I'm not even going to try to summarise all the weird shit - the political shit, the pandemical shit, the insane screeching on social media shit, the stupid conspiracist shit - that went on. Or to list the number of people - writers, actors, artists, musicians, not to mention, in many cases, friends - that we lost this year.
It's been a fucker. But at least Trump's finished. That's one thing.
This really was the year of 'Hunker in the Bunker' for me. Anxiety and depression kept me off work and confined to the house for most of the year, so the first lockdown didn't really come as much of a change. Plus which, after the General Election last December, my attitude was basically 'we're fucked and there's not much point trying to change anything for the better because the UK, at least, is locked into an insane death spiral largely of its own making, so I'm just going to stay home, read, watch Netflix and snuggle with my beloved.'
Well - that, and write.
Which seems absurd, I know. But at least it kept me sane. Well, sort of.
This quote from Natalie Goldberg's wonderful book Writing Down The Bones kind of summarises it for me: "Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the centre of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."
So yeah. That.
1000 words a day.
There's a great video where someone's talking to Idris Elba, and he has two pieces of advice: don't be afraid to fail, and keep your head down. The second one, in particular, strikes a chord with me at this time of the year, when I try to look back and take stock. Elba talks about when he's swimming, trying to do 25 laps a day - there's always the temptation to look up and see how you're doing, to be constantly checking your progress. And if you do that, you're never as far along as you'd have hoped, and the work lasts longer and feels harder. But if you keep your head down and focus on just doing what you need to do, moment to moment, getting into the rhythm of your work, before you know it you're almost there.
I did my best, this year, just to do that. Hunker in the bunker, and keep my head down, and work.
So what do I have to show for it?
I was past the 100,000 word mark on The Teardrop Girl at the end of 2019. I finished the first draft - 170,000 words all told - at the end of February this year. And then started a new book.
Following The Teardrop Girl I've completed not one, but two new novels in first draft this year, and am (touch wood) 36,000 words into another. The Teardrop Girl has been redrafted and sent out to agents, and I'm at work on the others.
I've written sixteen pieces of short fiction this year (seventeen if you count my previous blog post!) Some of them very short. Finding homes for most of them proved harder: a lot of them are over on my Patreon. But some saw the light in other places.
Published This Year:
And Cannot Come Again was rereleased, in a gorgeous new edition from Horrific Tales, courtesy of the excellent Graeme Reynolds. It contained two previously unpublished stories.
Also reprinted was my story 'Below', from Paul Finch's Terror Tales of North West England, in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year #12.
Not counting stuff that appeared for the first time on Patreon, four stories were published for the first time this year:
'In The Shelter', in new edition of And Cannot Come Again
'Black Is The Mourning, White Is The Wand' in new edition of And Cannot Come Again
'Kanaida' (on the Unsung Stories website, ed. Dan Coxon)
'We All Come Home' in After Sundown, ed. Mark Morris
Roth-Steyr, Black Shuck Books.
The following stories were published for the first time on my Patreon this year. Those marked with an asterisk were written this year
A Story Of Two And A Bit Halves *
A Treat for your Last Day *
Hell Is Children *
I Am The Man The Very Fat Man *
In The Service Of The Queen *
The Book Of Shadows *
The Book Of Spiders *
The Garden *
Truth And Consequences
Slatcher’s Little Mates
The Forest You Once Called Home
The Cabinet of Dr Jarvis
On top of all that, I stayed alive, stayed married and managed to get back to work at my day job.
So that was 2020. I didn't take the world by storm, but I'm still here and I'm still writing.
That's good enough for me.
Have the best New Year's you can under the circumstances. Be safe, and take care. Next year looks as though it may be another tough one; let's hold together, keep our heads down, and get through it.