Writing, Travel, and Literature: 2019 in Review

In many respects the way I conducted my professional life in 2018 and 2019 was similar. I usually worked seven days a week. First I would write articles, blog posts, and other quick-paying copy for eight or more hours a day, and then late in the evenings, roughly between nine and eleven, I would focus on my personal creative work: novels, short stories, memoirs, and so on. When the weekends came round, I adjusted my schedule slightly so I could do my personal work in prime time, so to speak: first thing in the afternoon on Saturdays and first thing in the morning on Sundays. I broke my work schedule for the road trips I went on and conventions I attended during the year. While these events were going on, for the most part I did not keep up with my regular minimum daily word count, being content to take notes for later. A notable exception was the Nebula conference. During the conference I found myself waking early because there were no late parties. Because panels and other scheduled events didn’t begin until late morning, I would spend the early morning hours working on my new novel.

Throughout 2019 my personally-imposed minimum daily word count remained at 500 words. This was for my personal creative work and did not include the ghostwritten articles and blog posts I wrote strictly to pay the bills. I usually managed to keep up with or surpass this minimum at least five or six days a week. There was the occasional lapse when I was too exhausted or had just finished a project and had not yet got going on a new one. Sometimes too I would use my writing time to proofread finished works before submission or publication.

While keeping up with this schedule of personal creative work, I managed to write 144,608 words of new material in 2019. That’s a slight improvement on the 141,903 words I wrote in 2018. My best month was July, in the middle of summer between road trips, when I managed to write 21,127 words; at the time, I was deep into the writing of my new novel The Senescent Nomad. I had been fine-tuning the structure and gathering new material during my first road trip, and the writing of it was intensely satisfying and lots of fun. Besides my personal creative work, I also wrote well over 300,000 words, accepted and paid for, of articles and blogs on which my name does not appear.

I published two books in 2019. One was a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, Apocalypse Bluff and Other Stories. The other was my mainstream literary novel The Senescent Nomad. I spent many hours in 2019 proofreading and preparing these books for publication. I also completely proofread and edited another of my past books, Reviews and Reflections on Books, Literature, and Writing, having realized that the layout and punctuation reflected European rather than American standards. This took me many more hours.

I attended two conventions in 2019. The first was Norwescon, a science fiction convention held each spring around Easter in the Pacific Northwest. As usual, I went with my youngest son, and we stayed at the hotel where the convention was being held for its duration. I attend Norwescon not so much for professional reasons, but rather to get away from the usual grind, relax, meet friends, and attend the evening parties. Later I attended the Nebula conference of the Science Fiction Writers of America in Los Angeles. I’m an active member of SFWA, and I attended this one as a professional in the field and as a panelist. This convention, being attended solely by writers, editors, and publishers, is much more subdued and formal than Norwescon. Its value is in the professional-level information imparted in the panels and in the opportunity to interact with colleagues in the publishing field.

I mentioned that I made two road trips. On the first, my two youngest sons and I drove down the West Coast, enjoyed the scenery, and visited various famous literary landmarks. We also had a chance to visit another of my sons who is attending Stanford. I wrote a blog post about this trip called “The Literary Pilgrimage.” The second road trip occurred in August. My son had been attending summer classes at Stanford, and shortly before classes ended, he called me to ask if I could accompany him on a road trip to drive a friend’s car up to Seattle. So I flew into San Francisco, where he met me, and we spent a few days driving up the small winding roads that hug the coast and enjoying the incomparably magnificent scenery.

Another significant event that happened in 2019 was the death of my father. He was a creative person too. He wrote extensively, especially in his later retired years, although not many of his pieces were published. To commemorate his influence on my life, I wrote the blog post “Eulogy for My Father.”

What’s ahead for the new year? I’ll most likely publish a new short story collection sometime in the spring. I’ve sold several more stories to anthologies and magazines that should finally appear in 2020. My novel The Senescent Nomad was so much fun to write that I have begun working on a sequel. My youngest son and I already have our memberships for the upcoming Norwescon. As for the rest, who knows? That’s part of the thrill of the future: you never know what you are going to get.

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