2023 was a good year, actually

(You can also view this post on Buttondown.)

Well, it’s 2024. And now that 2023 is over (I chafe at writing “year in review” posts while the year is still ongoing!) it’s time to look back on what happened in this trip around the sun.

I had two books out this year, which is amazing. THE INFINITE came out in January 2023, concluding the Outside trilogy; and RESURRECTIONS, which you are probably already tired of hearing about, released in December. Two big book-shaped bookends to the year. I’m proud of them.

I was focused on book-sized projects and didn’t put out many individual shorter works, but my poem The Fox’s Lover appeared in Orion’s Belt; there are also several new, not-published-before poems in RESURRECTIONS.

If you are nominating for awards, then all these things are eligible – including for Canadian awards like the Auroras, and LGBTQ+ awards like the Lambdas, as well as the usual sci-fi suspects. The Outside trilogy, which is now complete, is also eligible for Best Series.

Some exciting things happened at my day job: a raise, thanks to the efforts of the faculty union; a return to research; a trip to a conference for the first time since graduate school; a cool and very topical new course that I might-cross-my-fingers be designing! And I attended a number of wonderful writing events – the crown jewel, of course, being the trip to Barcelona.

I know 2023 was a hard year for many people and I don’t want to make light of that. But for me, after years of post-PhD burnout, it felt like the year I got my professional mojo back.

In light of all that, I’m not thinking of my goals for 2024 in terms of new resolutions; I’m thinking of following up on the seeds that are already planted. I have manuscripts to revise and submit; I have new book-sized ideas that I’m already starting to explore; I have work projects I’ve started and I intend to stay the course. I also have some personal goals. I’m still in therapy, which regularly kicks my ass with FEELINGS; I’m still renovating my house; I’m still trying to figure out how to make writing friends who are more local to me and not just disembodied voices on the intarwebs, and how to keep up with the online ones in a more engaged and involved way. A lot of what I’ve done this year, and the years previously, is very solitary and internal.

Paradoxically, looking back at my journals, I also learned a lot this year about the need to slow down. One thing I’ve learned is that I cannot get to this level of achievement by pushing for it, or by punishing myself. I might have been able to do that a decade ago; I can’t now. But the right writing on the right project at the right time is a comfort activity for me. It helps me to process my feelings and cheer myself up. Sometimes I need to do it, even if I’m tired. Sometimes it comes in big bursts, where I feel like I can’t not write the thing, or I’ll explode. Therapy has only increased this feeling. I have to laser focus on the projects that feel like this to me, not the ones I think somebody else will want from me, and keep ruthlessly pruning back the “should”s and feelings of obligation that grow up like weeds around them.

My day job and other duties follow similar principles. I can only perform well when I’m taking care of myself. I can only do the hard work when I’m also making time to breathe and sit compassionately with my own feelings. They call it “work-life balance” but it’s not simply about having a certain amount of time for work and a certain amount for other things. Not to sound twee, but it’s also about things like harmony and patience and alignment and love. I feel like I know a lot more about this than I did a year ago. I feel like I still have a lot to learn.

Whether you’ve had a wonderful, exciting year or whether all you could do was keep breathing, I hope you can carve out some space to look at yourself and your needs with compassion this year, too.

Meanwhile, I owe you the last bits from the 12 Days of Resurrections!

Buttondown is giving me weird errors when I try to attach a lot of images, but I think I’ve attached two of the Ten Cats A-Leapin’ from Day 10? If you want eight more, you can see them on Dreamwidth.

And one (1) last bit of microfiction, to the prompt “Don’t Blink” from Dominic Walsh:

Alvina eyed the six-foot-long mutant cat, its irises a radioactive green, its pupils wide and black in the dim light of the ship’s corridor. She could not look away. The moment she lost this little staring contest, she knew, was the moment it would pounce.