I try to take stock of where I’ve been and what I’ve learned at the end of the year, and we’re at the end of this one, so… let’s get started!
If I had to pick one thing I learned in 2020, it’s that flowing like water is a necessity. I guess some people are really good at beating their heads against obstacles until they crumble, but I’m not that Hulklike, so I have to make do with quickly retooling to avoid issues. The biggest one for me in 2020 was that writing takes concentration, and there were a lot of things shattering my ability to focus. (I know it’s tempting to make assumptions about those, but a lot of it involved mom stuff, now that my daughter is getting older and needs new and different things from me as a parent.)
So I wrote, but I often wrote tactically: “what can I finish,” and “what can I publish that won’t take much out of me to put together.” That worked out surprisingly well. I wrote three entire books of new material (one of which was literally piecework, allowing me to assemble it from short stories that I could concentrate on individually). I collected two volumes of existing material, which I added to (and adding things was within my measure). All of that allowed me to successfully navigate around my other responsibilities, and I think I did a good job of working around my challenges.
If I had to choose one thing I am proud of, because it was hard and unexpected (by me of me), it’s that I actually made a push to rewrite Zafiil and not only overhauled two of its existing parts, but rewrote a third part from scratch. This is definitionally not just a sustained effort, but one of the most sustained efforts I could have chosen to make: editing and rewriting a 1000+ page novel from 1996! The fact that I only have 2/5ths more of it to do is huge.
So, anyway, here’s the writing stats for 2020.
- Zafiil Edits and Rewrite
- Started Alysha 7, Dragons’ Fealty, Coracle 2
This was a whacked year for art, in good and bad ways! But I learned more in the art realm than I did in any other, I think. I’ll choose these three lessons as the most important:
- I draw more in company. I always knew this, but I thought it had to be in-person company. It turns out virtual company (streaming or on discord) is good enough to keep me working.
- I stream more if the camera is fixed (in place). I bought a new phone this year, in part because I’d be able to stream better quality from it, wirelessly, than I could through my wired cheap webcam… but messing with putting the phone in and out of the tripod is so much trouble that I never do it. Very basic lesson that I often forget: the okay solution that you actually use is better than the perfect solution you don’t. Don’t get in your own way.
- I sell more if I stream. This lines up with observations I’ve made in the past; when I talked and photographed the process of painting for livejournal, those paintings sold more often, and sold more themed merchandise, than paintings I did offline. For a while, I was doing a painting a month, and almost all those paintings sold, which is really impressive. I need to commit to an art process, now that I see that when I do, I can buy bread with it.
This year I also did more experiments, mostly with oils and pastels, and while I’m not happy yet with the results of those I think doing them was useful in ways I haven’t yet quantified, and I feel I should continue with the experimentation until morale improves. (lol)
In the future, I think I will set up the fixed camera again. Moving to the new studio puts me in an awkward location to connect a wired camera, but I’ve got a stand for my Surface now, next to my desk, and I can connect it there. We’ll see if that addresses my ‘too lazy to be bothered to set up the camera’ problem.
Gouache Paintings Finished:
Painting Experiments Concluded:
Related to art, it was my goal to stream more often, and upload to Youtube, and that worked well until the studio move messed with my set-up. Nevertheless, I did better this year than I ever have. I’m going to keep at the video stuff until I’m comfortable with it, because I think it has a lot of potential. Monetary potential. I need more income streams. Also, I like interacting with you all and this is a fun way to do it.
Appearances and Teaching
I had a lot of teaching and speaking engagements lined up this year that obviously got curtailed… but I really enjoy speaking and teaching, so I’d like to do more of these. I have discovered I hate online teaching, though, so if I can avoid that I’m going to.
- Visiting Artist, Alma Mater
- One Online Course via Cat Rambo Academy
Various Other Initiatives
Which brings me to the grab bag of the year, the stuff I worked on that didn’t belong in any specific category.
- Audiobook Transfer off ACX – I’ll admit it… fighting with ACX over contractual issues was so traumatizing I gave up, and in fact stopped trying to make money off audiobooks at all. Late this year I took the bull by the horns again, and managed to make some progress. I’m hoping to close down my ACX account entirely next year, and go fully on board with a better distributor. I don’t think this means I’ll be doing more audiobooks—they’re still too expensive—but if I can get all my ducks in a row I’ll be able to collect better data about audio sales, and run more promotions for them, and that might set me up for better sales. We’ll see.
- Shut down Etsy, working on website shop – My goal for the next year or two is to centralize more control of my sales and subscriptions in my hands; while I’m not done building my website shop yet, I’ve made a start on it as a way to replace my Etsy store. I’m also porting a lot of my Patreon data over to my website, so that if something goes south there it won’t be much trouble to flip somewhere else.
- Kickstarter – Court of Dragons – I only ran one Kickstarter last year but it went really well! And I’m nearly done with it; just waiting on Amazon to ship the paperbacks to me so I can get them to backers.
- Wiki (established mid-May, announcement the 19th) – This was the year I decided to expose my “writers’ bible” for the Peltedverse as a wiki, in an attempt to crowdsource some of the information that’s scattered throughout the 20+ books. That’s gone so well, I can’t even tell you. One of the best decisions I’ve made. My editors have been an immense help, and are responsible for me being able to write more quickly. We haven’t gotten all of the data out of the books yet (so there’s still plenty of work for new helpers, if you wish to join us!), but enough of it is in the wiki now that it’s the first place I check when I can’t remember something.
- New studio – and of course, this was the year I finally got a room to myself, as a studio. I’m still figuring out how I want the room arranged for maximal productivity, but it’s been handy to have all my stuff in one place for a change!
That, then, was 2020 from a work perspective. A lot more positive stuff happened than I remembered, but interestingly I went completely off-target from the stated goals I gave myself in the beginning of the year. I don’t mind that, though, because we have to adjust to the reality on the ground, once we meet it, and while there are plenty of things I would have liked to have done better, the fact that I got anything done at all is a good thing.
Onward, then, into 2021!