The last cold roast potato has been eaten. The specials are all done. You're Googling about trying to work out when Twelfth Night falls so that you can keep the decorations up and glowing against the bleak grey so-called light, without risking bad luck. The year is nearly over. It's time to look back.
Let men with better memories tot up their top tens and twenties. It's all one blur to me. And sometimes I find myself totting up the regrets and near-misses and mistakes instead. It's a fool's game, but if the cap fits... 2012 seems to have gone by in a blur, and it feels all I've managed to do is button and re-button my cardigan. Does anyone else ever feel that way?
Well, it's not true! Now is the time to flick back through your diary and calendar and any photographs you might have kept. Go on a long walk and let your mind rove over it.
Here's something I did this year. This was the year I finally finished my first novel. Well, not exactly my first - over the years I've written pastiches and not-quite pastiches: The Shining Snows of Oz, Alice Up in the Air, Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, The City of Red Dogs. All of these I wrote for other people, which kept me putting words down in the face of stamina and zero self-confidence: you need to have something to motivate you, I've learned. Whether the recipient really wants what you're giving them - that's their business.
But this year I finally finished a FIRST DRAFT of my comedy occult family drama spy caper set in the 1960s called The Nan Who Knew Too Much. A modest claim, compared to people who have made writing their careers. But for the past couple of years I'd been shilly-shallying, planning, re-drafting, researching. It looked as if it would never actually get written - unless I had a word with myself.
This year I bumped it up my list of priorities and got a first draft finished - of variable quality, fine, but I learned a lot: not to drag it out, firstly. You forget what was pushing you to write it - you forget why a doesn't tell b about x. Like other things, you need to give it your all: your love, your time, your energy. Or it looks at you like a puppy you keep in the cellar.
Galvanised, I wrote a first draft of my other idea, Misadventures in Space and Time. This one isn't exactly In Search of Lost Time either, but at least it has the energy of being written in one continuous period of time. It needs redrafting before people see it, but at least that's not happening in the never-never future, like Nan was.
And it's tough to do what you love. Lots of disappointment and selfishness and throwing things (that might just be me). It's easier to say that you will - one day, or say that you shouldn't, except that doing so can make you very cross and unsatisfied. It meant a huge deal to me that this year people said they liked what I wrote, and that I should at least keep trying; that the (fourth) story I submitted to Obverse Books, about trans-temporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme was published, and that a second was asked for. Obverse has an amazing verve and faintly outrageous flavour that comes from real love for story, big ideas, and invention. I was very proud to be part of that world and to write for the amazing Iris, in Lady Stardust and Wildthyme in Purple.
You should get those, you know - there's some cracking stuff inside those splendid covers...!
And next year, there might be more - and I will certainly be coming up with new stories, even if Obverse throw me out into the snow. This was the year I finally realised that writing stories was something I felt at home doing, and shouldn't be putting off just because I didn't know what I was doing. The more I learnt, the more I needed to try, and the further into the unknown I wanted to go...