We’ve lost a number of prominent figures in the entertainment industry this year to cancer and other causes, and it’s still only the beginning of February. For me, the cluster of deaths was a reminder of my own mortality. I didn’t feel the fear that I might die tomorrow, though I did decide to formalise my plan for who takes care of my dogs should I predecease them. Instead this question came to mind: as a 67 year old writer, what would I still like to achieve?
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve been writing professionally for around 17 years and writing full time for 13 of those years. I have nineteen novels and a body of short stories in print. I’ve had good critical recognition within the fantasy genre and have a shelf full of writing awards. So I have built a solid career as a novelist, though without any spectacular peaks.
Thinking back to my first few years as a published writer, the roller-coaster feeling of that time, the steep learning curve, the need to make both business and artistic decisions without fully understanding what they meant, I think I had career hopes and ambitions that were rather different from my current ones. To make it onto the New York Times bestseller list or UK equivalent. To be taken seriously by reviewers in mainstream media. To sell film rights to one of my novels and see a great movie made. To win a major international writing award. To earn enough so I didn’t have to worry about paying the bills. It would still be nice to achieve all of those (I’ve managed two of them) but I see those ambitions now as ‘Great if it happened, but unlikely’ rather than ‘Let’s charge forward and make it happen.’
So what’s changed?