I don’t know if you know this, but mattresses are expensive. I start this post off saying that because I need a new one. And I know I need a new one because the one I’ve got has this Sea of Tranquility crater in it after many many years of loyal service. But I wake up with a sore back and erratic sleep, which makes posting something contemplative a little like trying to swim laps in a pool of oatmeal. But, let’s soldier on.
2013 was a good year, though you wouldn’t really know by looking at the blog. Sure, I got some really nice response to when I sliced and diced Agents of SHIELD, and I can draw attention when I get personal, but on the whole, I get the impression I’ve got sort of a stealth readership: they come in, read something in multiple chunks, then go. Maybe because I write such long things (I don’t see that changing anytime soon), maybe because I seem to lean heavily on the side of “intense” topics, but I don’t see the great swells of readers come in and stay around.
The same can be said for Twitter, where this year I gained quite a few followers, lost a lot of followers, and still regularly mashed the “intense” button pretty hard. I don’t see that changing anytime soon either. This lack of immediate and large audience can screw with your head in big and small ways, and does a marvelous job at times of making you feel like you’re whispering in a canyon or humming opera at a rock concert. So if I’m ever asked, “Who’s your audience?” I have to pause and preface it with, “I think my audience is …” rather than give anything definitive. That’s something I really want to discover and develop in the coming year.
When I think about 2013, I see three things – I see tremendous professional successes. I see attempts at new opportunities. I see the things that didn’t work out. So that I don’t end on a downer, let’s juggle this order a little.
Tremendous Professional Successes
2013 was another huge year for me as The Writer Next Door. My name is on games I’m ridiculously proud of (sometimes not even as editor), I began developing systems (for LARPs of all things) and found I have a decent eye for design, and I spread out past novels and games and into theatre, television and film. It doesn’t matter that a lot of that work won’t see the light of day, what matters is that I did it once, and can do it again. And I want to. I just got a game in the mail yesterday, and seeing “Editing and Development” as where I’m credited really hit home that this is my job, this is what I do, and what I do best. And I’m going to keep doing it, full tilt.
I don’t normally talk finances, because my lifestyle is my own, and I don’t have to justify my purchases or my habits to anyone, but I can proudly say that 2013 was 45% more profitable than 2012, and was my best professional year to date. I believe this is due in no small part to my continued work with all the talented and amazing companies I am lucky enough to be associated with, call friends and colleagues. My success is due to your creativity and efforts, and I am grateful. I’ll even bring in the companies who haven’t paid me yet (there’s two of you that are significantly outstanding), because 2014 is the year your successes will bear fruit, I have every confidence.
You want specifics? Designers and Dragons. Becoming. Paranet Papers. Ribbons. Double Tap. Fate Worlds. Khan of Mars. Those are just the ones I can think of without opening my Dropbox and looking at the 2057 items with a 2013 date on them.
Let’s not forget the Johnversations, the GenCon seminars, the panels all over the Double Exposure circuit and even an appearance on the West Coast. I discovered that aside from lighting, which I still suck at, I can put together a pretty sweet presentation or workshop, and get good reviews. (Especially if the topic is mental health or writing).
Big huge year. A catapult of a year, launching me to bigger things ahead. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
The Things That Didn’t Work Out
If you’re playing our home game (defined as following me on social media), you’ll note that I took some pretty big swings at relationships and a social life this year. How’d they do? I refer you to my lack of long term relationship and numerous heartaches. Did I learn anything? Yeah. I got my heart just beaten to a fine pulp, and I’m still upright and kicking. Maybe it’s not 100%, but I’m still on my feet. It’s crazy and scary and really difficult for me to quantify all that works and all that doesn’t, but I keep trying. I know now more than ever, I want someone in my life to share the awesome with, and I know that I’m not easy to be with or be around sometimes. But I’m willing to try. I don’t know what else to say about it.
There were quite a few projects that didn’t get off the ground. For various reasons, plans and money didn’t congeal into drafts or crowdsourcing, and a lot of great people’s great ideas didn’t see the light of day. Here’s to hoping 2014 is more fertile ground for them to bear successful fruit. What that taught me is that I do sort of know how to advise and counsel someone through a Kickstarter, which is good, since I’ll have my own in 2014 (see below). What it also taught me is that there’s a lot more professional knowledge in my head than I thought, and I am not the failure engine many people thought I was a decade ago. I’d like to think I grew out of that.
I also started my own project, The Great Game, after watching my friends take ideas first mentioned on Gchat and turn them into books that are now on my shelves. I worked hard on TEN drafts of it, applying the discipline and focus I have to paring down ideas and building something. It was ambitious, it was very detailed. And it didn’t work. Well, that’s not true. It worked in my head. It worked when I ran it. It worked because far more of it existed as thoughts in my head that I termed “obvious” and never bothered to write down, rather than existed in the pages I did write. When other people ran it, it stalled out, choked by its blank spots and over-ambition. The Great Game lays gutted in my Dropbox. It was a wonderful teaching device.
It’s also a great segue.
So you’d think that with one game dead, I’d be discouraged. I was for a little while, and I did let that doubt eat at me, wondering if I’d always be a design bridesmaid and never the bride (I look awful in white). But once I was done thinking I should give up entirely, and after I watched a couple Rocky movies, I got up and looked at what I built, and saw it for what it was – an early skeleton. Taking those pieces, I began a new skeleton, and can say now that The Great Game has become Noir World. The scope is different, and I will detail all of this on Noir World page (which I’m going to work on after this post goes up), but it’s more in line with the stories I like to play and the characters that interest me. Also, using *World rules gives me a framework and eases some of the design pressure off. And I like the system. With a few tweaks and new bells and whistles, I can have something of my own. With over 10000 words already, I’m on my way.
2014 is also the year I’m going to watch more friends make more things. Tracy Barnett has what I imagine is the most ambitious inclusive project I’ve ever seen in Iron Edda, and somehow I get to edit it, in whatever shape it develops. I’m going throw money at Kevin Kulp for Timewatch. And at some point in the year, I’m going to join them in crowdsourcing Noir World, at least so I can pay for art and layout. Who knows, maybe I’ll get an award or recognition at least. That would be cool.
And there will be more seminars at more conventions. Maelstrom. Crossroads, if they’ll have me. Origins. All new places. All new adventures.
So that was 2013.
If you’re wondering why this post isn’t laden with resolutions, it’s because I believe quite firmly that anything you can resolve to do at the end of one year, you can resolve to do at any other time of the year, and I have no idea what’s stopping you from just resolving to do it, then doing it.
Here’s to 2013, you had some awesome parts (which all seem to be in the summer) and some sucky parts (some summer) and lots of amazing things in between.
2014, let’s do this.