Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012: We Survived

I may be speaking prematurely, but I'm fairly certain the year 2012 will end without the end of the world. The much-discussed end of the Mayan calendar didn't bring with it scenes akin to The Day After Tomorrow or Krakatoa's eruption. North Korea's continued attempts to blow itself (and by extension the rest of the world) up with an ill-thought-out nuclear rocket prestige programme have, as yet, failed to cause mayhem in the Pacific. My completion of my first novel in six years caused little other than a small ripple of applause from fellow writers and was not, as predicted by some experts, the harbinger of doom that it should have been.

It's been an odd year. From a personal stand-point, I spent the year employed as a paralegal at a solicitors in Dewsbury after spending the last six months of 2011 despairing of unemployment, and I'll start the year continuing to discharge my duties there. Work has brought structure and discipline back after half a year of lacking both those things, no matter how hard I tried. I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed all my work - I don't - but it's a good job, and one that gives me a good starting point in the chase for pupillage.

Away from work, I've had an interesting year in terms of relationships. I won't go into depth here, other than to say that the last four months have, in a strange way, been a relief. Being single and under no pressure has been nice, though I can't shake the feeling that I should be meeting someone soon.

The sporting year has given unforgettable highs and very few lows. Huddersfield Town's promotion at Wembley in May goes down as one of the best moments of my life, never mind in sport. The Olympics gave everyone hundreds of wonderful memories, and with the right support they will prove to have inspired a generation. And then there was the raw drama of the last day of the Ryder Cup, and the Miracle of Medinah. In terms of my own status as a sportsman, I've started playing for the Mirfield Panthers after a 3-year hiatus - one goal in sixteen games since we started playing again doesn't sound impressive, but it's been great to get back into competitive football, even more so as I've not struggled with injuries like I did in my last few months playing in 2009.

In my spiritual life, I've been all over the place - physically, if not mentally. I'm now on the planning committee for OneWord, the bi-monthly youth worship event in the Kirklees circuit, and I've graduated on from doing the lights to doing the words on the screen. The next event is scheduled for 26th January - so pop by and say 'hi', all Christian folk. I've been going to a youth group in Huddersfield (and intermittently attending the church itself, but I have my misgivings about the leadership, if truth be told, even if I like the rank and file), and doing more than a little private study. But I'm still Methodist at heart.

My writing year has been up and down. After setting myself a target of 100,000 words this year, I've managed to make it to 70,000, over 50,000 of which came in NaNoWriMo. Despite this shortfall, I've managed a couple of what I believe to be reasonable short stories. But by and large, it's been frustrating, despite these successes. Too many projects have been left half-complete or not even started. This is a situation that needs remedying in 2013.

It's also been a frustrating year for reading. A quick check of Goodreads tells me I've read 73 books this year, 18 of which have been re-reads. I've only rated 2 new books as being five-star reads. Either I'm getting more cynical, or I haven't read very many books of the very highest quality. Embassytown by China Mieville stands out as probably the outstanding book of the year, being a richly complex and experimental read that at least tries to break out from tired narratives and engage the reader in intelligent discourse. A full review of it would be difficult, such is it's complexity and depth, and I'd rather leave that to the people who have the time to really analyse it.

I've not read as many short stories as I would like. Counting stories I've listened to on podcasts in the total, I've read perhaps 150. As ever, Interzone provided a good source for high-quality short SF. 'The Indignity of Rain' by Lavie Tidhar was one of the best short stories it published this year, as well as its sequel 'Strigoi' - both form part of his connected Central Station series. The always excellent Jason Sanford entertained with 'Mirrorblink', though in my opinion it wasn't as good as some of his other work, such as 'Sublimation Angels' and 'The Ships Like Rain...'. Other short stories that impressed me included 'Ship's Brother' by Aliette de Bodard, and, from Interzone's sister magazine Black Static, 'Sunshine' by Nina Allan.

So what do I want from 2013? The world continuing to not explode under my feet would be a fair start. I'd like to get the mini-pupillages that make it possible for me to apply for pupillage in October, and continue in my post as a paralegal for the time being. It'd be great if I could meet someone, obviously, but in the mean time, being single isn't the worst thing that could happen. I want to stay fit, and score a few more goals for the Panthers, hopefully getting up to 100 games for the team in the process. I want to read more quality work, and increase the quantity of short fiction I get through.

But in terms of all my personal non-professional targets, the most important has to be in my writing. I have to start finishing work far more often. I can't keep stopping stories halfway through because of an over-sensitivity to it not being good enough. I know I won't improve until I start completing things and then working on them. Of all my targets, this has to be one that takes precedence.

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