[info]duskpeterson wrote
on December 12th, 2017 at 08:21 am

Daily life: Highlights of 2017

"The trouble [with Twitter] is that it's a solution to a problem that shouldn't be solved. Eighty percent of the battle of writing involves keeping yourself in that cave: waiting out the loneliness and opacity and emptiness and frustration and bad sentences and dead ends and despair until the damn thing resolves into words. That kind of patience, a steady turning away from everything but the mind and the topic at hand, can only be accomplished by cultivating the habit of attention and a tolerance for solitude."

--Kathryn Schulz (via Advice to Writers).

Only three weeks remain in 2017, so it seems time to sum up everything that happened to me this year.

Big positive event: Changing my primary goal as a writer.

Having concluded last year that any money I made from my fiction was likely to be minor compared to what I could make from a day job (I didn't rush to this conclusion; I began self-publishing in 2007), and having finally wrestled my various health troubles down to the point where I could actually take a day job, I felt freed up to do what I've wanted to do for a long time now: return to being mainly an online fiction writer.

I am so much happier now and so much more productive. For the last three years, I was spending 20% of my literary time on writing and 80% on publishing. Now I'm spending 80% of my literary time on writing, and I'm getting more feedback from readers than I've received in years.

This was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made. All my life, I'd equated "success as a writer" with "success as a commercial writer," so abandoning commercial success as my primary goal felt like admitting I was a failure as a writer. But in actual fact, this turned out to be the best creative decision I've ever made. I now have much more time in which to develop my craft, and I have more opportunities to talk with my readers, which has always been extremely important to me.

(Oh, and I still bring out the occasional e-book. I have nothing against commercial fiction; it's just that my primary focus now is on my online fiction.)

Other big positive event (following from the above event): Lots of wordage.

I still have two weeks of writing to go before the end of the year, but as of now, I've written 230,000 words in 2017. That's my highest annual wordage since 2003. In addition to the fact that online publishing takes a lot less time than e-book publishing, I attribute my high word count this year to the hard work I've done during the past few years in acquiring good work habits, plus the fact that I can now stay offline for extended periods.

Big negative event (personal): No income.

I've earned $200 gross so far this year. That's one-seventh of what I earned in 2015. This is partly due to the fact that I'm no longer bringing out forty e-books a year (yes, you read that figure right), but it's mainly due to (1) industry factors that are affecting all commercial writers, plus (2) illness preventing me from getting my new day-job business started till the end of the year. Obviously, I need to be earning a lot more than three figures a year.

Big negative event (global): Guess. Just guess.

The worst U.S. government I've seen in my lifetime - and I lived through the Nixon era. You know that it's bad when your apprentice's friends are discussing, the day after the election, whether it's better to move to Canada or Mexico. What I think most of us failed to predict was where the worst damage would be done - not merely in the Oval Office and various government agencies, but also in the halls of Congress.

Other events:

* I opened my business providing historical research services to writers. (*Crosses fingers.*)

* For twenty-four years, I was a full-time writer; last summer I switched to being a part-time writer. I spent a lot of energy at the beginning of this year trying to figure out how to continue writing fiction without letting it interfere with my new research business. (This wasn't purely for psychological reasons; my marketing for my historical research business is intertwined with my marketing for my work as a historical specfic writer.) I've come up with a schedule that seems to work well: one hour of writing/editing/layout before breakfast, light editing during meals, an extra hour on Sunday for issuing and announcing my latest fiction, and a couple of hours here and there for going overtime with the above activities. I've rolled all other promotional activities, such as author interviews, into a bundle with promoting my new research business. I spend about fifteen minutes a week on leisure activities, so ten hours a week (not counting mealtime editing) seems a reasonable amount of time for me to spend on an activity which is all-important in keeping me sane.

* Here in our loft apartment in downtown Havre de Grace, I can actually see the floor again. Thanks to a landlord inspection - which we passed, whew - I did a massive decluttering operation. All that was left to declutter afterwards were my papers and records--

* --whereupon the bedbugs turned up, and the remaining clutter turned into a crisis, because there wasn't enough room in our apartment to bring in the bedbug extermination equipment. I'm now racing to pack up and place in storage dozens of boxes of papers, get rid of hundreds of albums, and move large amounts of heavy furniture . . . all at a time of year when Joe can't drive U-Haul vans, because of his winter illnesses. "Panic" does not begin to describe what I'm going through.

