You know what I always wanted to do as a kid, but never did?
Get good at drawing. Like, really good.
I never did – my coordination wasn’t that good, and I had all these other things demanding my time. (Like… incredibly poor mental health; life struggles which make for some sometimes tragic, sometimes absurdly funny anecdotes; and many, many more.)
Looking back a few years to the start of 2020, and ‘December Decisions’, I talk a bit about new year’s resolutions. Generally, I’m not a fan of them. But, this year, I think I’d like to work a little on that. At least enough to be able to better and more confidently doodle a rat suitable for including in book signings. (Kyell Gold often draws little foxes when signing books. IT IS ADORABLE.)
See, I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes, a biography of Terry Pratchett produced by his long-time assistant, and, well… there’s some pictures Terry drew in there. Terry Pratchett is, absolutely, one of my favourite authors. And in his biography, his assistant describes how Terry only hired an assistant because he got jealous of another author who had an assistant.
‘Ah’, he thought. ‘I must have an even better assistant.’
And, well, he got one. Which is largely why he managed to produce so many books even as his health began to fail.
He also doodled. Considerably nicer doodles, in my opinion, than Kurt Vonnegut snuck into his books. (Don’t ask what the asterisk looking thing in those is.)
‘Ah’, I thought. ‘I must learn to do even better doodles’.
My expectations? Minimal. Sure, I’d like to produce beautiful art, illustrations of stuff I write, but really all I want is to be able to draw better maps and sketches of stuff for my world bibles. Time spent drawing all that stuff is, often, time spent with the back of my brain racing along and contemplating all the story possibilities of the thing I’m working on.
I sometimes talk about goalsetting. It’s important to set goals that work for you. Some people would have the goal of ‘I want to draw this particular thing this well’, for instance. No good for me. What I’ve done is I’ve bought two reams of discount printer paper – about a thousand sheets – and I am making the goal to scrawl on and then throw about ten of them in the trash a day. If I manage to stick to that, I should be through the lot by April or so. We’ll see if it goes anywhere. (I am experimenting with drawabox.com’s exercises and lessons, but in an informal, taste-testing the water sort of way, to give the scrawling some structure.)
So! I am trying to join the ranks of writers who draw a few little things on the side. In order to do so, I also need to write.
Last year was a strange one for writing – by far the majority of the career-related work I did was editing and refining, mainly on Mouse Cage, also on some short stories. Far, far more of my time got eaten up dealing with those ‘big’ life changes.
That new home I mentioned moving into? Well, adjusting to living somewhere new takes a lot of time and effort, let me tell you. But, my writing space is as I want it to be, and other than a few finishing touches on the practical side, I’m pretty settled down. The first couple of months after I got here was a whirlwind of trying to get stuff right, and, well.. this past month, as I’ve finally taken a little time off? I’m comfortable. I am genuinely comfortable, and I am super looking forward to seeing how my writing goes now that things are more organized in terms of lifestyle and space.
Quicker than Blood, AKA The Bobbyfox Thing, is the immediate goal – I did hit a snag, though. I thought it was going to be a straight up heist story, and it’s turning more crime story on me. Crime story with heists in it, but criminality and the San Iadras underworld (so far best typified by the sketchy stuff Troy’s ‘Uncle Fred’ gets up to in Mouse Cage) is clearly the focus, not the heist.
Once that’s rolling, I have a gigantic stack of stuff to read to prepare for my crack at the Scapes novel – finally, assuming nothing else jumps up and bites me demanding to be written. Fairytales, early modern history of warfare and trade and crime in London, all sorts. I will, very likely, talk about any gems I discover during the research process for that, too.
So, I’m looking forward to my 2023, and I hope you can find a reason to look forward to yours. Whether it’s knowing you’ve found a place of safety, or taking some steps towards a long-held desire you never pursued, or some aspect of what’s on the way for your hobby or career that excite you, or something else entirely, I hope you find a joy you can hold onto and that sustains you.