2011 was a pretty awesome year insofar as it was the year I began selling fiction. Brain Harvest served up my inaugural publication, followed by Bards & Sages, Fusion Fragment, and Brain Harvest again. I've also got work forthcoming in Kaleidotrope, Weird Tales, and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.
It is also the year that has seen the most turbulence in my self-consciousness-as-writer and aesthetic-consciousness-as-artist. In short, I've radically departed my once-ambition to be the sort of writer who makes a living at the craft. This evolution has a twofold source:
1. I started a new job in April of 2011, which I actually like. I do a lot of creative stuff at work, I have a great boss, and I enjoy the milieu in which I work. This means that I don't feel the desperation that consumed me when I began writing, namely the desperation of what shall I do with this life? Therefore, writing is no longer an act of necessity - I don't care if I make a living at it since I can make an enjoyable living other ways - but an act of leisure, spontaneity, informality and joy, on par with playing video games or reading in its "utility" but surpassing them by volition of the endorphins (or, y'know, whatever neuroscientological-object) released by the creative accomplishment.
2. I grew sick of genre fiction. I've never been a genre-purist; I've always preferred the weird fantasies of Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville to the epic/heroic brand, and I was never a big fan of science fiction (although I've come to realize that SF is a far more noble and "real" form of fiction-as-artwork than fantasy [typically] is; that's a subject for a future post, however). But with two and a half-years of genrefication under my belt, I feel as though I've experienced most of what genre-as-designated can offer me. There are exceptions: Michael Cisco's "The Narrator," which I read this year, is fantastic but far more than fantasy; Joe Abercrombie's books are vapidly pulp medievalism, but told so well that I cannot resist their allure. In the final measure, though, I've been finding it more and more interesting to read "literature," or, more appropriately, "realistic novels," for perhaps the reason that I find them less predictable (even though they might obey the physical and historical contexts of "real realities"). Since the "realistic novels" I've been picking up are always books that in various ways have been nominated for or awarded prizes (since these are the ones, I suppose, that I hear about), I'm exposed to really good writing on a daily basis; and this in turn has made me far, far more critical of my own writing.
These two factors have a similarly dual outcomes:
1. I am writing less. Far, far less than I did last year. I don't track my output, so I can't say, proportionally, how much less. For all I know, I'm not actually writing less in terms of word-output; but I am without doubt putting in less time, and producing fewer completed works. This is because, no matter the majestic corona that I feel surrounds me when I write/have written, there are some days I just want to loaf around and be distracted by this year's Quadpartite Threat:
Not-writing is to writing as to winter is to summer: you've got to have them all to thoroughly appreciate.
2. I am writing far more interesting stuff. Notice I do not say "better," as even if there were a good way to evaluate this (and we might say that sales is one, and since I haven't sold any of my "more interesting" stuff yet, "better" is in fact the opposite of what we might judge this year's work to be), I figure the condition of having-written-solidly-for-another-year would predict exactly a general betterness. No, I'm more interested in the fact that I've tried writing differently. In the last six months, I've made attempts at new styles, structures, and themes that I would not have broached in 2010. Overall, I would say that I've realized I am most interested in writing "idea" fiction, as opposed to character- or plot-"based" (obviously that's a somewhat loaded term, but hopefully you get it) stories, as well as word-heaviness - in terms of description, atmosphere, streams of consciousness, etc. - rather than sparse, action/speech-oriented prose. In short, in 2010, my objective was to produce fiction for large, extant markets; in 2011, it became to produce stuff I think is wicked.
I don't have any particular resolutions for the New Year - although it will be the Chinese year of the Dragon, which seems to portend a general need/propensity for awesomeness. A lot of my compatriots (to be found in the sidebar under "Writer Friends") seem to have plans to Write A Billion Books, but I can't make such a resolution - not because it isn't admirable, but because I once possessed that kind of vision and found it didn't match with what actually produces happiness for me. In a rather unnecessarily philosophic way, I've found I'm transitioning from a writing model of "work" to "action" in the Arentdian definition - not insofar as my work is in any way political, but insofar as it is becoming an end-in-itself, combining the what-it-is with the who-I-am, where I once sought to reify the greater-than-myself in totemic texts.
MIND BLOWN, RIGHT?
Actually I'm pretty sure I'm interpreting Arendt incorrectly.
Onwards, to 2012!