Tag Archives: November

Thoughts for a Cooling November

This past weekend I was sick and so I spent a lot of time lying down and thinking, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. One of the comforts whenever I’m sick is that one or both of my cats usually spends most of the day with me. It’s always good to have a warm presence when I’m not feeling well.

For whatever reason this time it really came across very clearly that one of them is getting old. He can make the jump up onto the bed if he must, but it’s also clearly not something he wants to do. Usually he’ll wait around for me to give him a lift. I remember a leap he used to make, from the floor up to the arm of my oversized armchair, that he doesn’t attempt at all any longer. He’s getting on in years.

So am I. I get sick in ways I didn’t use to when I was younger, I get injured more easily and it takes longer for me to heal. I trained this spring for a 10k and honestly thought that I hit a new PB, but then when I pulled up my race history (because of course there’s a website that tracks all these things), in fact there was this other, faster time from 8 years ago that I’m not sure I can imagine getting back to now. Father Time, as they say, is undefeated.

So, in recent weeks I have, for whatever reason, really had the understanding that I am, on the balance of probability, closer to the day of my death than the day of my birth, sloshing around among the Mind Gears and lubricating them in unusual directions.¬† It’s a touch sobering, if also more than a bit of a clich√©, I guess.

The cat, I hasten to point out, is far from finished being a cat. He still wrassles with his brother and explores the yard and savages his corduroy mouse. He still has most of his usual cat duties to attend to, he just attends to them a little more sedately than he used to, and with rather more naps. I suppose I try to be similar – I know I’m getting older but I don’t especially mind (which is probably just as well), it’s just a thing that I have increasing amounts of evidence is happening. I still have things to do and things I want to do, my writing foremost among those, now.

I’ve worked hard in academia and on being a teacher, and in a lot of ways I’ve done rather well. I’ve studied overseas and delved in centuries-old archives. I’ve taught at universities and helped some students start their own scholarly careers. I’ve enjoyed it all, and still do. I also think (as I consider the passing years) that I may have gone about as far with it as I’m likely to, which is its own kind of somewhat-sobering realization. Again it’s not bad, I enjoy teaching and interacting with my students, but it is another increasingly apparent Thing.

Writing, on the other hand, is something where I feel I can really stretch myself and I’ve been excited with how much I have been able to learn and grow in that field over the past 4 years or so. I have a lot of work to do, but I feel like if academia turned out to be a leap that was slightly out of my reach, this might perhaps be one that I can eventually make successfully. I’m certainly enjoying trying.

It’s November, and here in Ottawa it has finally really started to get cold. We’ve had several frosts and I should probably think about using my winter coat instead of my jacket. Without realizing it at the time, I’ve almost certainly taken my last outdoor run of the season, and I need to get the winter tires on the car. Time rolls on. That’s going to be my excuse for the perhaps gloomy rambly tone of all the above. I think I’ll put a stop to it here.

I should do some writing, and pet the cat.

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On a completely different tack, I see that Amazon has just decided to throw a bunch of money at a new series based on Lord of the Rings. In a lot of ways providers like Netflix and Amazon have been great for SFF ‘television’ (if that’s really what to call it at this point). I’m don’t know enough about the industry to completely understand why, but it’s clear that amazing new programming like Stranger Things and American Gods is increasingly finding a home in these types of places rather than on conventional TV. If nothing else, it’s wonderful for both fans and creators of fantastic stories to have another potential home for their work.

I really can’t say I understand the decision to do another LOTR thing though. There’s so many excellent fantasy (and SF, and horror) stories that have never been adapted at all that would be really fresh material for audiences to enjoy. I get that anything based on Tolkien is (theoretically) an easy sell, but I also wonder how much his fans are really dying for more when his most popular stuff has had still-pretty-recent and highly acclaimed movies done of it. There’s also the point that Tolkien’s work isn’t exactly starved for exposure, while there’s a lot of excellent writers out there who could both use and deserve a boost.

I mean I know there’s a lot of meat on the bone with Tolkien, and I do understand the marketing thing, and I’m sure it’s way way easier to get a million-dollar budget for a fantasy epic when you can throw that name on it rather than someone the execs have never heard of. I’m sure that in the end I’ll check it out and I hope it’s really good. We can always use more good fantasy. I guess I just think that Amazon might have been able to look a little farther afield and still produced an awesome epic fantasy series, if that’s what they wanted to do.

