8765 hours, give or take. That’s how long it’s been since my 2012 Wrap. A year isn’t long when you think of it that way.
But context matters. Imagine if you were an asylum seeker detained in an Australian detention centre. Each arduously dull hour would become a feat of survival, not that you’d savour the achievement. Indefinite detention would slowly decay your soul, second by horrible second. Time would be torturously slow.
In a hospital the opposite can occur. There are wards where time is languid but there are theatres, cubicles and trollies where it gushes uncontrollably and is gone all too fast. Minutes or seconds can make the difference between life and death, miracle and misery.
Yes, I’ve had an unusual year. There were slow hours, express ones and some that went missing. There were sleepless nights, minutes that felt like hours and moments to savour.
I started 2013 as an editor within an enormous entity, perhaps the megalomaniac bull cousin of Patricia Piccinini’s incredible Skywhale. I departed with the nerves of a father and provider and the relief of a teenager who had just finished their exams.
I finish 2013 as an author, speaker and tutor. I’m deep into a YA speculative fiction manuscript that may be the first book in a series and certainly looks to be the longest work in my career to date. At present, and I take nothing for granted, the story feels strong and my confidence is unusually resilient. The story gains colour and vigour every day. Several other projects are unfurling like green shoots in our vegetable garden.
I’m also about to take my family on an international adventure and research mission. We’ll swap three weeks of summer for a foreign winter but the trip will add flavour to the recipe I’m mixing in my manuscript. I can’t wait.
So, with a plane to catch in a matter of days, I need to tidy up. Thunder Road tradition requires that I end the year listing favourite moments from books, television, music and film for 2013. Here are some highlights:
Art (new category): Having developed a keen interest in street art appearing around my city, I helped one enigmatic artist by pasting their work around town. Maybe 2014 will see me paste some of my own ideas! I also greatly enjoyed exhibitions by Meredith Squires, Ghostpatrol and TwoOne.
Film: I recommend Gravity, Rust and Bone and Zero Dark Thirty. Aussie western Mystery Road also deserves a mention for the atmosphere it invoked.
Music: Seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band at Hanging Rock was one of the absolute high points of the year. Chet Faker has been on regular rotation in my car, along with Lana Del Ray and Johnny Cash. Watching Vika Bull play Etta James was excellent, too.
Reading: As per my previous post, I’m still immersed in George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series. I’m late to the party on Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series but the voice(s) and concepts in book 1 were brilliant. Fiona Wood’s Wildlife, Simmone Howell’s Girl Defective and Chris Ware’s Building Stories were great. The People Smuggler: The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi, made me gasp. Wonder by RJ Palacio, made me cry.
Television: Breaking Bad (no spoilers, please, I’m still going); Broadchurch; Gruen (various series); Game of Thrones.
That’s pushing it for my already addled memory. Thank you to everyone who has shared the peaks, troughs and rollers of 2013. May your festive season be fun-filled and your new year deliver on hopes and dreams.
NB: Vale to Nelson Mandela today and Valeria, some weeks back. R.I.P.
I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series for what feels like an eternity. They’re big books but it didn’t help that I cut costs and bought an e-book edition that combines four titles into one massive anthology, a collection so huge that contemplating the page numbers is like gazing up at the Himalayas. To give you a sense of scale, I recently reduced the font size and happily discovered I only had 1000 pages to go. It felt like the end was in sight. At least until the next book is published.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thoroughly enjoying the GRRM universe. It is epic in scale and sumptuously detailed. It’s an astonishing feat of imagination. I also admire the unsentimental way the author terminates key characters and introduces new voices whenever he feels like it. The reader can take nothing for granted.
In an interview with Fairfax, Mr Martin said: “When the writing is going really well, I do get lost in it. I almost live in it. It occupies the back of my head. I’m thinking about it constantly. I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it. I cross the street thinking about it – my office is across the street from my house.
“On good days, I vanish into Westeros and the real world goes away and I spend the day dealing with my characters… There are bad days, too, when there are a lot of distractions. The real world is always a threat to the imaginary world.
“I still love the world. I still love the characters. I still want to go back and spend time with them.
“To my mind (character) is one of the most crucial things, but the writing, the prose, how you evoke a scene, is something you spend a lot of time on. How to bring it alive and put your reader there and evoke all the right sounds, smells and sights, so that they don’t feel they are just reading it, they are living it. That is always the goal, the struggle.”
I’m encouraged by these comments. I have writing days when the distractions dive bomb me like mosquitos and very few words get written. On the good days, I’m living with my characters and barely notice time passing.
I’m unlikely to ever write anything as lengthy as A Song of Ice and Fire but am currently deep into the longest story I’ve ever tackled. It’s speculative fiction, set in the near future. It has been percolating in my head for several years but only now are characters emerging from the mist. The scope of the story might even demand a series of novels but time will tell.
My experiences with writing this year have reminded me of another quote I stumbled across from Mr Martin. He had been working in television where he was continually told to scale down his ideas due to budget limitations. Frustrated, he left television to work on a book, “as big as my imagination”. A Game of Thrones was published two years later. More than 27 million books have been sold in the Ice and Fire series and the TV series has been a smash hit.
Comparing sales figures with other authors is a speedway to insanity so let’s not go there. I mainly wanted to show that writing brings inevitable challenges, no matter who you are. We all have to quell the real world to let the imaginary shine through.
My big, ocasionally rampant, imagination can be a blessing and a curse. But I’d rather live with it than without it.