Friday, December 31, 2010

The assessment

It was a good year. Long-term goals were accomplished and a new chapter begun.

I ground through school and finished my history BA at long last. I was on the Deans List nearly every term and ended with a 3.65 GPA. That and I independently passed BYU's Foreign Language Assessment Test for Swedish to pull it off.

Oregon's climate continued to be so very good to me. I lost another fifteen pounds for a total of fifty. I'm starting to look like me in the mirror once again. Going from Mt. Rose to the City of Roses has been a healthy thing.

I went to LA. I saw my first published short story in a prestigious anthology. I attended a workshop taught by two established authors and met a dozen more, including names in the field that I've admired for over two decades. Every bit as more important, I met my peers.

Strangely, I hardly wrote anything for almost four months after coming home from Writers of the Future. Which is the first I time I've done that in fifteen years. I've been putting out genre text five or six nights a week for the better of two decades. That includes nearly eight years overseas in both the military and as a civilian. I produced words on a tower PC six miles from the DMZ in South Korea and on a laptop in Macedonia twenty miles or so south of Kosovo. Then this fall a switch flipped on some level, and aside from pushing through the revision of a short story, I was drifting.

But it was a creative drift, if that makes any sense. I read everything I could get my hands on about the state of the industry. I looked at every magazine, browsed the books stores, learned the imprints, and thought long and hard about the decline of literary science fiction.

That took me on a whole 'nother trip--looking at what sells and why so much sells well outside of original literary science fiction. It also had me reevaluating everything I've learned from professionals and fellow aspirants over the past three years. It seems that there is a huge difference between what's preached in workshops and in critique groups and what's actually on the pages of books that sell.

Then I picked up part-time work last month writing a software and technology blog for a software development company that goes live in a day or so. That's been great fun: Fun researching the state of technology and how social networking seems to have blurred all the boundaries between coding and feedback and users and programers. Fun writing in personable voice and gradually ditching many of the audience-alienating conceits that I've learned up in academic and 'literary' writing.

This last week it all came together. Over three days a picture emerged of where I want to go as a genre writer and how I want to write. And now the text is flowing once again.

It's probably not a coincidence that this happened during the last week of the year.

It maybe strange, but New Years is now more important to me than Christmas. All the rituals of cleaning the apartment, pulling down inspirational books from the shelf and looking over old text documents written to encapsulate my personal philosophy have taken on a significant emotional weight. The approach of the the holiday throws me into an introspective clarity that normally requires dedicated effort during the rest of the year.

If all of the above sounds a little narcissistic it's because it is. But like the afore-mentioned drift it's been a good kind of egoism--the culmination of a two year hermitage of introspection and reinvention. During coming year I plan on rejoining the human race and integrating myself into the community of the city.

I also intend to continue expanding my writing revenue--both technical and literary.

And no more short stories in genre writing. From here on out it's novels. My first goes out the door in January and I hope to produce at least two more during the course of the year. Perhaps I'll end up like Brandon Sanderson and have a dozen or so trunk novels before my first one sells. If so, I can happily live with that.

In the meanwhile, best wishes to you all for the coming year. May its end find you healthy and happy.


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