Survival Is An Achievement. But What Comes Next?

I’ve been publishing novels for ten years, this month, and my first series is still, miraculously, in print. That’s a pretty cool achievement. Both being in print and still being here, still under contract, still writing (albeit slowly, these days).

Enduring the highs and lows of publishing and coming out the other side isn’t for the faint of heart. Some days survival and endurance are enough. I find myself at an odd place in which I’m looking back at 10 years of publishing at the same time I’m looking back at surviving the last four years of a horrifying regime bent on harassing and abusing its citizens while enriching itself. We came about 60 seconds away from waking up in a very different America on January 6th. I’ve come right up to the edge of quitting the publishing world at least three times over these ten years.

I’ve heard often during the last four years, and throughout my publishing career, that one should not be satisfied with mere survival. But today, this month, this year, survival seems to be a pretty amazing achievement. We have now lost more Americans to COVID-19 in ten months than we lost in the entirety of World War II.

Let that sink in.

I’ve gotten through the last four years – which make up a no insignificant amount of my publishing career – with the generous application of liquor, CBD oil, gardening, and World of Warcraft. The last few weeks, I’ve been running on fumes, focused entirely on surviving this regime, with hardly any brain space for writing words at all.

Like many others, I’m tired of being tired.

As I slowly stop refreshing the news, and allow myself to relax in the knowledge that there will be no war declared via tweet, I find myself looking ahead, really looking ahead – for the first time in several years.

Tens years into my writing career is also a great time to look back – and look ahead.

I’m at a point in my life – now that my spouse’s job carries our health insurance – where I can consider intentionally shifting to full-time writing. This will require an actual financial plan, building up the Patreon, and creating a pitch for a multi-book deal, at the very least. This can give me a goal of say, going full time in 2-3 years, if I create and stick to a plan.

Look at me, looking ahead!

I expect I will be blogging here more as I process my thoughts and feelings about the last four years. When I’m deep in the shit, I am focused on survival. Here on the other side of the closest we have yet come to falling into fascism (and we’ve had some other close calls!), I can afford to take a breath and process what just happened.

We still live in a dangerous and unsettled time. Such as it’s been for a long, long time. But we have a functioning government again, and that’s something I will no longer take for granted. Because I have lived through how close we came. Many people forget that revolutions and coups throughout history often looked just like what we saw on January 6: a useful, angry mob that serves as cover for a dozen or so folks with an actual plan.

And it happens just that quickly, shifting from one America to the next.

One thing I’ve discovered about myself the last few days of sleeping and processing is that I’m not proud or content with the person I am. Certainly, being locked down in my house for a year, surviving a regime bent on destroying the very government it was hired to run, has taken its toll on me. January 6th took me over the edge, and I’ve been huffing and puffing here at the end to the finish line.

I am alive, but that’s about it.

It’s a good time to take stock of my career, my work, my life; all the choices I’ve made or punted off down the line. What do I want this second half of my life and career to look like? What sort of person do I want to be? These are good questions that I finally feel I have the brain space to consider. For four years it’s just been, “I don’t know? What do I need to do to survive this?” And now I’m thinking… what do I want to do? And that feels like such a luxury. It’s the sort of question one can only ask in a functioning society.

Much of my processing right now is just realizing how truly and completely the last four years fucked with our sense of social norms, our expectations of how government can and should act. It’s been an unending circus of horrors so bad that I just stopped being surprised by all of the nonsensical and terrifying things the admin did or tried to do; discussions of martial law, self pardons, kids in cages, inciting one’s followers to overturn a free and fair election, press secretaries that just lie about the dumbest things, for spite. A narcissist in power.

The pandemic still rages. I’m currently playing vaccination Thunderdome, trying to find some place that will give me my first dose now that I’m eligible in my county this week. There is no woods we can completely clear because we are all headed to the same end. But there are periods of time we can endure, and periods of time in which we can pick ourselves back up, and push forward.

Periods of light on the other side of darkness.

I’m going to enjoy however long this one lasts, because as of January 20th at noon, we were officially no longer on the absolute darkest timeline.

And that’s something to celebrate.

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