|I'm having a hard time getting ahead.|
YEAH I FUCKING WENT THERE!
I could always be doing more.
When I filled up that time, there were still simple sacrifices to be made. Give up that raiding guild. Cut back on a social life. Fewer Netflix binges. Teach one less class–yes, the budget would be tight, but I'd have that time for writing. Skip that vacation. Try to perfect elven trance meditation instead of sleep. And for a while, finding these things is easy and most of them are low priority sacrifices when it comes to the writing itself.
I was not familiar with the sensation of hitting the wall. In fact, it was so alien to me that I ran hard into it several times before I realized what was happening. Somewhere in the metaphorical plane of existence there is a temporal wall with four or five good Chris-shaped indentations in it.
There was no more time to give.
I'm not saying that I write sixteen hours a day. I don't. If I made a million dollars a day writing and had a housekeeper and never needed a moment off, I couldn't write that much. (Not for more than a week or two on "lockdown" maybe.) Although at least if that were the case it would have been easier to realize that there was no more time to give. ("Sir, it seems that in order to write any more you must stop sleeping. Perhaps sir would care for another methamphetamine pill?") But I didn't realize I was at the point of limited returns. Instead I did what I had always done and found an hour or two here or there to sacrifice. I pushed myself harder. I canceled more plans and cannibalized more downtime.
My first indication that something was rotten in Denmark was exhaustion. Not just of the "oh I'm tired" variety, but as I blogged about here around six months ago, more of the sleepwalking/scary amnesia, wait-how-is-it-Sunday-already variety. Fortunately, the only thing I woke up to discover I had unknowingly murdered was a whole lot of grammar. (Always nice not to come to in a crime scene.) Actually that was the second time in as many months that a doctor whipped out their medical megaphone and yelled into my face that I needed to take it the fuck easier.
|Get some rest, dillhole.|
Hearts younger than yours have stopped from this bullshit.
Then of course, there's my mood.....I call it a nasty little storm cloud, but sometimes it goes by other names. It shows up every few months, and usually leaves when I throw vegetables and exercise at it (and some decent sleep), and sometimes even shifts back into the runs of great creativity and energy, but it'll be back. It always comes back.
[Just so you know, I'm aware that what I'm describing could have a clinical definition if it were more dramatic in the highs and lows. I've talked to professionals and most of them just think it's a little turned up from most folks–not something I need treatment for–and unfortunately somewhat of a common temperament among artists.]
None of this, of course, is quite as dramatic as losing a whole day and finding out you had some weird ass, grammar-free conversations on FB and apparently, willingly, watched all of Iron Fist. Still, it was a bit of a warning shot across my bow.
The problems go deeper than "GET MOAR SLEEP." I have to take an inventory that I've never had to take. I have to find a work/life balance with writing and though it will be obsessive and ridiculous and way more than most people would consider healthy, it still has to be there.
I have to do a certain amount of side gigs in order to shore up my budget. It is breathtaking to have achieved the goal of being able to survive on writing, but that survival is bare bones and that goal is really only "technically" achieved. If I want something besides Top Ramen, Kirkland PB&Js, and to be 100% beholden to public transit, I have to throw in some pet sitting and freelance editing and stuff too.
As a personal note, I also almost never say no to my kid watching side gig. I'd hang the moon for that kid. The budget isn't even a factor and I regularly do it without pay if it's been more than a few days. So I'm never going to give up that either.
Unless it's "Dessert you" which might mean buying him ice cream and cake.
I'll totally do that.
Of what's left, I still can't give everything to writing. I'm backlogged on guest posts, emails, cleaning up menus, my fiction, and everything that isn't grinding out a post every day. Beyond that, I need some time to unwind and go on walks that give my body some physical activity, have relationships with other humans, read, and maybe even catch up on Daredevil Season 2 if I'm feeling extra outrageous.
