Well, it's not the festive season without my annual ponce-fest, in which I look back over the year, and think about the highs and lows of my writing career. So buckle up, and prepare yourselves for the regular dose of self-indulgence, which begins... now!
Things I Achieved in 2008:
--Had my first ever TV episode broadcast, with my Torchwood episode "Sleeper", then followed it up with Dr Who, Spooks Code 9, Crusoe, and Spooks
--Had my first actual American TV credit, with Crusoe
--Wrote TV episodes for Torchwood series 3, Primeval series 3, Spooks series 7, Crusoe, Spooks Code 9, and Law & Order UK
--Wrote a draft of a new spec film script
--Got hired to work on a couple of new TV series in development, and wrote outlines for them
--Got something of my own picked up for TV (at outline stage, early days, might never happen, but still)
--Did my first convention, at Gallifrey (report to follow)
--Had a short story published for the first time, three in total
--Met Harlan Ellison
Yowza. I can't really argue with that. Career-wise, it's been the best year ever - my first ever TV credit, 5 episodes on TV, with 3 more to come next year. And now I'm getting TV work developed, I get a chance to help shape the direction of some brand new shows. And yes, if all goes well, one of those will be mine - a TV pitch I've been flogging around town has been picked up by a production company. Obviously that means *nothing* at this early stage - I'll have to do outlines, then if all goes well, a first script, then if all goes well, probably another one, then there are several people at the TV channel to convince, then *maybe* they'll commission more drafts, then *maybe* it'll get made... But still. It's an important first step.
Also managed to find time to write a new spec film script, which I'm very pleased with. I'm working on the new draft at the moment, so it's not in any state to read. But it's coming along nicely, and right now it's all mine. My 2 years of TV boot camp have served me well, I've learned a hell of a lot. And I'm incredibly happy to have had short stories published. They're much, much harder than writing scripts, and I'm very rusty in the format, but when they work, they're so satisfying.
And my first ever convention - what a blast that was, I had a fantastic time. I'll finish the full report soon (he said, hoping to get it done before the 2009 convention). Also had a great time at The Rift, the Torchwood convention. I love going to them, because you're surrounded by like-minded people for a couple of days, everyone's happy and excited, and you can have really geeky conversations in complete safety. While I'm on the subject, many people regularly ask if I'm going to this or that convention, and if not, why not: well, I can only go if I'm invited. If you want me at your local event, tell the organisers. They're not psychic, they don't know what you want unless you tell them. I'm easy to contact, just give them the blog link or the email over on the right.
I've already talked about meeting Harlan in detail on the blog, so you know the story. But it bears repeating how much of a big deal this was for me. Meeting one of your writing heroes, who then turns out to be wonderfully kind, funny and encouraging, is a fantastic experience. It also came at just the right time. I was overworked, tired, completely worn down (see next section), and he gave me the boost of energy and enthusiasm I needed. I had also just had a really bad haircut, and he was kind enough not to mention it. That, folks, is the true measure of a man.
Things I Messed Up:
--Took on way, way, WAY too much work
--Became stressed, overloaded, and didn't tell anyone with the power to help what was going on
--Lost sight of why I love doing this
As you've probably guessed from the first section, I had way too much work this year. Part of it was me being unable to say no - hey, want to work on a fun action show called Crusoe, with cool people, resulting in a US TV credit? Hey, want to work on Spooks, one of the top BBC drama shows, also with cool people? Can you imagine saying no to those? Impossible. Although I did actually say no to something, then changed my mind when they asked again... But that was purely my own fault, it's not like they forced me into it. I just couldn't resist. I thought if I said no twice, then they'd never offer me anything again.
When you get into the business, you are always convinced that it could all end tomorrow. Sure, there are some people looking at me now with contempt, wondering how the hell someone who has had my kind of year could *dare* to suggest that they might need the work. But you honestly never know when it could all go wrong. Most of us feel like frauds, that we're going to be found out, that we have no talent at all. It's a risky business, and writers are insecure too, which doesn't help. The more things I have lined up, the safer I feel. I just need to realise that saying no doesn't mean they'll never come back and ask again.
