I’m definitely a little…

I'm definitely a little better today, and though I'm still sick, DayQuil and NyQuil between them (along with some cough drops and tea) are doing pretty well at keeping my symptoms to a minimum. I'm still very low on energy. I can manage about an hour's worth of physical work a day right now -- and that's definitely not at all once, or anything arduous. I'm talking about managing to do dishes for ten minutes, or clear the coffee table of accumulated cough drop wrappers and dirty tea mugs, or go down the stairs and get the mail. It's very odd being such an invalid. It couldn't have happened at a better time, though -- aside from keeping up with Strange Horizons work, I have no real commitments until January 8th, when school starts (I think).

Oh -- exciting note: Strange Horizons's non-profit incorporation was officially approved while I was out of town. In the midst of Christmas cards and small presents that awaited me on my return was that approval -- I think it was the best present I got. It felt like a validation of all the work we've done on the magazine this year. Next step -- applying for IRS tax-exempt status. I meet with a lawyer on Tuesday.

I'm spending about 1-2 hours on the computer these days; responding to an occasional personal e-mail but mostly doing SH stuff that needs doing. We have some new art editors coming in that I need to train, and we're raising our rates, which is taking some organizing. Some extra donations came in recently, which means that effective January 1st, we'll be paying 4 cents/word for fiction, $25/articles, $20/review, moving poetry to twice a month at $20/poem -- and still paying $75/illustration. I'm very pleased about this; one of my goals for the magazine was to have us paying for material in every department. Fiction was the priority, of course, since it's the most popular department, but I think the others are very important too, and I think it will be really good for the magazine to be able to pay in each area. If you were interested in doing an article or review (books, movies, games, etc.) for us, now would be a great time to get in touch!

But that's really it for work. Maybe three hours total a day? The rest of the time I spend chatting on the phone, watching tv and movies (I *loved* Keeping the Faith, which Jed recommended -- funny and touching and just exactly what I needed to see after a week with my parents), re-reading the second book of George R.R. Martin's new epic fantasy series. I hope to finish that today; I may spend tomorrow sitting at Barnes & Noble reading the third, if I can get myself over there without too much difficulty. The days have been slipping by very pleasantly, in one sense. In another sense -- they're driving me nuts.

I can remember a time, when I was a kid, when I would have asked nothing more than to be left alone to read. My summer vacations were basically spent reading -- eight, ten, twelve hours a day. And I still love reading; I adore it. But it's not enough anymore.

I want to *do* stuff. More specifically, I want to make things. To create. One of the biggest things I've learned about myself in my 20's is that I get a very deep satisfaction from creating something that I think is good. That plays out in all sorts of ways:

  • cooking an excellent (and at least somewhat difficult) meal
  • writing a good story draft
  • decorating my apartment so that it feels like a home
  • doing a good job editing Aqua Erotica, helping to make it a beautiful book
  • finishing edits on a good story of my own
  • crocheting my wine-red afghan
  • mastering a difficult piece of music with my early music group
  • helping to create Strange Horizons
  • supervising its growth, day by day
  • caring for my plants, helping them flourish
  • understanding a difficult piece of theoretical reading for school
  • etc. and so on
I don't think I knew, as a teenager, how good it could feel, to do good work. It's a very personal satisfaction -- many of the items in the list above benefit no one but me. But they're still more satisfying than watching a movie -- or even reading a book. When I read a book, I am enjoying the fruit of someone else's labor -- and it's often tasty fruit, ripe and sweet and dripping with goodness. But when I write a story, and take a moment to stop and look at it -- there's fruit that I planted myself. I know just how much labor went into tilling the soil, planting the seed, watering the ground... That's a taste beyond compare.

Maybe all this seems obvious to you all. A good day's work is good for the soul. It's only the sort of thing that old wives are always saying. Idle hands are the devil's playground. It's the kind of good sound advice that New Englanders grow up with. But it's not a truth I knew in my teens, when I actually lived in New England. And more and more, I am contented with myself at the end of the day only when I have done something useful with it. Been productive. Made something -- built it with my hands and mind. Participated in an act of creation. Cat Faber, a friend of Jed's and a sf/f songwriter, did a great song called Acts of Creation. It made me cry the first time I heard it -- it was so very joyous.

This last year has had difficulties, certainly. Being apart from Kevin is always hard. Sometimes my students drive me up the wall. There have been days when I thought that if I had to read one more paper, I would scream. I'm still sick, and I get sick too often. None of my close friends live within five hundred miles of here. Relations with my relations are still strained. I've gained five pounds, again. And I'm never sure if I'll ever become the writer I want to be. There are stories I really want to tell that I haven't dared start yet because I know I don't have the skill to do them right. That's frustrating, and scary.

But the year has had so very many good things. Kev and I are closer, better together than we've ever been. If I can trust the evaluations, I'm becoming a better teacher, bit by bit. Graduate school is a wonder and a joy. Helping to create Strange Horizons is undoubtedly one of the best things I've done. Handing on Clean Sheets to Susannah's direction was good for the magazine and good for me. Aqua Erotica has enjoyed astonishing success. Jed brings a smile to my face almost every day. Most of my good friends have somehow managed to find the time and money to visit me here in the wilds of Utah -- with care and affection and high phone bills, the friendships just keep improving. I've met some great new people who are becoming friends. And while I never write as well or as much as I'd like to -- there have been a few good stories this year.

At the end of the day, at the end of the year -- these are the things that make me content.

It will be good to be healthy again -- there's so much to do!

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