Despite a lot of deliberate work, I’m running behind on writing THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Much of this, I’ve found, has been me second-guessing myself about… well, everything.
Much of this is simply a mental block, I know. My self-esteem took a hit with BROKEN HEAVENS. I don’t want to turn in another partial/very rough draft. I want something really great. Exceptional. The trouble is, you know – no draft is going to be exceptional. That’s why it’s a draft.
I’ve had a great many external voices in my head lately, which has made writing at length a lot harder, too. Short fiction is all right because I only need a day or two of real concentration to get my shit together. Novels are tougher. I’ll have a few days of really great progress, then read everything over and be like, “Yeah, that won’t work.”
I have failed to follow a lot of my own advice recently about cutting off the outside world when you’re trying to do deep work, too. I’ve been spending a lot of time comparing my career to the careers of others. I’ve been muddling around feeling like a failure. My anxiety has been at an all-time high the last month; it hasn’t been this bad since EMPIRE ASCENDANT came out, before I went on drugs. As I’m already taking quite a good dose, which has increased significantly over time, I’ve added in serious exercise again to help combat this. The best thing to do with excess nervous energy is to run it out (or lift it out, as is the case with doing my morning free weights).
Worst of all – I haven’t taken a social media break in A LONG time. Not since before the election. There are a couple reasons for that, the first being that Twitter makes me feel less lonely. I’ve been fairly isolated here recently, spending more time with my dogs than with humans. My spouse has been out of town a lot in recent weeks attending to some family business, and that means, again – just me and the dogs for days and days. Second, Twitter is my primary platform for promoting the work on Patreon, and I know when I cease promoting said patreon, the numbers go down. I’m relying on that income to help with my immigration process, so… yanno, that’s a concern.
But even reducing my presence on social media simply isn’t enough. It’s time to go cold for a few months here so I can stay focused on my own work – and actually hear my own voice, instead of the voice that says what I have to say not only doesn’t matter, but will be chewed up, eaten and destroyed once it’s out.
We talk a lot about developing a tough skin in this business, but I don’t think it works that way. I had a tough skin going into it, and for awhile, sure, it toughened up. But after awhile, you’re getting hit hard enough often enough that your skin isn’t getting calloused and tough; it doesn’t have time for it. Instead, it’s getting cut and flayed and carved down, and with no chance to recover, you end up with these bleeding, raw patches that make it tough to go on.
As I keep tearing down chunks of this book, I realize that I’m acting from that raw, bleeding place. I’m so tired of all the noise online about who’s bad and who’s good, and what’s good and what’s bad that I can’t even hear my own voice anymore. It’s all just noise.
So to reduce the churn and get back a semblance of sanity, I’ll be getting off social media in earnest again, from February 12 until May 1st. I will have some scheduled tweets in that time, links to the patreon, the tip jar, and re-posts of articles and blog posts. But I won’t be actively engaging there until May. This gives me time to finish LIGHT BRIGADE here in the next few weeks on my own terms, listening only to my own voice, and get started back up on THE BROKEN HEAVENS in peace, too.
I’ve been catching up on Ditch Diggers while working out the last couple of days, and taking to heart some things said there about choosing when to engage with audiences, and of course, managing depression and anxiety. Fans and even other professionals have been asking a lot more of creators, asking us to engage in debates and take positions and “be engaged.” The trouble is that for many of us, the act of creation is simply not compatible with being a manic extrovert. For me, these two modes are absolutely at odds with one another. I can’t do both; I can’t live in my own head in order to create something at the same time I’m living in and engaging fully with the world.
It’s a tough time, in this country, to say you’re going to dis-engage for a few months. With all the bad shit happening, the government being slowly dissolved and the creeping authoritarian state slowly taking its place, the last thing you want to do is say you checked out during that. But among all this bullshit, we have to find time to do our work, and that’s been tough for me for awhile now. I need to take control of it again. I want to live in my own head again, because frankly, that’s where all the goddamn stories come from.
A lot of people think I’m prolific, but just like all of you, I compare myself with others, and where I want to be, and I’m simply not there. I need to write a book a year, and I’ve stumbled with that recently. To have the career I want, I have to get back on track, even if the world is burning. Especially if the world is burning.
I’m enjoying a lot of the work I’m doing on LIGHT BRIGADE (I realized it was sort of an anti-Ayn Rand novel at one point, and that delighted me to no end). But I’m also aware of all of its flaws – real and potential – and the blowback it’s going to get in this current climate. Being aware of that and carrying on anyway is a weird balancing act. I’ve known a lot of writers recently who’ve been paralyzed with fear and indecision and uncertainty. I’m tired of being one of them. I got rubbed pretty raw over the last few years. Getting back into the game, having the confidence and bravery to carry on, is a struggle we all face at one time or another.
But what I’ve found is that these are merely excuses. I have been full of excuses for a long time that break down, quite simply, to fear. Fear of… just about everything. Fear of being nothing. Fear of being something. Fear of giving everything, and having nothing to show for it. Fear of letting people down. Fear of letting myself down.
Yet the truth is that there’s really nothing to fear at all anymore, because I’ve already done all of those things. I’ve already let everyone down, let myself down, given everything and gotten little back. I wrote a fairly frank summary of my writing experience to date (several people thought those were just generalizations. No, that was all stuff I’ve experienced). A lot has been great. A lot has sucked. That’s just… the way it is. And I can let the fear win out or I can do what I am here to do.
And I’m here to write.
The rest is just passing time.
So, I’m off once more into the breach. Because the writing, the deep immersive experience of writing – as opposed to the public butchery that is publishing! – is what I love best in life. And that’s the part I need to be engaging in right now. It’s time to create the world anew again.