Saturday, January 2, 2010

Out With the Old, in With the New...

Sitting here at 7.16 am on a Saturday morning, I've been awake since 3.00am for some reason. The baby is walking around my feet making all manner of odd noises with a toy trumpet, (none of them even vaguely trumpet-like) and I've been reading through some of the many new years blog posts and reflections by my various friends. This has, naturally enough, put me into something of a reflective mood...

2009 was, perhaps, the strangest year of my life. Mainly in that I'm not sure what happened to it. It seems to have just slipped past in a blur.

As anyone who's been reading this knows, '09 was our first year of parenthood and that, probably more than any other single thing, has completely and utterly dominated our lives for the last 12 months. This time last year Min and I were still reeling from the shock of being responsible for this little human we'd somehow managed to create. Now we're reeling from the shock of discovering that Toby is, in fact a real person - a tiny walking, babbling, willful (!), funny, and always surprising little human being. I always swore, back in my pre-parenthood days, that I wasn't going to be one of those parents who only ever seemed to talk about his kid. Looking back across my entries here at Musings... this year, it's immediately obvious that I haven't exactly managed to achieve this ambition - my writing blog has more tags relating to Toby than to writing, but I suspect this is probably unavoidable.

2009 was the first time in seven years that I've had a 'real' job. I got to actually use my shiny new PhD and return to teaching again, albeit in a very different capacity from my former life. This meant I was also able to give up much of the touring and speaking gigs which had formed the backbone of my income since the end of 2002. When I first left high-school teaching for full time writing, I used to love touring; the travel, the meeting people, the seeing new places - it was all new and exciting and adventurous. I loved the adrenaline of doing public performances (which is, let's face it, what 90% of speaking gigs actually are) I loved the buzz of capturing the attention of 200 disinterestd year nine boys and most of all I loved the idea that I was making my way as a writer. But it's a hard lifestyle to sustain, and cutting it back has been one of the highlights of the last 12 months. And I'm so glad I did it - otherwise I'd have missed out on so many of the big changes in Toby.

2009 was my first year as an academic. I've read more and thought more this year than I have in pretty much forever. When I finished my PhD, I actually didn't really think I'd get to use it in any professional capacity - I originally started it for much the same reason that people climb Everest. But at my graduation my uncle, who is a career academic, told me to remember that finishing a PhD isn't the end of your thinking life, but just the beginning. It was brilliant advice.

Writing wise 2009 was, on balance, a good year. Into White Silence did well in the various awards, I was invited to attend both Reading Matters and the Melbourne Writer's Festival, and I had a lovely time at both events. I finally finished writing The Darklands Trilogy, and got to work on it with a new editor - the lovely Kristina, who stepped in to Leonie Tyle's shoes at UQP. This was the first time in my writing career I'd worked with someone other than Leonie, and was both a challenge, but also a really refreshing experience in many ways. With that mind-filling project now signed off, I can get on with some of the other projects I've been looking forward to throwing myself at. It's a bit odd, though - even though objectively 2009 was probably the most successful year I've had as a writer, it's also highlighted a lot of the shortcomings in my writing career - the almost complete lack of overseas interest in my books, for example - and has made me seriously re-think a few of the decisions I've made about my writing career.

2009 was the year I watched a close friend fight and win a battle with cancer. This frightened me more than I like to admit. Partly because of the powerlessness involved for all concerned, and partly because being confronted with your own mortality is always difficult. Hearing that my friend's surgery had gone well, and finally hearing her voice again once she had recovered were two of the best moments of the year.
All things considered, a good year. A crazy, difficult, busy, challenging year, but a good one.
Here's hoping 2010 delivers similar highlights.
Happy New Year, everyone.

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