2015 and Me
Surely the recitation of the facts of 2015 indicate it was a very good year for me. I released my first video game and graphic novel, both of which did pretty well; my novel The End of All Things was released and went into various best seller lists; my previous novel Lock In was a finalist for awards including the Locus and Campbell and won an Alex Award from the American Library Association (for adult books that are good reads for teenagers); I wrote a novel and a novella and a short story and toured the United States and Australia; I celebrated my 20th anniversary with my wife in London; and had lunch with Tom Hanks, you know, like you do.
Oh, and I got a book contract. So I have that going for me, which is nice.
What the recitation of facts misses is that in a great many ways, 2015 is the year that I stopped worrying about a whole lot of things. I could go into detail about this, but suffice to say that this is the year I recognized that so many of the things people worry about, in terms of their lives and careers and relationships and their place in the world, are things for me which are, for lack of a better term, settled issues.
To put it another way: This year it sunk in that I really did get to be the person I wanted to be when I grew up, and got the life I hoped to have, and in both cases that fact is even more fulfilling to me than I could have imagined when I was younger. If I were hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow, I couldn’t say my life wasn’t wonderful, with wonderful people in it, or that I didn’t do what I had wanted to do with it.
This does not mean that life can’t take its turns in the future; it doesn’t mean I won’t have failures and disappointments and annoyances; I have not ascended to some zen plane of perfect equanimity. Just last night I was irritated as hell that I bought a Blu-Ray at the store and then left it in the shopping cart in the store parking lot. I am still me; I am not anywhere close to perfect and I suspect I would rapidly become bored if I were. I continue to be a work in progress.
What I mean, simply, is that I am mindful of my circumstance, and that mindfulness allows me to choose not to worry much about certain things any more. I was going to say that this was the gift that 2015 gave me, but as I was typing it I realized it wasn’t actually a gift; it’s something that I built for myself — along with, to be clear, my wife and my child, and with a great deal of help from many other people. I’ve been building this edifice for a while, and this was the year it was habitable and I decided to live in it.
Another thing about 2015 is that in a very real way I think of it, with regard to my career, as a pivot point. I mark the start of my professional writing career as 1990; that was the year I began freelancing concert reviews and features for the Sun-Times newspaper and New City magazine in Chicago, and paid for my food and rent with what I earned. 2015, then, marked a quarter century of me writing for a living, and during that quarter century I learned how to write a lot of things, and I had a lot of fun, and I built a career that has gotten me to this place in life.
That contract I made with Tor this year represents many things, and I certainly understand why people have talked about it and what it means (I mean, come on. We wanted you talk about it. You knew that, right?). I’ve talked before about what it means to me, and to that I’ll note another thing: To me, it represents a foundation for the next 25 (or so) years of my career. I am after all in a different place with and in that career than I was 25 or 10 or even five years ago. I have different interests and opportunities and concerns now than I had then, and my contract with Tor, and all the books and writing and imagination it represents and requires, is what my career will build on from here.
And just what will happen from here? Man, you got me. I have no idea, other than, hey, I have some books to write. But here’s the thing: If all it means is I get those books to write, how cool is that? Thirteen new books and a bunch of new stories, characters and situations I haven’t even begun to think of yet, coming out of my brain into a computer and then onto a page which goes into a book. And then someone gets the book and opens it and what was in my brain is now in theirs. That’s nifty.
And it’ll happen, and will begin, because of what happened for me in 2015. It was a watershed year for me. A career year. Don’t think I don’t know it.