November. Melancholy and grumpy. I’ll have something in the way of tonal shift for you next week. Thanks for reading.

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Time Spins On

We had our first real snowstorm here last night and through into today. In general I really do like the changes of the seasons and how they each feel different from the last. When I lived in England, although I loved it, I did miss a winter that felt like winter and a summer that felt like summer. Without the change of season I think things could very easily start to feel all much of a muchness.

The change of season is also, of course, a reminder of time passing, and that got me to thinking. (Which is not exactly a hard thing to do, as you will know if you read this blog very much) Somehow it is not just November, but the end of November, and (cliche though it may be) I find myself wondering where the year went, again. I can’t help but look back and wonder if I could, or should, have done more with it.

I mean, I think I did all right. I finished writing a book and got it published. I shared my stories with some people who hadn’t read them before. I met some amazing, delightful people. I got to teach again. I read some truly amazing tales that I will treasure forever. Heck there are a lot of different artists who I experienced for the first time, or who I ran into new work from, that I feel deeply lucky about that. I started off on a new project that I’m very excited about and will probably have a title for one of these days. I got plugged into some new opportunities that seem as though they might be really exciting.

Can’t help but wonder if there was more I should have been doing, though, and limiting this only to thinking of ‘as a writer’ things (because otherwise it gets Too Big in a hurry). Should I have gotten some more stuff written? Maybe some short stories. Could I have figured out better ways to promote my work to get more eyeballs on it? Were those times when I was tired or shy or both and couldn’t quite hack shaking a few more hands or introducing myself to some more people opportunities that I’ll never get back? Did I write the wrong stuff? I know I missed some chances – how much will those haunt me?

One of the great things about the internet is that you can see how many wonderful, amazing voices there are out there, how many outstanding writers writing outstanding stuff and it is exciting and uplifting and (for a reader especially) tantalizing. It is also a little scary at times because there are so many writers, and of course on some selfish level I do really want people to read my stories, and I wonder if I am doing anything near enough to give that the best chance of happening. The crowd of artists is wonderful, but being lost in the crush, perhaps not so much.

I try to take a deep breath, look at the snow, and give myself a break. First of all, it really is wonderful that there are SO MANY stories out there for those of us who love to read them. I wish I had unlimited time so I could read every single one. As for myself, I’ve done what I can. It’s probably not according to an ideal plan, but I did what I could based on what I had time for (it being, alas, not unlimited), what I had energy for (that not being unlimited either) and what I felt like was the right thing to do at the time. In terms of writing, I don’t know any way to do it other than to write what I’m excited about, and if that’s not the perfect thing in terms of marketability, so be it. I remind myself that I mostly write because it makes me happy, and so I may as well do that.

Hopefully some other people will enjoy it too.

I recently saw a series of tweets from Daniel Jose Older, a writer who seems to be a pretty wise individual, saying that writers (and artists) have to allow themselves to fail. Every project isn’t going to work out, everything can’t be the best thing you ever did. It’s ok. It’s like how I had to learn from my coach that even if you work really hard in training, not every race can be a personal best. Nobody does that. You do the best you can, and it goes how it goes. You write what you have in your soul to create and see what comes of it. Better to spend your energy working on the next thing than picking over the bones of what you might have done differently. If it wasn’t great, there’s probably a lesson you can use next time. Or at least, you Tried a Thing and now you know how that thing ends up.

There is probably always going to be more that could perhaps have gotten done in a particular year. There’s probably always going to be those moments that could have been handled better. There’s probably always going to be ‘what if’s. Part of that comes from (again) having a good imagination, being able to see all those alternative ways things could have broken. Part of it, I am sure, is just being a person.

Time spins on.

We do what we can.

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Although I can’t attend (Real Life being what it is), Renaissance Press will be at the Creative Ottawa Nerds Holiday Craft Fair this Saturday, from 10-5. Admission is $5 or 2 cans of food, in support of the Ottawa Food Bank. This is a great cause to support, you can get a copy of Bonhomme Sept-Heures if you want to, and I do incidentally love that the church is named after Julian of Norwich. Details here.

In an amazing act of bilocation, Renaissance will also be at the Ottawa ComicCon Holiday Edition, out at the EY Centre. Admission there is free, and you can pick up all the amazing stuff from Renaissance as well as a lot of other awesome vendors. Details here.

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