Another one down

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Don't look now lest you jinx the whole thing, but it looks like 2017, the year that would not die, is about to do the right thing and fuck right off. Two days hence, it will gather up its trailing coat-tails, make its excuses about having knocked so much shit over, and go forth into the New Year's night, trying desperately to hail a taxi back to whatever hell dimension first spawned it.

And we will welcome in its successor, eyeing it nervously for any signs that it might knock off our most beloved heroes in the first few weeks, or start some kind of nuclear conflict over in some corner of the room.

Of course, it's damn folly to anthropomorphise arbitrary markers in the passage of time, but we all do it. Unless you don't, in which case, well, I dunno, have a biscuit or something. But these markers exist, whether we ignore them or no. As I get older, I tend to lean into them more, seeing them as a great excuse to recharge the batteries, draw a line under mistakes made and set goals for the arbitrary marker ahead. Call them resolutions if you must, but I think of New Year as a great big reset button for bad habits, and in that regard, I don't see it as a bad thing to raise the glass as Jools Holland farts his way through another boogie-woogie piano solo and dare to hope that this time, this year, you might be able to do things better.

So, what were my goals for 2017? Well, I wanted to be more productive. I wanted to keep a diary, keep track of my writing better and be more productive at the day job. I also wanted to move house, and attain the physique of a sculpted Adonis. I also wanted to get the full Blood on the Motorway trilogy on sale.

How did I do? Well, I did achieve a modicum more productivity, got all three of those books out on sale, moved house to a lovely little cottage in the middle of nowhere (with a proper office and a desk and everything), and I managed to keep a diary pretty well. The productivity could have gone a lot better, and I completely failed to turn myself into a modern-day deity through the power of rock-hard abs alone. In fact, I'm still not even sure there are abs there. Still, I did get the two orange tags in the image above, rising briefly to the top of the Amazon charts for British Horror and Horror Comedy novels. That's not nothing, right there.

Not too shabby, then. So, what for 2018? Well, not a lot different, really. I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about this coming year, and what I need to do to take my writing career to the next level. On the one hand, I have that aforementioned full trilogy out now. On the other, I likely won't have a new novel out in 2018. I mean, I might, but I need to give this new story the room it needs to reach its full potential, and it doesn't feel like that's going to be an easy or quick process. It's easily the most ambitious thing I've written.

What I'd really like is for the writing to move to a break-even point. 2017 has seen a massive growth in readers, with over 2000 books sold, and as many again given away. This is beyond my aspirations for the year. But I've still put more money into this writing malarkey than I've taken back. That's fine. I'll likely be putting a lot more money into it over the coming year on advertising and miscellaneous other costs. But I'd like to see that ticker move into the green, even if anything I do make will be ploughed back into the business.

So, that's the aim. But in order to do that, I think I need to redress my use of social media, the internet in general, and address what is a huge lack of productivity at times. I had a huge spike in sales in August and completely failed to capitalise because I hate promoting. So I'm going to get a lot smarter about using my blog, using my mailing list, engaging with readers (hopefully that's you) about my writing, about the stories. I'm so bloody proud of the work I've done, I need to give it its best chance to succeed.

Lastly, I've decided to retire the music writing completely. *Cue dancing in streets* No more alt. school. I might even take the Rolling Stone Challenge book down. The Musical Waffle section has already been removed from this site. I love music, and it will always be a huge part of my writing, but I won't be writing about it anymore. For now, at least.

Beyond that, it's the old chestnuts of productivity and health. And, while I'll be concentrating on a healthy body (or trying to) I'll also be looking at my mental health. In 2017 I became too sucked into following events that have little to no impact on me, following the nerdiest American politics podcasts, refreshing the news as the first thing I do in the morning, and it's just not healthy. 

I've muted a lot of politics related words on Twitter, deleted news apps, and even deleted my facebook and twitter apps off my phone. I've done this for the last few weeks and it's improved my general outlook on the world no end. While I understand the immense display of privilege that this displays, I've come to the conclusion that being immersed in world events does nothing to aid your understanding of them. It's like watching and supporting a football team, except that you're not celebrating a goal, you're celebrating decisions that have an impact on millions of people in ways that social media is nowhere near nuanced enough to explain.

So, here’s to another year. May its coat-tails bring less wanton destruction than its predecessor, and may your days be merry, and bright.

See you on the other side.

Blood on the Motorway – An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches, is available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and more besides.

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Paul StephensonComment