Have you heard of Depth Year?
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you spend a year going deeper, not wider in your life. You can read the original concept by David Cain here, but if you want the tl;dr short version it basically involves finding the value in what you already own or have started. Thus you drill down, not fan out; hone your existing skills, build what you already have, deepen your commitment, buy nothing new, consume less media. An idea so simple it’s brilliant!
I’ve always struggled with overwhelm. I feel I was born in the wrong era. I have romantic notions of living the life of a Thomas Hardy heroine. Minus the misogyny and abuse, the tuberculosis, only getting Sunday mornings off just so you can go to church and repent, followed by untimely death.
I want a life of being close to nature, spending time with my creative projects, and my human and non-human loved ones. If I could do all that looking like Nastassja Kinski in Tess of the D’Urbervilles then I’ve aced it.
But the internet tells me I’m supposed to like this, do that, watch/listen this, talk about that, be this, think this is the right way. Or the wrong one. There’s hoo-haa going on constantly, flapping about stuff and it all gets so exhausting. Well. I also remember being told to always keep your eyes on your own paper.
“Nobody buys a book with the intention of leaving it unread, or a guitar with the intention of learning a few half-songs and leaving it in the attic. But that’s the fate of most new pursuits. We still love that feeling of promise and possibility, and we’re willing to pay for it, but most of the time we don’t supply the follow-up work to make the promise true.” – David Cain
I’m as guilty as the next woman of being attracted to shiny new things or experiences. On top of which I’m a bit of a (Virgo) perfectionist so I generally expect to go big or go home. Many things I plan to do and many other things I abandon, don’t like much, or lack commitment to do anything about. All you need is often hiding in plain sight, or lost somewhere under the mountain of crap. Books, projects, possessions, plans + goals, more travel, workshops + classes etc. More, more, more. Ugh.
There is a lot I could potentially do with my Depth Year. It seems a no-brainer to keep it small yet still challenging. Sticking to what gives me freedom to explore without picking only low-hanging fruit. This is what I’ve come up with so far:
* I went through all my books. I sorted out all the ones that don’t appeal to me and will probably never read and the ones I’ve read but don’t love and put them in a box for the next charity book sale. What I had left that I actually want to read amounted to 52 books. So basically a book a week. I know I won’t read that fast but I’ll get through as many as I can. If I’m bored by them I’ll feel no guilt at abandoning them. I’ve also made a pact not to buy a single new book until I’ve finished the list.
* A few months ago I randomly decided that I wanted to learn the oboe. Here’s the thing, I used to play a flute in my teens and I still own one. So I cleaned it up and started learning that again rather than sell it for an oboe. It’s really hard, my chest muscles are still weak and sore so holding it for any length of time is difficult. I was super-screechy and breathy at first and the animals were alarmed. Poose, straight out the catflap with a bang. But little by little I’ve been practising my scales and right now I’m getting pretty good at Les Boréades by Rameau and Zelda’s Lullaby. Yes, I’m that diverse, friends.
* I sorted through all my cameras and decided to sell the vast majority. I will hone my photography with my few favourites: Mamiya DSX, Pentax Spotmatic, the Yashica from my Dad, the underwater Minolta and driftwood pinhole camera. I’ve even decided to sell the Nikon FE I thought I wanted badly, and to stop myself from burning willy-nilly through rolls of film I’ll shoot more project-based work.
* This dear old blog. I love it. It’s a happy place to spend time. A space where I get to be me and have control over the content, design and share my work, words and ideas. After 10+ years of blogging (remember Blogger?) there’s been a lot of that. OK so conversation and commentating seems to have shifted over to social media these days, but if you’re here and you’re reading this, I fricking love you! So I’m going to make an effort with being here more.
* I have to confess I had a plethora of workbooks, classes, tutorials and e-courses saved on my computer, on tons of subjects. Boom! Deleted the lot. Instead I’m going to explore basic skills I have already and I want to improve such as printmaking (or here or here), cyanotypes, life-drawing, film-making and writing.
* I’m hell bent on having the BEST nutrition possible and caring about my mental and physical wellbeing. I’m continuing with routines of art-making, swimming, meditation and walking. I reckon this will have a knock-on effect too of making me become a kinder person to myself and to others. The old ‘put on your own oxygen mask first’ chestnut.
* Getting back into sewing. I’ve already donated 4 bags of clothes and linens. And it brings me a lot of joy to make my own clothes. Not buy anything new other than underwear, and if I do, be very conscious with my choices.
* We are repairing our roof and will then make our crooked home fulfill our needs. We love it’s knobbly walls and sloping floors, I’ve a huge studio and a view to die for. Also, we were going to get a potager this year, but I’ve changed my mind and I’ll work on my own lovely garden, nurturing the plants I already have and make it work better for us.
* I’m not allowed in the sun properly for a year post-radiotherapy so no lounging on a beach for me. But I’ll explore my village, my local area and the South of France in general, especially around Marseille. Maybe if we need a break we’ll toddle off down to the nearby Costa Brava that we already know and love. Here we can indulge in some snorkelling and hiking. Factor 50 please.
* Deepen my commitment to animals. Be more of a voice for them and with conviction about veganism and animal welfare/rights. I shy away from this sometimes because I get upset easily by their suffering, and then there’s the haters calling you preachy or accusing you of not caring about humans. Oh please.
*Continuing to work on my Prussian blue river project, and to share how therapeutic my art has been on my journey of cancer recovery.
So let’s see how I get on…