Everything Else

Well, that was wrap-up season. It was longer and more wrappier than ever. I’ve noticed that as time as gone by, I’ve started blogging about more and more parts of my life. Partly, this is because my life centers more and more around writing. I mean, when I started this blog I had a full-time job that had nothing to do with books or literature or any of that stuff. Now my job is teaching undergrads how to write fiction and poetry.

But it’s also because I really admire confessional bloggers. My favorite online journal these days is Ferrett Steinmetz’s–he’s a SF writer who also blogs about polyamory and sex and all kinds of other crazy stuff. I also loved Catherynne Valente‘s livejournal. Although she’s kind of gone silent these days, her writing used to be so sincere and so astute. You’d think that nothing would be easier and cheaper than writing about your heartfelt concerns. But that’s not the case. It’s a skill, like anything else. Mostly, when you try to write about the things that you really care about, you can’t do it. It’s just too difficult. You either use someone else’s words and ideas (in which case you’re talking about what they care about) or you have to invent the terminology on your own.

So, yes, that’s just a long way of saying that I don’t quite know how to summarize the everything else part of my life. On this blog, I feel like I only write about the high points–story sales, books I loved…even my rejection milestones are written about as if they’re triumphs. I don’t think this is necessary false. This has been a really good year for me. I’ve had plenty of successes.

But I’ve also had plenty of failures. I got 185 rejections. I saw my peers sell their stories to places that were rejecting mine. I saw my peers sell their novels while mine was ignored. I saw other people get accolades, while I was overlooked. And I struggled and struggled to write stories and novels that, in the end, were much worse than they needed to be.

And none of that stuff feels good. To a large extent, this year has been about trying to overcome those negative feelings and find some way to move forward even in the face of what I know are going to be lifelong feelings of inadequacy. I’m past the point where I think that selling a story or winning an award is going to cure all my writerly anxieties. It doesn’t. You feel good for a week or two, and then there’s another rejection or another unproductive day of writing.

But, you know, I think I’ve made considerable progress. Aside from a few months here and there (February, May, and maybe late November), I’ve been really happy. The writing has gone in interesting directions. And all kinds of other life things are going really well. A year ago, if you’d asked me the height of my ambitions for 2012, I’d probably have said that I’d really like to sell a novel. That didn’t happen. But other totally crazy and unexpected things have happened.

For instance, I used my move to Baltimore to totally change the way in which I interact with people. I read Dale Carnegie’s book How To Win Friends And Influence People and then I emailed 5 or 6 of the most charming people in my life and asked them for advice on how to handle social interactions. I developed 17 super-secret rules for social interaction, and they’ve worked pretty well. I won’t reveal most of them, but one of my major ones is that nowadays I try not to argue with people about things (especially politics). Now, that might seem laughable to you, since I still argue not infrequently…but just imagine how much I used to argue before. Literally every other day I type something argumentative into Facebook and then delete it.

Anyway, that was just a whim that entered into my mind while I was driving through South Dakota. And it led to me becoming significantly more charming. Which is almost as good as selling a novel, really.

Prince Charming
Prince Charming

When I wrote the 2011 year-end wrap-up, I said that I wanted every year to be just as good as 2011 had been. And I still kind of agree with that. Materially and emotionally, I don’t aspire to anything more than I have.

But this year has been made me realize that things will always change. The tenor of life is primarily determined by your physical location, your daily responsibilities, and the people you are around. And all those things are, to a large extent, out of your hands. That’s a little bit scary, but it’s also exciting.

I have tons of plans for next year, but I also expect that at some point (probably somewhere between late January and early March, if the past is to be any guide) something really unexpected will happen–something that changes my life forever! And that’s something to look forward to.

6 thoughts on “Everything Else

  1. Holliann Kim

    You were quite charming when we met in Baltimore, your super-secret rules must be working!

    Also, I loved your stories in IGMS, I just caught up on my reading. Best of luck on the start of 2013!

  2. Tristan

    “Mostly, when you try to write about the things that you really care about, you can’t do it. It’s just too difficult. You either use someone else’s words and ideas (in which case you’re talking about what they care about) or you have to invent the terminology on your own.”

    I disagree entirely. I’m incapable of writing about anything I don’t care about. Anything I’ve written that’s “fictional” is so thinly veiled that all of my friends and family get mad at me, despite the fact that nobody even reads it. You’re lucky you find it easy to not write about your personal life.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Sure, I can attempt to write about my personal life. But what comes out isn’t necessarily my experience, since the words, situations, and characters I use are usually (unintentionally) borrowed from other media I’ve consumed, rather than taken directly from my own life. I was just writing about how difficult it is to see your own life in a new and interesting way, rather than in the way you’ve been taught to see it. For instance, 99% of the people who attempted to write a memoir about their year in Italy would’ve ended up with something that was more or less a transformational travel memoir that ended in a neat epiphany. It took imagination to avoid that pitfall.

Comments are closed