So. A year end wrap up or decade in review or something like that. I’d completely forgotten about doing this, but just now, Chuck Wendig’s post reminded me that all the cool kids are doing it, and who am I to resist (healthy) peer pressure?
If you’d asked me in 2010 where I’d be by 2020, my answer would have involved a lot of wishful thinking and probably looked a lot like Chuck Wendig’s list of accomplishments. At the tail end of 2019, I’m a few leagues short of that mark and I realistically doubt I’ll ever catch up. I don’t feel a need to. I an truly delighted that writers like Chuck, like Seanan McGuire, like Ursula Vernon, like Ana Mardoll, like Brooke Bolander, are amassing a steady catalog of incredible work.
Why did I pick those authors? Because I first “met” them all on Twitter. Their feeds are rich and filled with humor, information, and charisma. I was laughing helplessly at Seanan’s stories online for a year before I picked up one of her books. I discovered Ana Mardoll via xer threads taking apart the Xanth books and shredding – uh, reviewing – old movies. Xie’s fucking brilliant.
Brooke Bolander probably crossed my feed because someone else on Twitter was raving about her writing. I noticed Ursula Vernon, if I recall correctly, via her tweets about gardening, then got completely hooked on her Unnamed Sheep thread, and then discovered she’s a Major Author with a Fuckton Of Great Books. (The path to Getting Known is weird sometimes!)
Turning back to the start of the decade, I started 2010 with a couple published books and short stories under my belt. I had stars in my eyes about making a living as a writer at last. I worked my ass off going to convention after convention, speaking about writing, guest blogging, teaching writing classes, anything I could get my hands on.
Then, yanno, stuff happened. It’s all very boring, and if you’ve been following me you’ve already read about it over the past few years. But my momentum went pretty much to zero, and I totally burned out on talking about my writing or about any writing at all, and eventually on doing the writing itself. In 2019, I’ve been regaining strength: I went to maybe four conventions, all as a vendor for The Scribbling Lion, and I discovered that I have a lot more fun not being a writer guest.
It’s a huge thrill to be on a panel with, say, Tamora Pierce* or Ellen Kushner or some other Big Name – right up until you realize that you’re a puling infant next to them, and the best thing you can generally do is shut the fuck up and not embarrass yourself. Which makes for a pretty miserable panel.
For the record, Tamora Pierce* and Ellen Kusher are absolutely gracious and lovely people and did nothing at all, on the referenced panels, to make me feel bad about myself. It was entirely my own business that I found myself brought up against a stark awareness of how far I had yet to go. I’m truly grateful for that awareness. Encountering bigger fish made me realize I was in a very, very small pond indeed and that it was time to work a whole lot harder to graduate up the ladder.
I thrashed a bit. As noted earlier, stuff happened, and I haven’t quite made it out of that small pond just yet. I don’t know if I will in 2020; my expectations are considerably more realistic than they were ten years ago, and the publishing industry is shifting and recreating itself so fast, and in occasionally bizarre directions, that I have no idea what to expect in the year, let alone the decade, ahead.
It doesn’t really matter, though. Because what I’m going to do in 2020 is write like crazy, and run my bookstore, and edit brilliant writers, and wrangle my writing group. I’m going to try out a lot of new recipes, and walk in my nearly two acres of woods, and pet my needy yet adorable dog. I’m going to keep learning German, refining my typeset/layout skills, and reading increasingly excellent work from authors like Nicole Givens Kurtz, Angela Wade, Allison Norfolk, Samantha Bryant, and others.
If I somehow hit the magic formula in the next few years to launch me into a bigger pond I’ll be happy. If I don’t, that’s okay too. I’ll still have a rich and worthwhile life, and I’ll be producing creative work that I love.
Most of all, in 2020, I’m going to work on hanging out with other creative people. On or offline. Shuffle is a good place for that: another small, quiet pond in which to rest and work out larger ideas in slow peace and community. In meatspace, I’m closer to a big city now, so I have lots of artists and writers to connect with. It’s time for me to take advantage of that, to branch out beyond the SFF conventions I’ve been hyperfocused on.
If you’re interested in my writing, this is a great time for you to follow me on Twitter, sign up for my newsletter, and of course buy my books (which will let me know if there’s a market for the stuff I want to work on in the year ahead). It’s a great time for you to drop me an email or a DM, just so say hi and to start a conversation about gardening or dogs or cooking or, yeah, writing. Don’t feel you have to talk only about writing. Creativity pulls from life, and there is so much life out here to celebrate!
And thank all the gods, you don’t have to be standing in Times Square when the ball drops to party on properly.
*Yes, I’m aware of and highly irritated about the recent issues with Pierce. The encounter I speak of was much closer to 2010 than 2019, and I’m speaking of my initial impressions, so, as we say on Twitter, “don’t @ me.”