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2009 vs. 2019: Softer

Another year, another round-up. The #2009vs2019 posts are flying fast and furious. But the words are sticking in my throat. So much happened in 2019. How am I supposed to compress the year into a blog post? How can I encompass an entire decade?

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Every year on January 1, I take a sharpie and a blank 8.5×11 sheet and I write my goals for the year. This sheet is my compass; we may detour occasionally, but it always points north.

This year, I fell short of my goals.

It hurts, saying that. Not that 2019 was a total wash. It started with delightful news — I signed on with Kim-Mei Kirtland from the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency and we’ve been having a wonderful time working through my queer beer novel. Though I didn’t submit as many stories as I wanted, a higher proportion sold. Dublin WorldCon was an incredible experience with some very dear friends. And of course, Jen Albert and I started ephemera, a new monthly SFF reading series here in Toronto.

But I didn’t do everything I planned.

From “Among Elves and Trolls,” John Bauer (1912).

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For some reason, it felt like my gears never caught right. For some reason — yeah, right. As we discussed earlier this year, 2019 was my post-apocalypse. Surviving, rebuilding. It takes energy, it takes time. It’s necessary work, and it turns out that writing is really hard when it’s left undone.

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In the fall, I saw someone I used to know. From nowhere, I thought — you’ve gotten harder, and I’ve gotten softer.

Not softer as in, weaker. Softer as in, the protective shell’s opened a little. Softer as in, belly-up and trusting. Softer as in, I don’t walk around with my shoulders to my ears anymore.

Softer as in, I’m not anticipating hurt.

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Honestly, I’m not sure what I would’ve done without my loved ones. My choir fam in particular held me up this year, and I can’t even describe how much they mean to me. It would take a million oratorios.

They played a large part in this softening. With them, I feel – it’s okay. We’re okay. It’s the sensation of squeezing someone’s hand and feeling them squeeze back. Trust, kindness, and love.

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I wasn’t always very kind to myself this year.

“You have a relationship with your writing, just like you do with your partner,” a friend told me. “How are you treating it right now?”

Poorly.

It was like my writing voice didn’t work the same way anymore. Like I was straining for notes that were once within range — like I couldn’t keep in tune, even when I knew the harmonies I wanted.

“The Shipwreck,” J.M.W. Turner (1805). Courtesy http://www.tate.org.uk

There are a lot of reasons a singer’s voice might suffer. Injury. Neglect. Overuse. Getting it back takes rest, gentle practice, and patience. Naturally, I did none of these things, beating myself up over blank pages.

Until —

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I took my partner’s favourite tropes and smashed them together into a story I never intended to sell. For once, I wasn’t thinking about markets and recommended reading lists and reviews. I was telling a story to someone I love. It wasn’t a story for me — okay, it was also for me, I’m not that disingenuous. Deep down, I knew I needed to get over my own hang-ups.

But anyway, I finished it.

It’s not my best story. But it was the crack I needed.

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I stopped beating myself up. I started reading more fairy tales.

After chewing on a story seed for months, I managed to get it written and sold.

Rest. Gentle practice. Patience.

If I can be softer with my loved ones, I can be softer with myself as well.

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There’s a softness to ephemera as well. I’m so touched by the energy everyone brings to it; I love the space we’re making together.

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So now we’re at the end of the year. I feel…steadier. Like the ground has finally stopped shifting under my feet. Tomorrow, I will take my sharpie and my blank sheet and I’ll write the goals I want to reach in 2020.

“Catskin,” Arthur Rackham (1918).

I can do it. I know I can.

With kindness, and work, and soft steadfastness.

-KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

This one again – I need the poetry.