Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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The Year That Was

January 01, 2011


Now that I have successfully typed "2011," I can indulge in some reflections on the year just passed. As a salute to continuity, here is a photo that was taken when the old year was still with us, which is to say yesterday, at the airport restaurant, where Cris and I were having breakfast. She took the picture. Best breakfast place on Martha's Vineyard. That's the sweater I got at the Christmas market down by the fjord in Oslo.



Long time ago, in my D.C. days, my friend Susan mentioned that at the end of every year she made note of everything she'd done for the first time since January 1. I still love this idea. Most years I manage to at least make a mental note of things I did for the first time in the old year. Among other things, it's a way to tell if I'm taking chances, trying new things, or am I getting stuck.

2010 was a year of continual, monumental unsticking. I could list all the ways my life on December 31 looked different from my life on January 1: On January 1, I had a horse. On December 31 I didn't. On January 1, I was driving a pickup. Now I'm driving a car. On January 1 I didn't have a passport. Now I do.

I left the country for the first time in almost 20 years, and crossed the Atlantic for the first time in 35.

When 2010 began, Travvy and I had been to two Rally trials. In the course of the year, we earned our Rally Novice title, and then our Rally Advanced. At the beginning of October we went to a weekend dog-and-human campout in western Massachusetts, and while there Travvy earned his Canine Good Citizen badge. (Whether either one of us is really a good citizen remains open to question, but he at least has got a certificate to prove his credentials.)

Workwise, I did more editing for individuals and small presses (as opposed to large trade or university presses) than in previous years. Three new clients, two small presses and a quarterly magazine, are based on Martha's Vineyard. All of these jobs came looking for me, the result of word-of-mouth communication over which I had almost no control.

That's a common theme in the great unsticking that was 2010: outside intervention. Going to Norway wasn't my idea. Neither was participating in the program about the troubadours and trobairitz at the West Tisbury library. Neither was serving on the 2010 fantasy/sf/horror jury for a literary award program: my ties to the f/sf world have grown tenuous, though they still exist, and this particular literary award program is one I've been ambivalent about for years.

What's encouraging about all these things is that they draw on my past experiences and established (though sometimes rusty) skills and point me in some new directions. What makes me uneasy is none of them are about writing. The universe, if I'm inclined to find meaning in the signs it's sending my way, wants me to edit, perform, and review other people's work. It doesn't care if I create my own.

And truly I'm having a hard time motivating myself to keep writing. My writing isn't going out into the world, it's not replenishing the energy it takes to do it. The best things I've done in the last 10 years have gone nowhere. I'm having a hard time convincing myself that I have anything to say that needs to be said -- and even if I do the prospect of its ever getting to people who could use it seems remote. You can't get there from here. I'd settle for a little community of writers, artists, and musicians who egg each other on and inspire each other when the outside world doesn't give a damn about what they're doing.

Which is pretty much the impulse behind The Squatters' Speakeasy. Plenty of writers write the books they want to read, and creating the world you'd like to live in makes sense too. But how to muster the energy it takes to do it, one word, one line, one page at a time?

Damned if I know. The only thing I know how to do is turn it over and over and over again. The tectonic shifts of 2010 rearranged the landscape of my life. It may be that the energy reservoirs haven't had time to replenish themselves. Maybe the editing roads that are opening up will reveal new paths for the writer.


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