I'm pretty hard on myself. For the record, I don't think it's a big ol' coincidence that I'm hard on myself and I have a day job doing creative writing, but sometimes learning to thread that needle takes kicking my ass like a taskmaster in BDSM gear and sometimes it takes a gentle Galadriel voice that kindness will make the universe unfold as it will. Lately it's been more like a not-taking-your-shit single mom voice that there's a glass ceiling of "productivity" where I'm just gutting out words and they're not all that creative anymore, so stop being such a goddamned artiste about every damn thing and go take a fucking nap, loser. And even though it's not their fault in the slightest, and literally NONE of my Patrons has ever even suggested that I'm not writing enough (sometimes they suggest the opposite, actually), I still think of them every time I want to take a day off.
Sometimes it's like having 186 bosses.
I was talking with Cap yesterday. She commissions a lot of art pieces from fan-artists mostly to support them as artists (with wanting the actual art only as a distant second). And she told me that artists are sometimes people you have to just give your money, let them do their thing, and know that it's going to be a few months. It's I'm not going to quite go THAT laissez faire with my update schedule, but I remember my own patronage, and that I'm being harder on myself than I would be on any artist or writer or anyone but me.
That's sort of a theme in my life, bee-tee-dubs. Me being harder on me than anyone else is on me and than I am on anyone else. Big theme. Lots of therapy. Still a work in progress. Boundaries Я hard. It's its whole own post–like ten of them really; trust me.
So what now?
Recently, I polled my Patrons to take their temperature about all of this. Were they going to leave in droves if I started posting a little less? ("We find your effort....lacking.") While a few people suggested that my current posting schedule was pretty good (though I should feel free to take a break when I needed one) most actually made it clear that they'd like to see quality over quantity, wouldn't leave unless I stopped writing altogether, were supporting me for other non-blog writing I do (and in anticipation of what I will write), and even thought that maybe I could pump the breaks just a little on Mr. Toad's Wild Blog.
So here's the new plan. I was doing seven posts a week. I'm going to take that down to six. I was doing three "meaty" posts a week. I'm going to take that down to two. It's not that the other four will be phoned in or anything, but I spend a lot of time posting polls, reminding people to vote, doing the little running plot that goes on here, and various low-key posts like Fortune Cookie Wisdom. I'm going to take more "Admin weekends" (at least one a month) and give myself permission to cut out a post–though without my signature tearful apologies–if I've had to watch the young'un a lot or if someone agrees to pay my rate for a double booking. Or even–and this will take a tank of oxygen and some tranquilizers–when I'm just in one of my slumps. Because I can do the Write-Every-Day discipline thing and it'll help get SOMETHING on the stove and keep me sharp when the mojo come back, but there are still always going to be periods where a full force blog post of the "meaty" variety just sits in my brain and taunts me instead of coming out.
I'm basically going to be a little nicer to Chris. He seems nice.
That time will go into cleaning up menus, going through emails, setting up a better schedule of guest bloggers, writing my fiction, unspooling in a way that counterintuitively improves my creative productivity because that's just the kind of right a-hole creativity is sometimes, and just taking a minute to chillax because I'm wound to goddamned tight.
Who knows, I might even get around to seeing Jessica Jones.
|I know! I know!!|
Yes, this is my monthly appeal post. It's not cute or clever (this time). I'm tucking it in here because it relates so well to all of this stuff. For the vast majority of my life, there has always been more time to write. Now I can't without your help.
If you'd like to be a part of helping me phase out pet sitting, so that there actually can be more time to write please consider even the smallest of financial support by becoming a Patron. I still depend on half a dozen breathtakingly generous folks for over half my income and that is a very vulnerable place for me to be no matter how much I love them. A strong foundation of smaller donors ($1 and $5...maybe $10) will help cushion the blow if life happens to one of those patrons.
Of course, not everyone can handle a recurring payment, and of course you can also make a one time donation through Paypal, but if you would like to be a part of polls like the one I describe above or conversations about what's coming up, you'll have to commit to at least a dollar a month on Patreon.