* My Internet addiction is still here. Of course. But I developed further coping mechanisms this year, which helped. Unfortunately, those coping mechanisms mainly consist of staying offline for long periods, which is increasingly hard for me to do, thanks to my new business.

* Other than that and a longer-than-anticipated recovery from my bunion surgery, my health was good this year. I even managed to edge just a bit out of the Vitamin D deficiency I've had since 2010. However, I was diagnosed with two conditions (osteoperosis - thank you very much, Vitamin D deficiency - and plantar fibramatosis) that are likely to cause me serious problems in the long term. Also, I'm terribly behind on my medical appointments, because the landlord inspection and bedbug crisis occurred at the time of year when I usually visit doctors.

* Thanks to Havre de Grace now having five - five! - Little Free Libraries within walking distance of me, and thanks to me donating so many books to those libraries (translation: I hauled the books there with my rolling suitcase), I got a goodly amount of walking done during the warm months of this year. I'm trying to remind myself that I need exercise during the cold months too.

* Speaking of which, I got a lot of reading done this year, mainly because of having to do physical therapy three times a week at the beginning of the year. Otherwise, it's dead hard finding time for reading - even my mealtimes are usually taken up with editing - but I'm getting myself into the habit of listening to novels by text-to-speech when preparing meals and doing housework.

* Family matters are the same as usual: wonderful with occasional tensions, just like all good family relationships are.

* For - I don't know how long it's been, this is the fifth year running, maybe? - I didn't have any luck making new friends online. (Thanks to my off-the-charts introversion, my best luck in making friends has always been online rather than offline, though some of my online friends become offline friends too.) I had equally poor luck keeping in touch with old friends, for complicated reasons. In a last-ditch effort to prevent myself from becoming Mary Hatch in the dystopian version of Bedford Falls, I've followed my father's advice on socializing and am making plans to attend a church service for the first time in a decade. Reserving my right to be a filial rebel, I've chosen the Unitarian Universalists.

* While not having made any new friends this year, I've certainly had the opportunity to listen to folks chat online, thanks to my new business requiring me to return to online forums and social media. (This has very much been a mixed experience - see what I said above about my need to stay offline, which matches what Kathryn Schulz says in the quotation at the top of this post - but I'll focus this paragraph on the positive aspects of my being online.) My @duskpeterson Twitter account - where I follow lots of marginalized folks and post links related to diversity - has been an eye-opener to me, in terms of learning about the difficulties faced by other people. So was Wattpad, during the time I spent there reading memoirs related to diversity (usually written by teens). While other people grumble about social media tearing apart the fabric of society, I wish that I'd had similar consciousness-raising devices when I was a teen; I would have been a lot more aware of what a privileged life I was leading.

* Communitywise, there are plenty of events in this town, though I have to prod myself to go to any of them, because they rarely pass my test of "Would I Rather Be Reading?" Best event of the year - which I had to miss last year because of my bunion surgery recovery - is always viewing the downtown shop windows that have been decorated for the winter holidays.

* I started a blog/Twitter account called Retro Home and then couldn't figure out its focus. I wanted it to be about home life when I was growing up, but I also wanted it to be about homemaking today, so that I could meet other homemakers. (I can't tell you how many hours I've spent searching fruitlessly for a homemakers' club in my area. Six years as a homemaker, and I still haven't had a single conversation about housework with anyone else who enjoys doing housework.) That mix of topics didn't seem to work, and now I'm having to put all my mid-twentieth-century papers in storage for a year, thanks to the bedbugs. I think I'm likely to revamp Retro Home when I restart it in 2019.

* Writingwise, this was the year when my Muse said, "Hey, you know that series we've been neglecting for years? We're going to totally work on that." All my protests that I ought to do a bit of work on a Toughs series too were for naught. So I'm letting my Muse have his way, knowing that he's far too fickle to be able to stick with one series forever.

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June 2018



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