In no particular order and with varying degrees of importance and silliness, some things 2018 taught me.
Note, these are not prescriptions for others on how to approach life, writing, or anything. My job isn’t to tell you what to do; it’s, hopefully, to entertain you and then tear your heart out and crush it beneath my boot. While smiling.
- Writing should always be fun, or at least not terrible. Sometimes it’s hard, other times it flows like water, but if there isn’t a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day, examine what you’re working on and why.
- Writing the third book of a trilogy is a particular hell because you have to tie up EVERY SINGLE LOOSE END you erroneously left untied in the previous books, deferring their resolution through negligence or laziness.
- When interviewing other authors on your website, make sure you actually do your research into said author before making a tit of yourself over email.
- The Fantasy Five are all very good people.
- 90% of SFF fans are good people.
- Books are tiny gods.
- Be excited for the success of others. We’re not rivals or competition. Being an author is not the same as being a football team – people are allowed to like more than one and will support more than one.
- Try to work on more than one thing at once, whether it’s a short story, a review of a book you loved or the vague brainstorm for your next book/series.
- Spend more time with family and loved ones. Your fiction family (characters) are, contrary to their loudly-stated opinion, not as important as your real family.
- Started learning HEMA (Italian longsword, dagger and unarmed combat). Accept being stabbed repeatedly with as much grace as possible.
- Don’t talk politics with family when you know they hold different opinions to yours. Especially don’t do this on special occasions. Just don’t do it. You’re unlikely to convince them, but you may very well alienate them. Love them despite it because the world would be a terrible place if we were all the same.
- Podcasts continue to be lots of fun.
- Step out of your panel event comfort zone at conventions. Apply for panels that will require you to do research first, but don’t let that research narrowly define your answers – be prepared to riff off what others say, supposing you understand their point of view. If you don’t, ask. You might look a bit daft, but none of us are in this to come across as omniscient (are we? Am I doing this wrong?).
- Making people laugh is a joy. It doesn’t matter if it’s at your expense. (Maybe related to point 12 above…)
- Got me a gym set up in the garage. I now have even less excuse to leave the house, so, you know, pros and cons to that decision. Plus spiders, meaning my 20 metre dash is improving no end.
- People will label you. The only labels that matter are the ones that you give yourself (and the ones confirming an item is recyclable).
- Help people. Family, friends, strangers. Writers published and unpublished. Be generous with your time. You often learn as much from them as they do from you.
- Presenting a raffle with RJ Barker is a ridiculous and energetic feat and I’d do it again.
- I have learnt to enjoy unsweetened cocoa which, contrary to received wisdom, is as good at satisfying a sweet tooth (despite its bitterness) as something sweet. Magic in action.
- Challenge yourself. Write something that makes you uncomfortable. Write something that requires you to delve into painful history, your own or your culture’s. Be uncomfortable. Worry that you’re not doing it right, so that you research and examine and learn and question to make sure you ARE doing it right. Never skimp on this.
- It’s okay not to like something geeky that all your friends like. For me, that was Infinity War. There was just TOO MUCH going on, and they gave more screen time to some of my least favourite characters. You can all tell me how horrible I am now…
- Listen to your agent and your editor and your copy-editor if you have them. Trust their expertise. By all means sulk, by all means disagree, but still listen.
- AN EDITOR IS NOT THERE TO MAKE YOUR BOOK WORSE. (I already knew this, but it always bears repeating.)
- Practice self-care.
- Laughter is one of the best self-care practices out there. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. Limit your interactions with people who don’t.
- Reduce your plastic use.
- I don’t understand why people think radishes are peppery-hot.
- It’s fine to be proud of work and accomplishments, but don’t be a dick about it. Other people’s accomplishments, whatever they are, are as valid as yours. Don’t judge them by your standards even if they judge you by theirs.
- You don’t need a high-ranking job or £1,000s in the bank to be happy. Taking a step back from clawing your way to the top in order to engage in your passion does not make you unambitious. It does not make you less, because you are filling your life with more. It doesn’t matter if family or colleagues don’t value your passion. It doesn’t matter what others think. Value your happiness, your passion, over others’ opinions.
- It’s nice to be important. But it’s more important to be nice.
Exquisite fan art: Trickster pennanular cloak pin created by the supremely talented @silkyida
And a Merry Christmas!