By the Numbers

Because i’m a basically venal, shallow, irreparably damaged kind of guy, i spend a lot of time thinking about how much i’m not accomplishing, and about the pressures of real life cutting into my creative time, and about the ever-increasing length of the list of things i want to do but haven’t yet done. Also because i’m a basically venal, shallow, irreparably damaged kind of guy, i don’t put a lot of stock into the concept of taking stock of one’s life, and especially of the sense shared by many other people that specific prefabricated moments of life should be embraced as opportunities to look back, to ponder within, to shine one’s hopeful gaze on the future, blah blah fucking blah.

Thus: New Years’ resolutions? Not really my thing. Because it always seemed to me that making a lot of noise about what you’re going to do differently next year is really just an admission that you kind of fucked this year up, whoops and sorry about that, save game, restart, and try again.

But because i took some time out of the holiday today to clean up a few files, organize a couple of things for starting work again next week, and think about clearing out the hurricane “After” picture that is my office, i wound up thinking about last year and what it represented in terms of the amount of work that’s passed through my office and the hours i spend here. Because the truth of my life is that i do a lot of different things, and a big part of my thinking about how i’m not actually accomplishing anything comes from the fact that what i do accomplish comes in fits and starts, crammed in and around other obligations, other projects, other people asking, begging, and thankfully most often paying me to ride shotgun on their own creative accomplishments.

All the various disparate intellectual activities that make up my creative side combine to make up a kind of scattershot sense of what i’m actually doing at any given time. And thus: With a couple of hours to kill, i dug back through the actual archives of all the various and sundry things i’ve been working on since last January and figured out what they actually amount to.

Here’s my life and work for the past twelve months, reduced to numbers.

Nonfiction words edited (primarily RPG work, primarily for Wizards of the Coast): 130,100

Words story-edited (primarily screenplays this year): 581,800

Non-fiction words written (primarily story notes and analysis on the screenplays mentioned above): 97,900

Fiction words edited (about four-fifths my own): 453,100

Fiction written (from the eponymous novel anchoring A Prayer for Dead Kings and Other Tales that started the year, through a half-dozen shorter pieces, to two new novels in progress): 177,200

Over the course of 2011, a grand total of 1,440,100 words (give or take) have passed through my brain in one direction or the other in a professional capacity.

Despite all my best efforts to admit it, that seems like an accomplishment.

In general, i think that we do what do. We balance our dreams and ambitions against the rigors of real life, we push back against what pressures we can, we keep our heads above water, add your own platitude here, et al. Overall, i’m pretty happy with who i am. I’m happy with what i do. But against my previous antipathy toward resolutions at this time of year, i realize that i have one i need to make.

No matter what happens to the numbers in the other categories, the numbers of words of fiction i write this year is going up. This past year was the first year in a long while that i managed a reasonable degree of confluence between the need to write and the time to write. That in and of itself is also an accomplishment.

And thus: By and large, i don’t think people need resolutions. We don’t need large and largely artificial reminders that we’ve failed to do the things we once set out to do; that we’ve failed to become who we once set out to be. We need gentle and ongoing reminders of all those things we do that move us forward in some way, and which lay the groundwork for all the movement that follows.