I. Am a dwarf.
As much as I’d love to be an elf or a ranger or a sorceress, history and self-awareness tell me that I am a dwarf. A digger-dwarf, specifically. Not even a battle dwarf with fancy weapons and fancy armor and big campaigns.
I’m a digger dwarf, and when I sit down to a new game – or any challenge – the first thing I tend to do is go looking for a shovel. Because I’m going to go dig a giant hole, amass a huge pile of resources, and figure out how to hack the economy.
I’m quite serious about this. I get to the point where the piles of resources are getting ridiculous and I’m having difficulty storing them, and I engage an adventurer – usually my husband – to come and spend them. He uses them to build some impressive structures of some kind relevant to the game. Since I keep digging further and further underground, often getting to the point that it takes too long to surface so I build a midway point to drop off piles of new resources, and he never interacts with me anymore, he tends to wander off with another adventurer on some epic quest, and resources begin piling up once more.
It is at this point that I give up on being a digger dwarf just long enough to build a castle. Or castles. And a peasant/villager/peon NPC army. And then a chain of castles. And go to war with a local populace, using nothing but castles and peasants.
And he returns home and looks over at me and goes ‘what did you do?’ and I smile and return to digging.
Because, at heart, I am a digger dwarf.
And it’s his fault he left me along long enough that I couldn’t find any place to store the chests and chests of stone and dirt and ore, and the furnaces filled up with iron and bronze and steel, and I had to do something with it all…
And he shakes his head with some disbelief and tries to figure out how to restore order to the warehouse – because no less than two of the castles are now dirt warehouses – and to the local uprising against my encircling citadels.
This has been my pattern for a great many years.
As a writer, it has been no different.
Well, it has. But I get ahead of myself.
I go down to the word mines nearly every day – I missed one day in 2018 – and I come back up with troves of resources. Sometimes it’s a load of dirt. Ifs and ands and thes and saids. Nothing wrong with them, and certainly writing needs an awful lot of them. Sometimes it’s stone. Structural, strong, necessary, but not that special or pretty. Sometimes it’s ore, meaningful, and worth distilling for what’s inside of it. Sometimes it’s a jewel, something that I take a bit more time to make sure I extricate it whole.
Regardless, I wander back up to the surface, dump it into a chest, log it in a spreadsheet, and cheerfully grab my shovel and go to dig some more.
Because I’m good at it, and it makes me happy. I can control the shape and nature of what I’m doing, if not the absolute quality, and I can see the progress I’m making in the holes I put in the earth, stories that exist that didn’t before. I do it alone, and while I rarely do it just for me – I have an intended purpose and a destination I’m trying to reach – I am the only one who is even aware of the decisions I’m making along the way.
I’m a good writer.
I’m a terrible author.
In 2018, I wrote 34 pieces of fiction, which include 7 novels, if I’m generous and round up to a full novel on the one that I didn’t finish before the end of the year.
I published 2 novellas and 3 short stories (two of which I wrote in 2017).
By volume, I published around 8% of what I wrote.
I’d say I’m ashamed of this, but the truth is I’m not ashamed. After some reflection here at the end of the year, I’m not even bothered so much as I am aware that there is a problem.
And the problem is that I have not fully filled the role of adventurer in my quest. Nor have I reached the point of employing hordes of peons and building castles. (Carefully steers away from allowing industry professionals to become peons in this analogy. They are not NPCs…) I’m just piling up resources and waiting for something to poke me into action.
Authors are an odd, paradoxical lot. They’re awfully optimistic, as a group, and at the same time I’ve never met one who didn’t wrestle with impostor syndrome to at least some extent. Many struggle enormously with the idea that other people would pay them money for words. This is a season where most of my writer friends are charging into the new year with an enthusiasm that borders on reckless, aiming to crush the coming year.
I’m not looking for meteoric performance. I have not the time, the energy, nor – honestly – the interest. But I do have a plan that involves change, for the coming year.
In the early half of 2018, I met an adventurer. One who saw the piles of words that I was amassing and couldn’t for anything figure out why I wasn’t off on a quest, spending them. Most of the good, successful authors I know live hand-to-mouth on their writing, finishing a project and moving it forward toward publishing as they begin their next project. A good lot of them are working toward a preorder deadline, writing stories that didn’t exist when the book went up for pre-order. My adventurer publishes what he writes, because what he writes has value, and sitting on it…
As far as he could figure out, that was stupid.
And here I sit, heading down into my word mine each day to happily toss those words into a chest and ignore them the following day.
And apparently he didn’t think those words sucked, because he asked me to work on a series with him.
Those would be the two novellas that I published this year, with two more coming in early 2019. I plan on continuing to work with him in 2019, feeding stacks of resources to him so that he can progress campaigns of publishing. This relationship has been enormously beneficial to me, this year, because – first – it feeds my normal way of doing things, and takes the pressure off of my mounting piles of unused resources, but – second – because I’m spending more time above ground, and realizing that it’s just about time to start building some castles.
I’ve got no idea if I’m any good at building castles. I don’t have a friendly video game rooting for me, with pre-packaged plans on how to do such a thing. But. I’ve got chests and chests full of words, and if I don’t start building something with them, they’re never going to turn into anything.
In 2019, look for more titles, look for more above-ground time, look for more experiments and attempts at castles. Because there’s a giant wilderness out there, and I aim to block out an increasing chunk of it as my own.