But I should have said something to someone - "I can't take on any more work, and I need more time for the work I have". I just didn't want to cause trouble, get kicked off, let anyone down. That was a mistake, and it hurt me, physically and emotionally. I was exhausted. For a month or two, it started feeling like a job, which it *never* has before, no matter how tired I was. I'd wake up dreading the arrival of notes, not wanting to start another draft. And that's not me. I love doing new drafts, I love getting good notes (and I've always been lucky to get great notes, due to working with great people), I love writing, usually. But for a while there, I wasn't enjoying it.
And I lost sight of why I got into this lark in the first place. I love writing, telling stories, entertaining people, it's what I've always wanted to do. But recently, I found myself muttering and complaining to myself (or to Jo) when I got a new job, because it would mean doing more work. That was even after things calmed down. Thankfully, Jo pulled me up on that - if I had been offered that same piece of work 2 years ago, I'd have *killed* to get it. It was paid writing work that will end up on TV, for a project I really liked and could do a good job with, and there I was sighing as if something bad had happened. Time to snap out of that shit. I am incredibly fortunate to be doing the thing I absolutely love, getting paid for it, getting it made and broadcast, and getting really good feedback on it all. This is my lifelong dream. And I need to never, ever take that for granted.
So I've had as much of a quiet period as I can, due to various things moving and finishing, and I've turned lots of work away, even though I had spare time. I have enough work to keep me going well into next year, at a pace which means I can have fun with it. It's only the past month or so that I've been enjoying the work again. Taking time out to work on a brand new spec helped, too. And I'm setting myself some limits, times when I'm on the clock, and when I'm not. Writing is what I'm best at, I love doing it, and I need to protect it.
Things I Have Learned:
--Saying no doesn't mean they'll never come back and ask again (see above)
--You can have too much of a good thing
--You have to look after yourself, because only you know how much you can handle
Most of this is covered in the previous section, so I won't go on at length (again). The year has gone by in a bit of a blur, I almost burned myself out, took on too much, lost my mojo for a bit, and had to go and find it again. It's strange how it can knock your confidence back too, when you feel like it's all getting too much - but you can't complain, because it's all fun and brilliant and exciting. Like I've said before, when it doesn't feel like a job, you don't realise you're working yourself to the bone. Which results in you getting frazzled, it starts feeling like a job, and you realise just how insane your workload really is. That's when you *really* start to panic.
Again, I feel weird saying all of this, because it feels like I'm moaning about having my best year ever - and I suppose I am, really - but I don't mean to. I'm certainly not fishing for sympathy or anything, just trying to reflect on how the year has gone, that's what this post is for. It was brilliant, but exhausting, and that's purely my own fault for not understanding exactly how busy I was getting. So be careful out there, kids.
Things I Want To Do In 2009:
--Become a better writer
--Finish the new film spec, and write another one
--Write more TV, get my own series commissioned
--Finish the bloody blog posts I keep promising (Gallifrey, Writing FAQ, Torchwood writing process, etc etc)
--Have a proper holiday, set (and keep) limits so I don't get overworked again, and stop saying yes to absolutely everything
Okay, I have to put up those blog posts soon, it's getting ridiculous - I just keep fiddling with them and trying to make sure they're all right. I should just stick them up, and correct them later if there are typos. So expect those soon. And the holiday is all booked for February, we're both having a couple of weeks off around the Gallifrey convention, seeing as we'll be there anyway. So that's all good.
Thank you again to all of you lovely commenters and readers and bloggers and viewers and conventioneers and colleagues and friends and family and other nutters. You're all brilliant and inspiring, and I can't tell you how great it is to hear nice things from you - it makes all the difference when I'm stuck halfway through something, worrying that I can't fix a plothole, or feeling like a fraud. Thank you also to those of you who don't like my stuff and criticise it in public - at least you're not ignoring me, and I can pretend it makes me controversial or something. Everyone's a winner. And thank you to Jo, for looking after me, telling me I'm cool, and giving me that verbal bitchslap that I needed.
Hey, I never thought of a "Two-Bond"-style name for 2008, I'll have to start working on one for 2009. 2009! Bloody hell. Madness. Someone should put a stop to this forward motion of time, it's extremely worrying. I might write to my MP about it.
And with that, cheers to you all for another year. Let's all get shitfaced for 2 weeks, and to hell with the consequences. Who's with me??