WRAPPING UP 2014

Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote this:

* * *

For 2012, I want to do something a little bigger picture. One giant uber-resolution that I think will not only make me a better person overall in 2012 but may just have a ripple effect that will help me solve those other problems that I continue to struggle with.

In 2012 I resolve to live entirely in the future.

I know, that sounds a little Oprah Winfrey, but hear me out.

Like (I daresay) most people, I have a tendency to complain about what has happened, bemoan what could have happened, and endlessly suffer over what should have happened. And I do this more often and with greater vigor than I plan for what’s about to happen or go out in search of what could happen.

For instance, as much as I tried not to, and said I didn’t, I did hold a grudge about how things came to an end for me at Wizards of the Coast. No matter how many times I promised I wouldn’t, I still kept my ear to the ground there, still gossiped with people who, like me, have better things to do and more important things to worry about. I’ve been gone from there for eighteen months. It’s someplace I used to work, and though my time there was well spent and important to me, I use the lessons learned there (both positive and negative) every day, and I will still keep in touch with a small army of good friends and valuable allies from TSR/WotC past, present, and future, I hereby resolve in 2012 to spend no more time suffering over why I got fired from there as I do over why I don’t work for Rose Records anymore. Like WotC, they could have done things differently so that I didn’t get bounced out of a job five days after the birth of my first child. That was fun. At least Hasbro had a better-than-average severance package, and my kids were older.

But it’s not at all just WotC. Believe me, most days go by when I don’t actually spend any time thinking about Wizards of the Coast in either a positive or negative light at all. I also bitch about politics, including things that have happened, that everyone seems to accept were bad, but that will not ever be fixed. No one will stand trial for causing this depression we’re in. Most people participate in the huge lie that what’s happening now is a “recession,” or even have the balls (pardon me) to use the word “recovery” in any but the past tense. This is the kind of shit (pardon me again) that makes me crazy. This keeps me living in a shoulda-woulda-coulda life that’s of no use to anyone. No one wants to hear me bitch about the Hope and Change candidate I was excited to vote for but who has changed fuck all (pardon m—aw the hell with it) and most of us are only less hopeful now than we were in 2008.

Okay . . . see what happens?

This is no good. You’re no better off for having read that, and I’m no better off for having written it. Here’s one thing I’ll do, proactively, to keep myself moving forward: I will stop watching the TV news.

I know this seems like I’m just putting my head in the sand, but I’m the kind of person who, when confronted with a problem, sees that as a request, a challenge, a mandate to fix it. But I can’t light a fire under the legislature. I have no access to President Obama. I can’t talk Al Qaeda out of this crazy shit they’re doing. No one at Goldman Sachs is going to take my calls, let alone offer me their apology for cashing out on America. I can’t stop radon from leaking up through the ground. Who do I call to convince television networks that when people are being forced out of their homes every day for the sin of getting sick with no health insurance the details of a perfect stranger’s product-placement celebrity wedding is not just unimportant and uninteresting but obscene? If I could, I’d invent a clean, renewable energy source that makes fossil fuels obsolete.

I’ve sat through the endless “health reports”: carbs make you fat—no, it’s fat that makes you fat—no, wait, it’s fruit, no rice—no, wait, it’s . . . shut up already. The sugar industry releases a study that says that corn syrup is bad for you and it’s reported as science. Then the corn growers pay a few million dollars for a commercial to tell you that sugar and corn syrup are the same thing. Finally Michelle Obama warns you to stay away from both of them. It will drive you mad. It will. I can’t stand it. I have actually sat through episodes of TV news shows that have made me so angry I couldn’t sleep. Commercials for payday loans and bankruptcy lawyers send me into panic attacks. The re-introduction of Depression Era programs like “layaway” makes my hands shake. And supposedly “upbeat” stories of anonymous millionaires paying off strangers’ layaway items for Christmas doesn’t make me feel better—that’s not hopeful, that’s another sign of the pathetic, whimpering end of the American Dream.

I can’t carry this weight anymore. I don’t know how to begin to fix any of those problems. So what’s left to me after an hour of all that is impotent rage. I flatly refuse to crack and go off on some kind of shooting rampage, so the only other possibility for me is to step out of the madding crowd and get on with doing what I do.

