing a review of the books that I read this past year but hopefully as I am getting better at writing essays and sharing them I will be motivated to write more summaries and analyses of the books I have read.
I published 30 essays in 2023.
This is significantly better than the 12 essays I published in 2022. I think fundamentally my courage to hit publish has improved significantly. There are some essays that I wrote in 2022 that I haven't published yet but I have felt far more motivated to just sit down and write. In 2022 I wrote whenever I felt "inspired" to write. As of September 2023 I committed to just sit down to publish an essay a week. This has led to more essays published clearly but I think my writing has improved significantly - just writing more has led to better writing.
This is also the year I became a "professional" writer. Professional in the sense that someone was willing to pay me money for writing. I sold four essays this year. I certainly am nowhere near making a living writing but I am overjoyed that someone thought my words were worth compensating.
According to my Instagram page - I've published 45 sketches this year
I don't have anything to compare but my guess is that I have sketched twice as much in 2023 as I did in 2022. I sketched a bunch with Adam in 2022 but I didn't do much independent sketching. In October of this year I committed to using my lunch break to do a sketch. It is a nice break from the work day and helps refresh me for the afternoon of teaching.
I also just allowed myself to be done with a sketch after 20-30 minutes. I don't "need" to spend 2-4 hours on a sketch - yes it will look nicer but I would rather do more sketches that are less detailed than fewer sketches in my attempt to improve.
YouTube Videos published
I have published 65 YouTube videos in 2023
I hadn't published any videos before 2023 so nothing to compare. Obviously I am thrilled with what I have done here.
I started using YouTube to make videos for sick and absent students. I found that some of the kids really got a lot of value out of them, which encouraged me to make more.
There is a cool accountability mechanism that comes with trying to consistently make videos. It forces me to think and plan in order to make something. I realized that if it helped force me to plan my lessons it could help me with another issue - weight loss. The act of sharing my journey to solve this problem has been good in terms of keeping me conscious about my choices. In the ideal I would be conscious all the time but like most people, I tend to be on autopilot unless I need to be. Making videos has forced me to be on autopilot significantly less.
Where I didn't measure up
I had planned on reading all of Shakespeare's plays in 2023. I read 8 of his plays, which is good, but far short of the 34 plays he wrote. I still want to go through this plan but shooting for 3 plays a month was hyper ambitious.
I think it is far more reasonable for me to shoot for reading one play a month as I continue that project next year.
Masterclass and Domestika fail
I ordered Masterclass and Domestika for a year - these teaching videos are great and can help me improve in writing, cooking and drawing... if I used them consistently.
But I didn't use these two websites nearly enough. I canceled Domestika but have kept Masterclass for another year. I think it might make sense for me to try and do one of those sites during the summer when I have more free time - but trying to use them during the school year just is not going to happen at this point.
Patterns I am noticing
As I look at my creative endeavors I see that most of the fruitful work came after September. I shared more of my work in the last three months of the year than in the entire previous nine months.
I think I was more concerned about how people would accept my work. I still hate pressing the "publish" button because I think about all the mistakes or errors in my work but I am less bothered by it now than I was before. The great thing about a blog is that I can edit my work after publishing. I can't do that with a YouTube video but I am more willing to accept the mistakes I make overall.
I guess the theme of this year for me has been "sustainably sharing". I am doing better working on things that have a short deadline than I am working on things that take months to complete.
I would like to get bigger projects done, like my novel, but right now I am on a roll with things that have a quick turnaround. Sharing work routinely is invigorating. The positive feedback I get encourages me to continue to be creative and helps my brain seek out opportunities to work.
If I can figure out a way to do larger projects on a shorter time line I suspect that maybe I will be able to make more headway on those things. Maybe writing my novel and sharing chapters every couple of weeks might be helpful in terms of making progress.
I have been watching my son Ryan play in the living room as he makes arts and crafts. It's incredibly beautiful to watch him take Amazon cardboard boxes and tape plastic forks and used applesauce squeeze bottles onto it as he makes his "projects". He is so engrossed in his work!
His work is thrilling to watch because he doesn't get caught up in questions about how it will be received. He doesn't worry if people won't look at it or like it. He is so caught up in the engrossing joy of creating that nothing else matters.
I think I have rediscovered just a tiny touch of that this year. These projects have been nurturing me and engrossing me as I write, draw and figure things out. I still care if people find value in them but I don't let myself think about that too much as I am in the middle of the creating.
It is a real shame that so many people lose that creative impulse through their life. It is the one joy of childhood that we are allowed to keep as we get older but so few take advantage.
All in all I am very content with what I have been able to accomplish this year - particularly in the final quarter of the year. I got so much accomplished and I feel really good about my work. I believe that I will be able to roll with the good habits I have been developing this year and make 2024 an even better year from a creative standpoint.
I would be remiss if I didn't thank all of you for reading this. I know how many unread books you have on your shelves and shows on your cue that you could be watching instead. The fact that you are taking any time out of your day to read my thoughts is something I am exceedingly grateful for!
Thank you all and happy new year!