I genuinely went into 2017 with a basic, easy to manage plan. Just one short blog post a week on any kind of topic, plus the "Doctor Who" bullet-point reviews for a dozen weeks when the series came back in the Spring. Simple. But then after finishing the "800 Day Project" where I watched every single episode of "Doctor Who", and having decided that "The X-Files" would be next, a comment from someone on social media convinced me to blog about those too on a weekly basis. I could manage that I thought.
But then I hit upon the idea of looking at each of the last fifty years of my life in turn and picking my favourite books, films, comics, TV shows, music or games from each year, and "Golden Sunsets" was born. A good friend whose opinion I trust recently commented that much of this blog has become a bit like an autobiography - and he's right - if you look back over the last couple of years, in between all the "Doctor Who" stuff are glimmers of a rose-tinted glow of nostalgia around the memories of my childhood. "Golden Sunsets" became a way of putting that into a more formalised structure and scratching the subconscious itch to document all those things that I liked and had been such an influence on me.
So a small plan had become a somewhat larger one. Three (maybe four) posts a week. That was fine - I was excited and I believed I could cope with the additional workload. Certainly I was incredibly fired up at the start - the words almost flew off the keyboard and in three months I managed what I thought was a respectable 37 posts (of course I look back now and wonder how on Earth I managed to find the time to write so much...)
But as the Robert Burns phrase goes, "The best laid plans...".
If I am being totally honest here, as the year wore on there *was* a bit of a slip in enthusiasm on my part. Firstly, my "Doctor Who" fandom was going through a bit of a rough patch. I'd known for a while that I wasn't enjoying the show as much as before, and at the start of series 10, after writing about "The Pilot", I decided to step away from all elements of reviewing things related to the series (which included the "Doctor Who Show" podcast). I went back to just being a viewer.
Then the intended weekly "The X-Files" 'view and review' hit a problem fifteen episodes in. Unlike "Doctor Who" (which I always watch multiple times) or many of the other things I've written about from the point of view of looking back at the past, I'd not seen the majority of the adventures of Mulder and Scully before, and I realised that I was missing out on enjoying things because I was too busy concentrating on scribbling down notes. I didn't have time to do a second watch in the same week just to write a mini-review. So that element went on hiatus too.
Still I soldiered on with other bits and bobs and most importantly the "Golden Sunsets" strand, which I was enjoying immensely as I worked my way forward from the late 60s to the end of the 80s. The nostalgia thing was obviously where my heart was.
But then in early July, I began to find myself taking longer and longer to finish a post on 1991, until eventually I ended up skipping a couple of weeks purely because I ran out of time. Why was it taking so long to cover this decade when I had written with such passion and frenzy about earlier years? Well, without trying to be too analytical, I think partly that is because the 1990s were an incredibly difficult and emotional period for me personally, where my life changed irrevocably in both positive and negative ways.
To give some context - by the time the decade ended and we entered the new millennium, I had: got married, had a mini nervous breakdown, lost my father-in-law in a tragic motorcycle accident, relocated my home 180 miles further north while still renting out my existing property to what turned out to be the tenant from hell, discovered that my first daughter (who arrived 11 weeks earlier than expected) had been born with cerebral palsy (with all the challenges that followed) *and* struggled to hold on to my job as my wife spent 14 weeks in hospital while pregnant with my second daughter. Then finally six months after her birth, my wife and I ended up separating for good, for reasons far too complex to go into here (although let's be clear, there was no one else involved).
So it's really not surprising that my focus was elsewhere - and hence my memories of the books, movies, television, music and comics of the time are...somewhat hazy.
Struggling to separate the strands of those tumultuous years, I found that the order of things in my head were jumbled. Unpicking the timelines, reflecting on the good and bad memories and doing the necessary research meant that the various sections of each post had begun to take longer and longer to shape into a cohesive whole. Plus, who knows, maybe middle-age was also finally starting to have an effect on my cognitive recall (what *did* I have for lunch last week?).
I believe that this lengthening 'development' process and the difficulties it presented caused the weekly schedule to slip, but I honestly thought I could battle through it and recover the momentum. But then on top of this, in the second half of 2017 along came a plethora of real world issues - family and pet illnesses, broken down boilers and various job related shenanigans that were - of course - a priority over everything else . What once was a regular series of posts began to drop further and further behind. As I have several times before in my life, I felt like I was trying to keep an infinite number of plates spinning while running in ever decreasing circles - and any minute one of them was going to get smashed to the floor...
The thing is, unlike when this kind of thing has happened before, I'm thankfully now older and (hopefully) wiser - I'd like to think I know my own limits. I couldn't keep burning the candle at both ends *and* in the middle! A long overdue two week holiday in September gave me some downtime and I managed to relax, yet still write about my favourite things of 1996 by doing a little bit each day by the side of the pool. I squeezed out one more post during October, but by the end of the month it was clear that the only sensible thing to do was...stop. Something had to give, so the blog went on the back-burner while I concentrated on all that boring grown-up stuff.
The problem was, before I could blink, a month had gone past and then six weeks and, well, here we are...
I've had a lot of encouragement in the last few weeks from another friend who told me that I shouldn't let things get in the way of writing, as what I was doing was too good to leave unfinished (he's biased of course but it was a lovely sentiment). But he was right about one thing - there's a lot of stuff floating around and old, old projects that I desperately wanted to get back to (maybe not the "X-Files" mini reviews - sorry), but I kept looking at the "Golden Sunsets" strand and I knew that was the one I really wanted to finish.
So here's the plan. I'm going to start 2018 with nothing more than a desire to write something about the years 1997 to 2017. No timetable. No deadlines. I have twenty 'episodes' left to go and it might take me twenty weeks or it might take me three years. I don't care. No more apologies about being 'late'. No worries about supplying regular 'content' to an invisible audience. If someone reads all this nonsense and enjoys it - fabulous. If they don't and the blog counter drops to zero views, I'm not going to fret. Ultimately I'm doing all this for just one person - me.
Hopefully with any kind of pressure off, I can get back into the groove and simply write for the sheer enjoyment of it. After I've finished "Golden Sunsets"? Who knows? Probably more nostalgia-driven stuff around comics and old TV shows and a nagging desire to write about the music influences from my school days. We'll see.
So here's to 2018. May you be happy and healthy. I'll see you on the other side.
"Time moves in one direction. Memory in another" - William Gibson