It would have been around about this time last year when my then girlfriend and I were having dinner at some place up in the hills and we got to talking about what we wanted to do the following year. It was exciting. It was going to be a year of Doing Things. Of going places. And, for me, of short stories. I think I’d only just got comfortable with saying that I was a short story writer back then; I’d not long read Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret and those sorts of wonderful, brilliant people, and I felt, finally, that I knew what I wanted to do and I was (reasonably) comfortable in the doing of it. It was going to be a great year.
Best laid plans, and all that.
As you’ll know too well if you’ve been reading this blog for a while it hasn’t turned out to be an exciting year of doing things. Early in the year it transpired that my then girlfriend had a list of her own and we split up. It was painful. And then I got ill, which was painful too. You know, I’ve spent a fair amount of time moaning about these sorts of things on here, and I’m not going to now. My point is that I was a little dubious about making any sort of plans for 2010.
But I did.
I wrote a list the other day. There are the obvious things on it, things like doing more exercise (I recently lost the beard and discovered I’d gained a flabby neck) and maybe giving up smoking, but there are other things on there too. Things like doing more stuff. I’ve spent most of this year writing and it’s tired me out, to some degree, and to a greater degree it’s kept me in my office and on my own. I’ve not done as much by way of workshops as I could, which I’d like to change. So those are the sorts of things that have made their way onto my list.
But this is the most important one, I think:
And it feels that I’m on the right course to achieve that. This year my stories have appeared in some really cool places (so I’m doing something right) and it feels like I’m writing well and still learning. It’s all about learning.
Which has been another big feature of 2009. I’ve learned a lot about writing and about the industry, and I’ve seen what brilliant people there are in it. People who genuinely care about stories and books and writers and literature and I’ve learned that most of those people are great and lovely and cool. And I am incredibly fortunate to be able to call some of those people my friends.
And I think I’ve learned a lot about people as well. I’ve learned (sadly, but it has had its benefits) that some people aren’t nice. That some people are selfish. That some people will use you. That some people are hypocrites. That some people are chronically wrong and that some chronically don’t care. And I’ve learned that there’s a lot of rubbish on the internet and in the papers and that, actually, there’s nothing I can do about it no matter how much I shake my head and scream ‘that’s just not true’ at the computer screen (mostly it seems to be things about short stories). (And yes, I do count myself among those who aren’t always nice – I can be (more than) an arse at times.)
But. Here we are. We’re at the end of the year. Outside there’s snow falling, and in the street lights it sparkles; that could be magic. Some of it’s stuck. Christmas is just around the corner. And after it, January and the whole of 2010. A whole new year. To do stuff in. To be happy, or at least try to be. To write. To make stuff up. To make mistakes and to learn from them. To learn more.
Now that it’s almost here, in a reserved and cautious way, I’m quietly excited.