2019, Professionally Speaking

It was an interesting year, and on paper, a good and useful one. I wrote or at least assembled two books in 2019, one of which was published (A Very Scalzi Christmas, which is doing well (thank you!), although naturally I expect the sales to dip soon) and the other of which, The Last Emperox, will come out in April. Also, in March, Love Death & Robots debuted, with three episodes based on my work, including “Three Robots,” which became one of the most popular segments of the show. LD&R has been renewed for another season, so that’s nice. Head On, one of my two novels released in 2018, was nominated for an Audie Award in 2019, which was also nice (it lost to Douglas Adams, which, you know, fair). Three of my standalone novels were repackaged and re-released, which was a nice show of confidence on the part of Tor. I traveled to London, Budapest, Dublin and Australia and lots of places in the US, to make appearances and participate in events. And various film/TV projects kept chugging along. So, yes, not a bad year at all.

But in a number of ways it was also not a great year for me, professionally. The trash fires of the year once again pulled my focus — or more accurately, as we must be honest about these things, I allowed my focus to be pulled once again by the trash fires of the year, and as a result I fell behind on more than one project, some of which I must now carry over to 2020. It wasn’t writer’s block, it was writer’s crawl, and it made me not especially happy, and it made me feel like I was not being as productive as I could have been.

I do realize that from the outside saying that I wrote two books in 2019 and then complaining I was not as productive as I could have been is inviting a performance from the world’s smallest violin. But from the inside, I see a line up of projects that I must do, would like to do, or dream of having time for. Almost all of them are now just a little bit further away than I want them to be, because I didn’t use my time as well as I could have this year. I’m 50 now, which is not old, but does mean I’m aware that my time is no longer functionally infinite. The more years I have like 2019, the less time I have to do all the things I want to do, and commensurately, the less stuff everyone else will see from me.

Last year around this time, I made the decision that I wanted to get in better shape and lose some weight, and started taking steps toward that goal, even though the process of doing so was annoying and not a whole lot of fun for me. It worked, and I’m 30 pounds lighter and generally happier with the state of my physical being than I was this time last year. For 2020, my life project is going to have to be working on that focus, so that my professional time is more productively organized and spent. This is something I’ve talked about a lot previously and have already instituted some steps toward (software to block social media while I’m supposed to be working being the best example of this), but there’s more to be done here, and I’ll be doing it.

(Please note that this is not your cue to offer suggestions — I already have plans on this score, and also, bluntly, your suggestions will not be helpful because you only see the public face of my professional life, not the private one where the work actually gets done. I appreciate the thought, but, again: Don’t. Thanks.)

The flip side of this is that 2020 is packed with stuff for me to do and write; whatever else I might say about 2020 on a professional level when it’s all done, it’s unlikely that I’ll say I was bored. And hopefully you won’t be bored with what comes from that work I do in 2020. But regardless, the one thing I want professionally for 2020 is what I didn’t manage in 2019 — going into the year after it with the decks cleared. It’s a reasonable wish. I’m working on making it happen.

17 Comments on “2019, Professionally Speaking”

  1. Best of luck…

    However, you seem to do a pretty good job of hacking your life, at least from the outside. (Maybe you are really afflicted by dire existential dread and secret night terrors?) This I and I suspect a number of us would welcome hearing about what focusing techniques you find successful and unsuccessful. (In addition to: do not opend your time writing comments on weblogs.)

  2. Weight loss and ‘organization’, both worthy goals. Post retirement I’ve gotten fat and lazy, and that’s *great* for a short while. Now I need to find an actual track to follow. (But it will include plenty for reading time.)

  3. Also, have noticed that you carefully skate around the question of who exactly is or may be writing episodes of LD&R.

    “LD&R has been renewed for another season, so that’s nice.”

    How nicely vague ;-)

  4. > the less time I have to do all the things I want to do

    2019 aside, prancing to “Poker Face” at comicon w/Felicia Day aka Penny accompanied by Wil Wheaton has to count somewhere.

  5. What software do you use to block social media while you write? I definitely need some, since I need to share your goal for 2020 (plus the getting into shape one, but I know what i need to try for that).

  6. “I’m 50 now, which is not old, but does mean I’m aware that my time is no longer functionally infinite. ”
    Try being over 80 and still having lots of projects you want to finish. Your cogent and thoughtful (as always) words reinforced my recent decision to have a more positive outlook. After a few years of whining about the probable shortness of my future, my new 10-year plan is almost done. And I’m excited! So thank you.

  7. I was reminded of this interview with Sting, where he talks about basically losing his creative mojo. FOR A LONG TIME. And how he got it back.

    It’s not exactly the same thing as you described as “Writer’s crawl”, but I guess writer’s crawl could become full creative paralysis? Maybe?

    Does that worry ever strike you?

    https://www.npr.org/transcripts/351545257

  8. John, congrats on achieving your personal fitness goals – and sticking with the training routine. That’s the hardest part. All the best for 2020!

  9. Any chance we can expect to see any more of your work in Love, Death, & Robots Season 2? Apologies in advance if you’ve already answered this and/or stated that you CANNOT answer this.

  10. I find when I use blocking software, it’s not always blocking at a time when I WANT to work. I don’t do creative work, so it’s less of an issue for me, since I just have to put my nose to the grindstone and tough it out. How do you foresee that working for you?