From taking an evening class that kick-started her writing career to becoming a hospital radio host, author Lucy Diamond has never been afraid to try something new. January is a time for drawing up plans for the future, and here Lucy tells us why she believes the best New Year’s resolutions are those that embrace making a new start.

On paper, January doesn’t have an awful lot to recommend it. The mornings are freezing, the days are still short and dark, there’s all your Christmas excess to feel guilty about and that first month’s pay seems to take a hideously long time to arrive. Abandoned Christmas trees bowl dismally about on the pavements, your home appears drab once the fairy-lights and tinsel have been taken down, and everyone around you has embarked on punishing diets and exercise regimes in the name of new year’s resolutions. The fun and sparkle of Christmas already seems like life on a distant planet.

And yet January doesn’t have to be all doom, gloom and denial. For me, there’s something really appealing about cracking open the spine of a new diary and making plans for the year ahead. All those empty pages, waiting to be filled in with adventures and achievements – and you’re the one holding the pen. Who doesn’t love the romance of a new beginning?

I’m a sucker for the whole new year business, I have to say. I love that there’s this one point in the year where, as a country, we collectively take stock and re-examine our lives. It’s easy to drift along in a comfortable routine most of the time but as the midnight bells ring in the first of the first, the same questions loom in our minds: Where do I want to go from here? Am I happy in my current life? How could I make it better?

Not for me, the denial of a booze-free, sugar-free January, thanks. Instead, I think of this as the time to curl up in a cosy corner, light a fire (or at least crank up the central heating) and dream big. Hatch a few plots. Could a new job be on the horizon? A return to education? All those cities and countries you’ve wanted to see . . .  A new hobby you’ve wondered about trying . . . There are countless opportunities out there for the taking and this cold, dark, winter month is the perfect time to make plans.

Looking back, it’s often been the new starts that have proved the richest experiences of my life, those leaps into the unknown that end up changing everything. An evening class with a bunch of strangers prompted me to write my first novel – and their encouragement gave me the self-belief to not only finish the manuscript but also to submit it to a literary agent. Leaving a great job to go travelling taught me life lessons that are still with me, twenty years on – including one that has stood me in good stead as an author: that everyone has their own extraordinary story to tell. Plucking up the courage to tell a handsome friend that I’d always fancied him catapulted us into a heady romance . . .  and ultimately led to our marriage and three children. It’s no coincidence that many of the characters in my novels have similar flashes of boldness where they take a chance and strike out in new ventures.

This time last year, I was actually having a slight wobble about being an author. I love thinking up stories and the act of writing (well, most of the time) but the work is solitary, and it can be a lonely business, especially if you are a naturally gregarious sort. Did I want to carry on? I asked myself. Might I be happier switching to a job where I’d have colleagues again instead?

After some thought, I settled on a compromise – that I’d sign up for some voluntary work to expand my horizons and try something new. Scouring the voluntary opportunities in my area, I discovered that the local hospital radio station was asking for help, and, on impulse, I chucked in an application. I thought I might get involved writing press releases or updating their website, even making cups of tea for the presenters but much to my surprise, I ended up co-hosting a show one morning a week – and absolutely loved it! Not only because I felt part of a team again, and enjoyed the camaraderie of the other volunteers, but also because I had to learn a whole new set of skills – operating the broadcasting equipment, thinking about which songs to play and how to introduce them, as well as honing my presenting technique. Without wanting to sound pious, it also felt incredibly rewarding to do something for the community, in particular the patients and staff at the hospital.

As well as all of that, my new start had another unexpected effect: it made me appreciate anew my own work, and I ended up having a really fun, experimental writing year – working on a TV script and three children’s books as well as a new novel. Stretching my wings and having a go at something new definitely works for me in terms of a January kick-start. I’m already looking forward to all the different things I’m going to try in 2019 . . .  how about you?