Goodbye, for now (+ a gift for you)
My year in review, and plans for 2023.
This week's newsletter is a special one. Not only because it's the last one I'll do this year, but also because it's the first one I'm writing at this time of the year. (I started writing weekly newsletters at the end of January this year.)
I used to write these "New Year's chronicles" in my blog back in the day, where I summarized my year with the help of a set of journaling prompts. (Like this one, for example.)
Now is the first time in a long while where I feel inspired to start doing them again. Publicly, that is. I always do a long journaling session at the end of the year, for myself. It's in these sessions that I realize how much I've actually gotten done during the year. Being multi-passionate, I usually have a feeling of not doing enough, not being productive or focused enough, spreading myself too thin, not really accomplishing anything. At least it feels that way while I'm in the thick of it. But looking back, I'm often surprised. Even I get a lot more done in a year than you might think. 😅
So in this final letter of 2022, let's look at what my journey has been like this year, what I've struggled with, what I've learned, what I've accomplished. And also what I'm hoping and planning for 2023.
My theme for 2022: Foundation
I know some people like to set a theme, or a word, for the year ahead. That never worked for me. I'm not psychic. It's only in hindsight that I can see what the theme of my year has been. And the theme for 2022 has been building a stable foundation: Foundational habits for myself, in the way I show up and create. And a foundational audience for my work.
I'm at the point now where enough people see my stuff that growth kind of happens on its own. I don't need to obsess over it anymore.
When I was brand new on YouTube, and had no email list, (and a very small, disengaged Instagram following), hardly anyone saw the stuff I put out. You might know this already: It's very, very hard to stay motivated when you have no audience, and get no response on your creations. It's an uphill battle of constantly reminding yourself of why you're doing this, and trying to act "as if" you already have that audience. Trying to "trick" yourself into feeling that your work matters.
But there's light at the end of the tunnel. If you can just keep going long enough to build that foundation, to get that momentum going, it's going to feel a lot easier. 1000 seems to be the magic number here, at least for me. (Have you read the essay “1000 True Fans?”, by Kevin Kelly?) As soon as I neared 1000 subscribers on YouTube, things started to happen. I got enough of a response on my videos to feel like I had an ongoing conversation with my people. Growth speeded up. I felt more confident, and settled into a routine. The upward-spiral had begun.
And it's the same with this newsletter/publication, which is now at over 1000 subscribers. It's no longer just me, sitting in my room, awkwardly talking to myself. We're in this together now. 🥳
With this foundation in place, I feel like I can relax into my work more. A year ago, growth was all I thought about and wished for. Now that I have (a modest amount of) it, I can worry about other things. Like where I want to go from here, and what I want to create next.
My 2022 in bullet points
In 2022, I...
Switched from MailChimp to Substack. Best decision ever.
Went on to build my email list from 88 to over 1000 subscribers in less than a year.
Started a podcast, made 1 1/2 episodes and then abandonded it. Because I set the bar way, way too high. (Haven't given up on the thought of a podcast. I just need to approach it in a less… perfectionist way. 🙄)
Released a short story. Got halfway through editing/re-writing a novella.
Struggled with back pain. Probably due to long-accumulated muscle imbalances and asymmetries that have led to a multitude of aches and pains that I've spent almost 4 months rehabing. Still not 100% well. The upside to this is that I've been forced to be kinder to my body, and to let go of my extreme version of what health and fitness should look like. I've come to realize the value of rest and gentle movement. And I’ve become an avid collector of trigger point massage balls of all kinds. (Seriously, these balls have saved my life. Bury me with these balls next to me, because we will never be parted.)
Saw some great success on Skillshare. Initially, until my (and all other teachers') pay was cut by more than 60%. Quickly fell out of love, with both Skillshare and teaching. Started selling standalone courses instead. Made far less money on that, but got my teaching motivation back.
Practiced my portrait skills diligently. Drew a loooot of charcoal portraits. Had lots of fun.
Painted some watercolor birds. Launched the Birds In Flight print collection.
Plans for 2023
This coming year, my focus will be to evolve my creative practices, and to build upon the habits I've formed around publishing here.
I'm not going to obsess over metrics and growth hacks and business strategy minutia. I'm going to focus on improving my skills, deepening my practice, and building a body of work. Putting my very best effort out there, every week. Rinse and repeat.
I want to...
Dedicate myself primarily to this Substack publication. These weekly letters will continue, but I also want to write more, and better, essays. I want to start recording audio narration for them, and maybe explore the audio format in other ways. I want to start making illustrations for my posts, combining art and writing in the same place. I will host more discussions, offer more coaching. And I will launch a paid subscription option early next year. I hope to make this my full-time income in 1-2 years time. And I want to teach you how to do the same.
Make YouTube videos only if, and when, I really feel like it. Which might mean once a month, sporadically with long breaks in-between, or never. (Right now, I'm soooo looking forward to making art without the constant presence of a camera.)
Write more short stories. And a novel. Get better at storytelling. But mostly just try to overcome 10 years of bad conditioning and writerly PTSD, and teach myself how to write fiction without getting anxious or bored.
Pick up music again. Practice piano regularly. Maybe some guitar as well. Sing more. Dance more.
Paint more intuitively, more from imagination, less from references. Be wilder, bolder, freer in my art practice. Paint like no one's looking. (Which will be easier without that damn camera always in the way...)
If you want to do some end-of-the-year reflection and journaling yourself, I've created a worksheet for you. It's a page of journaling prompts that you can print out and use as inspiration for your own New Year's chronicle. You can download it below.
And with that, I wish you a peaceful, restorative holiday season. Thank you so much for being here. Take care of yourself, and we'll talk again next year. 🖤
P.S. If you like these letters, would you mind leaving a little review for me? Just a sentence or two about what you like about my newsletter? It would go on the front page of my Substack, that page with the subscribe box you know? It would have your name attributed to it. I would appreciate it so, so much!
New Year's Chronicle journaling worksheet
Grab a cup of tea (or a glass of something sparkly), and have a cozy moment of introspection with yourself. Look back on your progress and set your intentions for the new year. 🥂
I finished Slewfoot, by Brom. Wow. What a brutal, endearing, deeply moving, beautiful work of art. I'm in love. Brom is my new creative role model, and I will now go on to read all of his novels, and buy all of his art books.
I'm also right at the end of The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson. Can’t wait to finish it tonight…
After that, I think I might read The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. A book I've heard so much about. Never read anything by Tartt, so I’m very excited about that.
I will probably also re-read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. First read it in highschool, translated into Swedish. Figure it's time to experience it again, in its native language.
Oh, how I will read over the holidays... I will read the way a severely dehydrated person drinks. I will read from morning to night. I will read until my eyes dry up and shrivel into raisins. And early next year, I’ll write about the best books I read in 2022.
Stumbled over this Donna Tartt interview clip on YouTube:
Writing slowly is okay. Not everything has to be done faster. And although I couldn't possibly take a decade to write a single book, I'm still wildly attracted to the idea of just retiring from the modern world for ten years at a time to live in my creative bubble. Sounds like heaven to me.
Oh, and I finished Andor season 1. My initial verdict from a few weeks ago still stands. This is quality entertainment. Haven't been this impressed by a (new) tv show in quite a while. Haven't enjoyed anything Starwars related in many years. I can't wait for season 2, please let it be just as good...
I don't listen to a lot of Christmas music, but I do have a carefully curated playlist that I'm fond of. If you too enjoy soft, gentle, non-intrusive background music, you might enjoy it as well:
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