My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Writer is.....Not Sick

If you can't stand it every time I write a post to say that I'm not writing a post, give the ol' scroll wheel a nudge, because other than a few juicy details about my love life, you'll find nothing else of interest today. Today's post is not some "capitalism work ethic" post or even a guilty post to my Patrons that I'm taking a day off. (The only response I get to those anymore is "Take the damned day off and don't worry about it!") That said, this is a day where if I had a boss and time clock, I would be calling in.

And yet this post is one of the most important things I'll write.

I would tell them I'm sick. I wouldn't be LYING exactly (sticking to vague "I don't feel well"s is useful if you abhor lying), but I would be creatively stretching the truth. I might even throw a cough in there.

You folks....you get the straight dope.

I was just going to slip quietly into the weekend. I think there might be two or three people out there familiar enough with my update schedule to wonder where my "solid" Friday post went off to, but for the most part, I figured anyone watching that closely would know what was going on.

But then I realized I had a post to write after all. This post.

It's meta. It's navel-gazey. It's a little stream-of-consciousness. It might even cross the line into self-pitying. It's NOT a major craft essay on dialogue. But it's important.

I am having a bad day. I am having a bad week. I am having a tough month. I'm not that gangbusters about the entire holiday season. And this whole fucking back half of 2019 can get bent.

But rather than slink off and hit the ground running next week, leaving everyone with that "How does he write like he's running out of time?" impression, I have committed to this blog, wherein among the threesome jokes and the thirty- to forty-year-old pop culture references, there are actually a few guiding principles that I use as metrics.
And one of them is this: I want to show you how the sausage gets made.
It's so fucking important that you not think this is magic. That you realize that writers are neither soulless machines cranking out unfathomable word counts without regard to what's going on in our lives or that we're mercurial fae who flit from stimulus to stimulus until something "inspires" us and then we shit out entire books in a Squatty Potty unicorn rainbow sequence (with sprinkles).

The most common question working creative writers get is "How do you do it?/How can I do it?" or some variation. We are implored like there's some trick, some magic that we've learned, and we're holding back. I want to demystify that process. I want you to be able to literally comb back through the posts (if you should ever want to) and see the improvement curve, the evolution of audience awareness, the incredibly glacial process of building a financially-viable career as a working creative writer––going from years without a penny to pocket change to maybe a cell phone bill to part-time-job money to a job, but that has to be supplemented with a side gig––and yes, also the productivity lulls....all in real time.

Watch my productivity tank when The Contrarian comes along, when a loved one gets cancer, during the complicated and messy process of a major breakup with a kid involved. And these last few months as I've been overwhelmed by yet another baby and more hours than I can handle.

But also notice that even in the lulls, the posts (generally) go up. Notice that I keep grinding away. Notice that there have been no hiatuses and few vacations longer than a couple of days. Notice that I may not get a fully formed blog post written, but I write even when I'm going through the worst moments of my life. I'm not saying this to brag, but to point out that the discipline I cultivate when it's not easy is what leads to the ten-page days when I'm on a roll.

I don't stop. But also I absolutely have shitty days and blow off work. But I also push through more often than I don't. But I also can get overwhelmed during really super shitty weeks and I just can't tough it out. But even on those shitty days I write something (as you can see).

  • This entire six months has been long and tough. I quit pet sitting (except for a few very local rockstar clients), but I got a bump in nanny hours that turned out to be WAY more than I could handle.
  • Fire season ends (quite literally) with the first rain. So we go from running around and wondering if we're going to have to evacuate to being wet, and it makes regular hiking and nature-communing hard. (I don't hug trees, but I miss it when, for weeks at a time, I can't get out and look at them while taking a walk.)
  • Going easy on myself often has this initial effect of making things worse. (Just ask any teacher when they usually get sick.) It's like you slow down and everything that your adrenaline has been holding back comes flooding in. 
  • I used to hate the kitchy commercialism and once-a-year-compassion of the holidays. I would very grudgingly put up with it for the sake of people who get all "Sleigh Ride! Sleigh Ride!" about their Christmas spirit. Then I had a family with a kid and holidays became AWESOME. Like living them AS A KID all over again. Then I lost that family*. And holidays became a painful reminder that even though I would do it all again, I have spent my life choosing to be a struggling writer. And I have great friends, great partners, and a life I enjoy, but every once in a while I just wish I had someone to come home to and talk about the next home improvement project.
  • *The family in question isn't GONE, and though things are a little weird and messy, they are usually pretty great, all things considered. They need childcare and I need a side-gig, so that works out and I get to see the kids almost daily. And after a while of angry breakup feelings, we carved out a friendship and some "chosen family" feels. I usually get to have SOME kind of holiday with the kid, and the past couple of Christmases, I even got to sleep over and do Christmas morning. This year some parents are in town, and if you think non-monogamy is a tough sell to the in-laws, try having the ex who ISN'T actually the kid's dad hanging around on Christmas morning....we decided to skip it. I agree, but that's the closest thing I have to a child of my own, and missing him during that time is going to be tough.
  • I don't think I have seasonal affective disorder (at least not in a way where I need a special lamp and stuff) but when it is grey and rains for weeks and weeks, I start to really get gloomy. And I'm already missing the daylight hours this time of year.
  • I'm kind of cooped up in this house because of the rain. I can't HIKE hike because the trails are muddy, but I could at least go on some walks and hike paved bike trails if it would stop pouring for a while.
  • Sometimes there's just a downswing. I think of mental health as sliders rather than light switches, so everyone will have their own severity and approach, but think of how often you've heard "artist's temperament" used as a sort of "low calorie" version of something like manic depression. There's probably something to that even if it needs to be unpacked to avoid ableism. Yes, I have my "productive phases" when I'm on a tear, but sometimes there's a downswing too.
  • I try to maintain an update schedule folks can count on here at WAW, but sometimes my muse isn't working and playing well with others and dashes off to other places. (This can particularly be a problem when something extra shitty is going on in the news.) I end up with just as much writing, but it's not HERE. It goes to NOT Writing About Writing or just comes out in a lot of separate Facebook posts. This happens to every writer I know, but most of them don't update several times a week, so it averages out and their audience only ever sees the final product and can imagine it was written at a steady pace. Here you get to see every single hiccup in my process laid bare. The days where the wheels of my Delorean leave fire trails, and the days where I really don't want to get out of bed.
  • My nanny hours have involved a lot of extra hours this week. 

So there you have it. The reason I.....uh.....won't be posting today. *cough*


  1. I do apparently have SAD. I said to my doc 'Well my life sucks and I hate winter... so how is that seasonal affective disorder?' nevertheless apparently it is. Regardless I do get a slump of motivation in the winter. And ... nap attacks. A lot of nap attacks.

  2. Committing to showing the process is not something everyone can do, or even something most writers can do. Even those who respect it, recognize its value, admire you for doing it, etc - usually can't put themselves out there that way.

    There is a strength in vulnerability, but it's not one that everyone can tap. My guess is that you've cultivated your ability to access it along with or even before your writing discipline. The combination is pretty unique and it means you've got something rare to offer. So thank you, and I hope things get easier for you sooner rather than later.

    Also: grow lights. The poor man's therapeutic light box. I live in Minnesota; this time of year sunlight is hard to come by. I had grow lights for seedlings and a couple years ago I started using one on myself. If full spectrum light is touching your eyes, it helps. Add one to your reading light. It will be brilliant white and you might hate it a little if you like soft yellow light like me, but even 15 minutes a day helps. Position it a bit in front of you so that you're facing it but not staring into it.