By Anita Cassidy, author
A year is a measure of time that most of us find meaningful. Fifty two weeks, twelve months, four seasons, the year can be tracked by the changes in the weather and the ebbs and flows of what we have to do around the natural pauses of Easter, Summer and Autumn our Winter holidays. I remember wanting the three stories that make up my novel, Appetite, to start in January - the new year, that first few weeks, can feel so significant somehow in how we think about ourselves, our plans, hopes and expectations for the year ahead.
It has been twelve months since the novel I worked on for three years made its way from my notebooks and Mac into the hands of readers. In that time, that mere twelve months, I have moved back to where I consider home (London), filed for divorce, settled my kids into a new school, written for the national press as well as appeared on both TV and radio discussing relationships and, in particular, making conscious choices within relationships. I have talked and written a lot about the choices around the structure of relationships, the ways in which we communicate and how we make choices about what we will do with the often conflicting desires, needs and wants we all experience on a day to day basis.
The characters in Appetite are all, at the start, marked by an inability to fully reflect on what they are doing ( or have done) and why. They are all struggling, in relation to different things and in different ways, with a lack of awareness. I was that person too. All of them, David, Matthew and Naomi, are pieces of myself and they all share the quality that I too once had: unawareness.
There has been so much work on the topic of the unconscious biases that the mind uses as shortcuts to simplify a complex world. These shortcuts and old habits can be helpful but are also unhelpful, especially as they were often formed long before we even knew what habits were. For me, a lot of this fascinating work can be summed up neatly like this: we do not know what we do not know.
We start each year thinking we know ourselves, that we know what is coming, but, in truth, we cannot know and this is part of the glorious uncertainty and richness of life. A life fully lived is one in which we can learn to accept and even embrace the not knowing, to still do and make active choices but to do those with more awareness that we can never know the impact of these choices. A life fully lived is one in which we let go of the “plans”, of the way we think things should be and how they should go, and let life flow.
2018 was nothing like what I expected. Some of it fell short of my hopes and dreams but more than that again exceeded my expectations. It was a year in which I saw myself becoming fully aware of the impacts of so many choices I had made in the years before. It was a year in which I met some extraordinary people and learnt a lot, not least of which that in the media, the Sun can be more even handed on a topic than the Guardian and that TV and radio producers work on incredibly short lead times! I also learnt to understand the wisdom of the team at RedDoor: that everything changes with your first book and also nothing changes. I am proud to call myself a published author, to see my novel in bookshops but I also know, even more now than ever, that just sitting down and doing the often hard work of writing from the heart and editing with the mind is the most important thing.
In 2019, I see myself making more choices with a greater degree of awareness and care and based on my consciously chosen values of honesty and kindness. The making of more conscious choices as well as embracing the unknown and the uncertainty is very much what Books Two and Three are about and I hope to be able to share more about those before this year is out.