I write stories. I’m going to concentrate on that. And sometimes, I’ll have to do research and I will, and Twitter will tell me if something big happens, and I’ll seek out informed and balanced information on events that interest and/or effect me directly. But don’t ask me about Wizards of the Coast, Kim Kardashian, Rick Perry, or Rachel Maddow. I’m not going to have an opinion.

I’m going to get to work. I’m going to work my ass off. And if the only hope for middle class Americans like me is to buy our way into the 1%, well, then, 1% here I come.

I’m not saying I’m all of a sudden going to “sell out”—after all, as soon as I put pen to paper to write the Baldur’s Gate novelization that ship well and thoroughly sailed—it just means that I’m going to point at the sunrise, not the sunset, get busy being busy, and do for me and mine.

After all, they got this Depression on.

* * *

Looking back this morning, December 23, 2014, at some of my year-end and New Year’s Resolutions posts I’m once again struck by all the things I haven’t followed through on. I lost no weight. I still have played neither Smallworld nor Risk: Halo Wars. I still swear up a fucking blue streak. And so on . . .

But this one from two years ago, where I more or less admitted failure on those other things, shows me that I can, when I feel sufficiently pressed, actually modify my behavior. Since writing this, two years ago, I have watched no TV news. In fact, earlier this year, I realized that The Daily Show, though funny and smart, actually counted as news and so I stopped watching that. I don’t watch Stephen Colbert or John Oliver either. I have no interest in anything said on either Fox News or MSNBC, and everything I said above still applies.

And let me tell you, people, wow have I been a happier person!

That’s not to say that I don’t have my moments. I’ve spent this year in an ongoing struggle with a mortgage lender over nonsense that seemed to have been resolved but still lingers due to some kind of “coding error” on their part. This makes me want to stomp certain people’s gut out. Luckily for all of us, I’m in Seattle and they’re in New York. And there are always setbacks and inconveniences in modern life. So what?

All in all, 2014 has been a good year. Financially, we’re going to end this year having made more in actual income than my salary at Wizards of the Coast when I was laid off in 2010. That was a bit of a longer struggle than I’d hoped for, but dogged persistence, hard work, and no frickin’ choice in the matter pushed me through.

I’ll be working on scheduling my own time more intelligently and so on as we get into 2015 and surf that high-energy start, low-energy end to the year again like I always do, but this stripping out of negative input, of the barrage of unsolvable problems, has made me a better person and has made my life a lot more interesting, less frustrating, and more livable in general.

This is an interesting idea for a character.

How many villains are people who are simply overwhelmed by the feeling that they have to solve an unsolvable problem and find themselves willing to do terrible things in order to get some desired result? What is a terrorist but someone so convinced that he’s got no other alternative than to blow something up in order to fight the unfightable, or be heard above the static?

Am I trying to say that by ignoring the unforgivably biased “news” media for two years I avoided becoming a terrorist? No . . . I’m just not a violent person, and I’m smart enough to know that the first guy who throws a punch loses the argument, but then I guess that’s what makes me a hero.

Now, on to the War on Christmas!

 

—Philip Athans

 

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the recently-released How to Start Your Own Religion and Devils of the Endless Deep. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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2 Responses to WRAPPING UP 2014

  1. James says:

    Things like “Live more in the future” are good, but they don’t work as resolutions. They work as, “Oh, that feels like nausea in my head. Maybe I shouldn’t think about that so much right now.” I keep wishing for time travel because I can’t imagine achieving what I want without hindsight. I’d be better off wishing for luck, insight, or even delusion. Those might happen! And again, writing myself a resolution is a little like writing a memo to the executives about the janitors throwing things away inefficiently. Insight has to come at the moment of decision.

    Not watching television news? Now that seems like a decision you can run through your Executive Mind.

    This is another thing I’ve done (I fast forward through commercials, too. ) Let me know at the end of the year if you find it’s as productive as you thought- bet it will be!

  2. Pingback: READ MORE…BUT NOT AT ALL COST | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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