This is the last of my wrap-up posts. I wasn’t as much into the navel-gazing exercise this year, for some reason, but that’s okay. I wrote about my favorite books and about my writing stats, and aside from that what else is there?
Some friends recently asked me what was the best year of my life, and I said, “This one.”
Yep! This one! Not last year!
I sold my book last year, but that was only one day. This year was about more than that. Really, it was all about the people: I spent this year living in a wonderful apartment with people who I came to love. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones.
The real pleasure of this year has been all the people I’ve gotten to know and to know better. I’ve realized that it can take me a long time to become close with someone. For instance, this year I became very close with someone I knew in college nine years ago, but who I’ve only intermittently interacted with in the years since. And that’s why new acquaintances excite me almost as much as new friends do. Because in each new acquaintance I see someone who in nine or ten years might be a close friend.
And I learned some things. For years I’ve been making an effort to learn how to talk to new people and how to become more intimate with people who I already know. I’m not yet anywhere close to where I want to be, but I’ve gotten much better at it. This could be a post on its own, or a whole series of posts, but I’d say the two things I learned this year, with regards to talking to people, are:
- I have to be willing to let the conversation take its own course — I get really uncomfortable when conversation seems to stop, or when it seems like we’ve been discussing one topic for too long, but I’ve realized that it’s in these moments of discomfort that something good can happen. Most people aren’t great at talking to other people, so it’s always tempting to try to wrest away control and force the conversation onto some more fertile ground, but relationships with other people are all about give and take, and if you’re unwilling to surrender any control, then ultimately you’ll bore them.
- I have to give intimacy to get intimacy — There are people who use this adage to deadly effect. They chronically overshare, enfolding you within their web, and creating the illusion of greater intimacy than your relationship can bear. But there’s also truth here. You can know a person for ten years, but if you never talk with them about matters of the heart, then you’ll never know them, and they’ll never know you. All people want is to be understood, but we’re also afraid that we’ll be understood too well. It’s taken me a long time to learn that any friendship has to be accompanied by a steady lowering of defenses.
Okay, so that was good. But bad things also happened. During February and March and April, I was pretty depressed. As in, clinically depressed. Crying by myself and all of that. It passed, eventually, but it was a terrible time.
I also found it extremely difficult to write. I wrote hundreds of pages on novels that never went anywhere. If it hadn’t been for the need to do revisions on Enter Title Here, I’d have accomplished almost nothing of worth during the first six months of the year.
Over the summer, I experienced some conceptual breakthroughs regarding story structure, and I managed to write a few short stories. I thought that things were smooth sailing, at that point, with regards to writing novels, but they were not. I still needed another five months of processing before I could successfully complete a book.
For most of this year I wasn’t sure whether I’d ever be able to write another book. I’m still not sure whether I’ll ever be able to write one that’s really good. But we will see. If the ending was foreordained, the writing life wouldn’t be an adventure.
Even with all of that, the year was still great. I also started dating someone who I’m pretty excited about, and who I hope will continue to be a fixture in my life. I don’t, and won’t, mention her very much in this blog, but being with her is the most exciting and interesting thing that’s happened to me this year.