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Thoughts on the Past Year and the New

Every new year is a natural inflection point, a pin stuck into our lives, that makes a good opportunity for retrospection and resolution. The blogosphere is – of course – lousy with such retrospectives and resolutions, and self-indulgent though it may be, I will do the same.

My 2014 in Review

The past year was a very difficult one for me. The same could be said for the year before that, but at this point on some measures I seem to be clawing my way back into some semblance of normalcy. Two themes dominated my 2014: Work, and Family Life.

On the work front, I started a new job at the start of 2014. And unfortunately, that job has more-or-less eaten my life. In addition to having to travel internationally about 30% of the time, I find myself working 15 – 20 hour days typically about six days per week. There are a variety of reasons for that which I won’t get into here, but obviously such a pace is not to be maintained long-term. It means having less time for family (which had its own share of challenges in 2014), and unfortunately much less time for blogging or writing. My life-and-soul-consuming dayjob was the single dominant feature of my 2014, which is neither healthy nor sustainable. The good news, is that improvement on this front is (hopefully) coming soon.

When it comes to family, 2014 was also difficult. For one thing, we moved (again), into a fixer-upper which (as the name suggests) is in need of some TLC. Another move would have been hectic and distracting enough, but we had to move ourselves and move my (octogenarian) parents at the exact same time. And now, we find ourselves supporting my parents financially, logistically, and emotionally as they begin to be Really Old. Then there were a number of deaths in the family, followed by serious hospitalizations for some of the surviving family members.

In other words, I’m really glad to be seeing the back of 2014.

For all of the hard bits, I shouldn’t complain: While my professional life is hard, incredibly stressful, and often frustrating, we are objectively in a much better place now than we were a year ago. More secure, more stable, and with better prospects. But all of that added security comes with a cost that can be measured in time and energy.

You’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t been blogging near as much as I should be. In the past year, I’ve written only one substantive blog post (my retrospective on the works of Gene Wolfe which was published at Aidan Moher’s Hugo-award-winning A Dribble of Ink). All of the work and family issues I’ve been dealing with haven’t really left a lot of time or energy for the thinking or in-depth critical analysis that I love, which is a shame. And it is something that I would like to rectify in 2015.

In a similar fashion, I have largely dropped off of the genre community’s social media circles. Yesterday was the first day when I went onto Twitter in a meaningful fashion in at least two months. Most of my social interaction with the field has actually been the old-fashioned in-person kind: at Readercon, at Worldcon, at the SFWA Mill-and-Swill, or while working as staff at Viable Paradise. It’s funny, but while I tend to be a fairly social person, when the going gets tough I find that being a social person in-person actually becomes easier than maintaining affability in the online world. I find that to be somewhat counter-intuitive, and actually quite surprising. But there it is.

In terms of my fiction writing, this has been a year of fits-and-starts. Because of all of the time and creative energy that my work requires, I spent 2014 writing fiction in bursts. There would be a dry-spell that would last a month, or six weeks. And then I would churn out anywhere from two thousand to six thousand words in one sitting. I find that’s a very frustrating way to write, in that it makes building up a rhythm or maintaining momentum quite difficult. But throughout 2014 that was the only way I could make any kind of forward progress, slow and intermittent as it was.

But that was all 2014, and I am hoping (and resolving, and intending, and planning, and praying) that 2015 will be easier.

Looking Forward to 2015

The biggest challenge in 2014 was the way in which my dayjob ate my life and crushed my soul. The good news here is that we reached an inflection point right around Christmas time in the dayjob, one which will hopefully let me re-gain some modicum of control over my work schedule, work pace, and the hours that I need to put in to do my job well. I might not be able to get to that point starting tomorrow, but the pace I worked in 2014 cannot continue in 2015. It just won’t be physically sustainable. Which means that something will have to give, in one fashion or another.

That couples with a resolution to make more (and more consistent) progress in writing both non-fiction and fiction. In terms of fiction, over the past months I have been decreasing the interval between my fiction writing sessions and increasing the word-count in each one. Slowly, I am attempting to regain the kind of rhythm and momentum that I had a couple of years ago.

At the same time, I’m going to make an effort to blog more. And to help with that, the Professor and I have made a deal. In 2015, I plan to go to three cons: ICFA, Readercon 26, and World Fantasy. But to justify the expense and time away from home (which is on top of my 1 – 2 weeks of work travel per month), I will need to maintain a blogging pace of one post every month. Of course, that’s far off of my previous weekly schedule. But small steps, as I try to wrest control of my life and writing output back to a more natural place.

Of course, fixing dayjob troubles and getting my fiction and non-fiction writing rhythm back won’t change the fact that family will still bring its challenges. That is not something that will change soon, and considering the work that needs to be done to our new house, and my parents’ age and condition, I expect family life will get worse before it (eventually) gets better. But that’s just the way it goes, and that is the one area of my life where I have the least explicit control. Dayjob I can influence and shape: dealing with the vicissitudes of care, health, and loved ones is just something that has to be done.

So that’s how things stand, looking back on the last year and looking forward to the next. I hope I’m able to wrest more of a life away from my job, and that I’m able to regain better momentum in my writing. And I hope that by doing so, 2015 will let me speak with you more here, on Twitter, and at those three cons I mentioned.

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