“History is Full of Those Who Just… Didn’t”

Emerging from the plague years with fresh perspective on what we’ve achieved.

Hey Heroes –

I know I’m not the only one who looks back at the pandemic years as “The Lost Years.” My most vivid memory of those years is sitting on the back porch in October of 2020, talking to my film and lit agent while they told me that Warner Bros. had passed on a production company’s pitch for Light Brigade. “There are a backlog of projects that already have full teams attached,” my film agent said, “it’s big budget, and honestly… there’s a lot of uncertainty about the election.”

I remember the gut punch of “the election” on top of the disappointment about dev money (though by that point I’d talked to so many production companies over so many weeks, it wasn’t super surprising). I was two years out from one layoff and a year away from another layoff. We’d recently taken guardianship of my spouse’s grandmother, whose care was eating my spouse’s entire paycheck and some of my book money. Three months later, we would watch an attempted coup unfold at the United States Capitol. Somewhere in there my husband’s heart failed, and he had an emergency double bypass. My dad died. My favorite dog died.

I was tired.

I was going to get even more tired.

I find that I focus a lot on what I didn’t accomplish during the plague years, but the truth is I did survive them, and a lot of people didn’t. I’m of an age where my contemporaries have started passing away, and it’s always a shocker to watch us all move up the mortality ladder.

But I’m not dead yet.

What I didn’t do during the plague years is give up, though I thought about it many times. I kept attacking various versions of a book that was due in September of 2020 (that is still under contract and still not finished. Two or three months ago I threw it out again and started from scratch). It has gone through several character changes, displacements of timelines and settings, and has ended up being something all together weirder and more Hurley than the thing I started with. Which is as it should be, but the journey to get here has been demoralizing, to say the least.

These were the years I watched fellow authors churn out a whole lot of books while I seemed to be circling the same one over and over, a process so frustrating that for some time, despite writing a short story every month and reams of pages on a various versions of said book, made me feel like I wasn’t a “real” writer anymore. Which tells you something about the insidiousness of the biz. Writers need to finish books, yanno?

My anxiety surged during this period, which meant I was also increasingly drunk from 2020-2022, which was a great way to cope until it wasn’t. Eventually drinking stopped easing my anxiety and started making it worse (which alcohol will eventually do with enough time and in large enough quantities, surprise!), and I had to quit all together about a year ago. I am sad and miss drinking, but I don’t miss the anxiety. Instead of alcohol, my doctor put me on beta blockers earlier this year, which block adrenaline uptake, and lo: the always-on anxiety I’d suffered from since my first burnout in 2014 sank to a dull roar.

Turns out that when you experience hit after hit after hit of anxiety spikes and always-on stress, you essentially break your fight-or-flight response.

I had been dragging myself along with a broken anxiety engine for nearly ten years. It’s a wonder I was functioning at all.

But I made it, yanno?

This was a period of intense day job work; I picked up a new job in 2021, leveling up to a position with enormous responsibilities that have eaten my life the last two years. I would dream about being on client Zoom calls, and wake up with new client pitches. I went to sleep working on day job problems. I woke up thinking of day job problems.

I knew something was going to have to give with that, too. My day job pays for 8 hours a day of my brain, not 24, and I was losing the headspace I needed to hold all my book plots; my best time for plotting what I’ll write the next day is that half hour before I fall asleep every night. Instead, that headspace was given over to pacing through client problems.

So a couple months back I talked to my boss about transitioning to a role that still employed all of my talents, but didn’t make me feel solely responsible for the smooth operation of work for one major client. That transition will be complete by the time I head back to work in the New Year. The goal is to no longer dream in Zoom calls.

So far, it’s been working.

I’m often asked about “work-life balance” when it comes to writing and having a day job. The truth is there is no balance. Sometimes one gets more time than another. The goal is to ensure you’re not giving everything to the day job all the time. And when you find yourself doing it, you need to figure out a way to reset.

I am used to watching fellow authors bow out of the biz. We suffer from all the usual life shit: chronic illness, dying parents and friends, job layoffs, divorces, marriages, kids, bankruptcies, debt, job stress, and on top of that all the disappointment and rejection inherent in creative work.

This is a business or rejection and disappointment; the public only sees the successes, and rarely the failures: the pitches that landed flat, the books that never sold, the publishers that fail to pay you, the checks so late that you have to take out credit cards to cover bills, the “fame” that brings randos to your door. To still be here, and writing, is the greatest personal success there is.

I know that very well. Especially here at the tail end of the plague years.

And so does our most recent podcast guest, Tobias Buckell.


On the latest episode of GET TO WORK HURLEYTobias Buckell joins the show to talk about the long road to releasing his new book A STRANGER IN THE CITADEL. I met Toby back when we were fresh-faced 20-somethings breaking into the biz, and he’s one of the few I met back then who is still at it despite all that life and publishing throws at us. I admire the hell out of him, and I think you will too. Listen to the latest episode at Apple PodcastsSpotifyPodbean, or iHeart.

This podcast is free, but tips are appreciated via paypal or venmo.You can also support the verse via Amazon affiliate link anytime you buy from there: Hurleyverse Amazon Link

Fresh Fiction

In November’s story, two sisters seeking to cure the virulent plague that has gripped their father must travel through the shimmering ‘drift’ that isolates their people from the world beyond. If you’re a Patreon supporter, you can download it as a PDF, Mobi, or Epub file.

Read an excerpt:

“Father, what lies beyond the Drif?”

“Nothing. There is nothing beyond the Drif.”

We sat with our father on his narrow bed, curled together under the heavy bearskin. Our breath made whorled patterns in the air. Light bled from narrow openings above the door, the view blurred by the thin abdominal skin that blocked the heat from escaping. The Drift could not be seen from here, but it was a force like air, like gravity, keeping our village safe from what lay beyond.

Or, that’s what it was supposed to do. What it had always done.

But it had not kept out the plague.

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Around the Homestead

Remember to be excellent to each other; for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.



P.S. the above quote is from Anne Boyer

This newsletter is free, but tips are appreciated via paypal or venmo (dogs and taxes are expensive). You can also support Team Hurley via Amazon affiliate link: Hurleyverse Amazon Link

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