So it’s come to this, November. Or perhaps I should call you by your real name — almost-December-dear-god-where-has-the-year-gone?
2016 has been a year of many things. But mostly of two things, which are subtly connected. For me it will go down as i) The Year of Doing Way Too Much and ii) The Year of Not Writing the Novel I Should Have Written Long Ago (subtitle dear-god-where-has-the-year gone-is-that-my-editor-coming-quick-everybody-hide!).
In 2016, I encountered a perfect and unrelenting storm of day job and volunteer work and family stuff and RSI and book-related commitments and assorted essential but fundamentally not-writing administrivia, all of which combined to leave me with an amount of head-space/writing time which can be best characterised as nowhere near enough.
Herewith a Twitter-ish chronicle of my descent into chaos…
This is why I haven’t been blogging. Because although there has been a lot of bloggable news, I simply couldn’t justify writing here when I wasn’t putting words on the real page.
Good things have happened in 2016. Many good things. And many of those have revolved around A Single Stone, otherwise known as my ASS, out of which the sun seems to have shone. (As a side note, I recommend bearing acronyms in mind when titling books; this enables you to receive email with subject lines such as “Your ASS is on fire!”, “I love your ASS” and “I saw your ASS face-out in Dymocks!”, to list just a few.)
As if last year’s win at the Queensland Literary Awards wasn’t enough, in 2016, A Single Stone was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, the West Australian Premier’s Book Awards, and the West Australian Young Readers Book Awards. It was longlisted for the Davitt Awards for Crimewriting, named an Honour Book in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards, and won an Aurealis Award for Speculative Fiction. Phew.
Then, just when I was catching my breath, the most incredible thing of all happened. Two weeks ago, it took out the Young Adult category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Being shortlisted for any award is a very fine thing, and the idea of winning any award feels improbable and faintly ridiculous. But to win this one, with its accompanying tax-free prize money is absolutely life-changing, and it still hasn’t sunk in that this has actually happened.
A few people have said things to the effect that I must now feel validated, consider myself a success, be basking in some sort of shiny glow, and so on. And I’ve had to reflect for approximately 5 seconds to discover that I don’t feel that way at all.
To be brutally honest, what I care about is the money, because of the writing time it will buy me. Because fundamentally what I care about is the page that’s in front of me, my struggles with my work-in-progress, the story fully formed in my head that I can’t seem to shake loose, the characters I’ve fallen in love with to whom I am not doing justice at all. Yet.
The thing that makes me feel validated, successful, shiny is writing a sentence I’m happy with. And the simple fact is that in 2016, I wrote far too few sentences.
So there are changes coming. It took reaching this tipping point for me to sit up and do something about my too-many commitments. Things have been done, are being done. And with those changes, I’m hopeful that 2017 will be The Year of Taking a Deep Breath and Writing a Great Many Things. Because it has to be about the work. And the work has not been the work this year; the work has been shoved into a corner, almost completely sidelined. And that is just absolutely and totally ASS-about.