S. Yumi Yamamoto
2022: a Personal Review
2022 was not the best reading year for me, but it held quite a lot of writing. Only 9 books were read, but 4 books were written, and several dozen projects have been planted. In an effort not to be critical of myself, I will say it was good enough. I am not satisfied, but progress was made.
I think most people will think me stupid when I say writing 4 books is not an accomplishment, but I feel lackluster as I think about them. They were not wastes of time, but as of now, they are merely trash drafts. I did not write 4 books completed, with edits, with critiques, with polish: I just finished 4 books of no great quality. For me, doing what I know I can already do is not satisfying. I have not learned anything; I have merely made progress toward something. There is no sense of finality because they are far from finished. As much as I preach taking the small victories and celebrating accomplishments, I find it difficult to do that for myself in this circumstance. I think that's because this wasn't a struggle, and it wasn't a fight for something I was passionate about. It was fluff and fun, and I just soaked up my time doing something that was essentially candy. I put words on pages, and I did it enough that I made 4 books. These were craftless pieces that will be eaten up and thrown away just as easily as fanfiction, and I don't even have the passion to make it great, memorable fanfiction. I am unfulfilled even though the amount of work says I should be.
I've let the real work rest, and I think it is time to take it up again. I spent 2022 reeling from the Milwordy burnout of 2021, and the emotional losses, and the social grieving that took its toll in ways I couldn't have possibly predicted. I'm done with rest, and I'm done with making the same progress over and over again. I crave growth. I crave accomplishment and fulfillment. I crave external validation or rejection because at least I'll have done more than write quiet page after page. I know the hours weren't for nothing, but I can't have a year like this again while I am not making money.
On the other end of this -- the reading -- I think I can at least say that what I read I genuinely enjoyed for the most part. I had no ratings lower than 3 stars, and with one exception I had fun with the novels. The year started strong with N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season with a 5-star rating and, frankly, the first time I really felt secure in what I am attempting to do with my own work. It's merely a passing connection, but it was there, and it's made me excited to dive deeper into SFF and maybe (someday) find the perfect comparison.
Carmilla was close behind, which earned 4 stars and a dabble into vampire writing for a moment. I find the lore of vampires fascinating and I always have. The thing that separates vampires like Carmilla and Dracula from others is their connection to the vampire scare of the US around the time they were written, as well as their connection to Serbian vampire lore. Most people point to Vlad the Impaler as the inspiration for Dracula, but that doesn't explain where the rules of the monster come from. The insidious nature of these kinds of vampires is fun and fascinating, and it's something I'd like to play with more in the future.
Suboptimized was less than thrilling, but I gave a full review of this book here. Three stars, caveated recommendation. I have feelings about this book that go beyond the work itself, and I try not to let that interaction color my view of the novel now. As such, I still have to stick by my initial review. It is, however, honestly the most disappointing book all year.
I've never read Brandon Sanderson until this year with The Final Empire of the Mistborn series. Problematic as the author's statements are, and some things in the novel as well, I did end up giving it 4 stars and enjoying it enough that I might continue. The world is clearly not the same, but I have a similar feeling as when I read A Darker Shade of Magic and it's enough to keep me going.
We Hunt the Flame has been on my tbr since 2018 when I heard about it and for whatever reason it's taken me this long to actually sit down and read it. 5 stars. I've already gotten the second book and waiting until I feel the timing is right to devour it almost as quickly as I did the first novel.
I had a bit of a lull, but eventually, I picked up Daughter of the Moon Goddess. 4-star rating and every excited for the next book. That one is in my queue, and I might pick that one up this month as it's a little more relevant to my own work currently. It's cozy and fun, and definitely would recommend it to anyone who wants to start somewhere with Asian-inspired fantasy.
Next I had to read Gallant because I love nearly everything that V.E. Schwab has ever written, and this was a solid (but skewed) 4-star book. I felt it was middle grade, but I know there has been some back and forth on how it's been received. Whether it's MG or YA, I think it's a good haunted house story.
Book of Night was semi-required because of my friend Shyanne who is a huge fan of hers (and also may have announced the existence of this book via one of Shyanne's tweets). 3 stars with an "I honestly don't know how or why" remark to it. I think there's something to expand on here (why this exists, why now, why people are mixed about it), but this particular blog is not the place to do it.
The final completed book of the year was Annihilation, and this was a struggle for me. I have been told by several people that I should take a look at this as it may have relevance to my Sha'an and Serum work, but the further I went in, the less I enjoyed it and the less relevant I found the book to be. I truly did not understand what the message or the point was until the final few pages, in which I found the allegory to be overdrawn, long, and exhausting. That isn't to say that this is a bad book. In fact, I think that it does exactly what it set out to do and skillfully, but it is not for me. However, I do want to see the movie adaptation and see if I can glean anything else from that interpretation.
So, how to summarize the year? Slow, unfulfilling healing with sparks of joy and inspiration that has ignited 2023. It's not about the work, it's about the quality. It's not about the number, it's about the enjoyment. And good enough is good enough.