Dismembering the year that was

Folks, can I be real with you for a minute?

2015 was kind of a rough year. In a lot of ways.

I don’t talk much about my day job here, and I’m not going to break that habit, but suffice it to say that it’s been tiring, stressful and demanding this year. The knee injury I took at the end of April left me in pain for months, and painkillers left me drained and unfocused after that. I put on weight because I was too tired and pained to exercise, and I became irritable and moody because I didn’t like how I looked or felt.

And writing… this was not a good writing year. I get home from work of an evening, or roll up on the computer on the weekend, and I’m usually too frazzled, grumpy or flat to write anything coherent or worthwhile. My output has been dismal – even my blogging dropped from twice-weekly to weekly to fortnightly to I-don’t-know-whenever.

Yes, I finished and published The Obituarist II, and I finished the final, polished version of Raven’s Blood, and I’m happy and proud to have done those things. But The Obituarist II has only sold 40 copies so far, because I can’t stomach the effort required to properly promote it. And Raven’s Blood got knocked back – I got knocked back – by an agent last week, and while that’s not the end of the world or anything the news came at the end of a bad few weeks and left me feeling pretty lousy.

I don’t generally get depressed, stressed or anxious; I’m not wired to be unhappy for more than a few minutes at a time. But the gravity of 2015 was heavy, and clinging, and more often than not it dragged me down. Sometimes to a point where I contemplated just dropping the whole writing business as a bad idea that was never going to get me anywhere.

So is that going to happen?


Screw that.

It’s pretty ridiculous for me to call this a difficult year, when I have friends and loved ones that have endured far, far worse tragedies and losses in 2015 and still kept going. Whatever setbacks and troubles I’ve got on my plate are transient and manageable, and I can get past them and back on target if I make an effort and remind myself that not everyone has that luxury. A little end-of-year whinge on a blog almost no-one reads is a forgiveable level of blowing off steam – but not anything more like that.

As for giving up writing… you know, that would be easy. The idea of not making an effort any more appeals to my lazy, weary soul. What doesn’t appeal is living with that decision – with not doing the only thing I’m halfway good at, the only thing that might let me leave something behind in this world that anyone cares about.

I don’t always love what I do. But it’s what I do. It’s who I am. And a year of doldrums, knee pain and heavy drinking isn’t enough to change that.

So okay. 2015 was a bit shit. 2016 might not be that much better. But I’m still going to plug away at Raven’s Bones, I’m still going to hit up agents and publishers about Raven’s Blood, I’m still going to keep sticking my face in the fan – and every week (or two) (or whatever) I’m going to tell you about it.

Because having the chance to do that… that counteracts a lot of the bad shit.

For the rest, there’s friends, Netrunner and good liquor.

Have a happy new year, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England. See you in more pleasant climes.

3 replies on “Dismembering the year that was”

That’s a scary closing image.

I had a year that left me oddly unsatisfied, despite the fact that by any objective standard it was really pretty successful. I finished the draft of A Flash of Black Wings, the YA SF novel I started in March, a couple of days ago. I sold three short stories and two of my pieces finished as highly recommended in the Writers of the Future competition.

And yet – waaah – it took me months longer than I expected to write the manuscript, and I didn’t finish a single new short story after the middle of January. I completely spaced out between August and the end of November, hardly writing a word. By the end of it I felt like a complete Fake Writer Boy. The only way I dragged myself out of it was by using an app that tracks daily habits to get back into an exercise and writing routine.

I have this article by Mary Robinette Kowal to thank for pulling my head out of my own arse: (i.e. I didn’t have depression but I had enough of the same symptoms to demand action). I’m glad of it. I’m back to writing every day, and even when I’m cranking out half-arsed garbage, there’s still some satisfaction at the end of having done something of value. Well, for certain amounts of value, depending on how highly you prize narratives about werewolves fighting magic robots.

Anyway, I feel it. Don’t get discouraged (for long) about the agent thing.

Oh man..
This really was the winter of despair. Not a lot of folks I know (myself included) had a good 2015. Though it seems to have ended… not well, but calmer. For a lot of us.
Like living through a hurricane.
I’m glad that you didn’t throw in the towel. I’m glad you soldiered – stumbled – on.
And keeping at it is always recommended. Hell, what else is there to do with your time?

So here’s to a better year. Or at least a more stable one.

Boo Hiss to 2015. I hope 2016 is much better for you. Keep writing. It’s a hard battle but there are two things that you’ve completed and sent out into the world in 2015. That’s winning even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

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