And once again I find myself going: “Computer! Take me to the weasels!”
No, okay, it’s not that bad, is it? It’s just a slog. A long, slow slog out of the winter of my discontent. This is, what, the third or fourth post I’ve made about this so far? Getting sick of me yet?
That’s a weasel talking. Pay it no mind.
It’s snowing again, after several days of really lovely weather. I’m still coughing despite all my other symptoms going away, business continues to be eh. I’m not anywhere near as far along in my garden as I want to be, partly due to my own neglect. I’m fretting about what fixing my chimney will cost, although once that’s done our heating for the next few winters should be less problematic, which is good because meteorologists and climatologists are making dire noises about the next few winters. I do like my good stout-walled house with its fireplace. But that’s not the point.
The point is that this past winter has been a Winter of my Discontent, such as I haven’t known in at least a good five years, and there are no Yorkies or their sons in sight.
I have a handful of dime novels to write, the next Black Ice book/anthology to finish, another book (Sandborn) to finish edits on and finally publish, and that’s not even counting all the Murderboarding backlog, plus the new developments from the Portland trip (more on that on the Murderboarding blog.) Plus keeping up here, plus my day job, plus whatever it is I end up doing in my allegedly free time. Reading books? Sewing things.
It’s hideously daunting when I think about it like that. Less so when I realize that I’ve successfully juggled all of these things for several years now, by dint of excellent Timing and a certain amount of Brilliance and Grace. Bit by bit, piece by piece, and hour by hour, making time for everything in rotation and keeping up the continuous progress, it’ll get done. But it’s still daunting as all hell. The big part is, I’ve spent four months being dragged through situational depression trigger after depression trigger, yo-yoing like crazy not due to anything that can be solved with chemicals or (much) talk therapy, but due to the fact that my grandfather was dying and a gas line blew up near my house and a friend died unexpectedly and it would not stop being frigid cold. I did very little writing. I did very little creating. And I suffered because of it. Now, writing is a slog, a chore, it’s trying to do all those push-ups you used to do every morning after four months of no exercise, and finding you can maybe get out five before you collapse face first onto the carpet. Well, hardwood.
I’ve been writing, what with one thing and another, since I was six or seven. So by this point I’ve almost been writing for thirty years. I’ve gotten fast. Incredibly fast. I’ve gotten skilled, I think, as well as perhaps starting out talented. I used to be able to write a dime novel, around 10k words give or take, in a weekend. With time to spare to clean house and relax and do other things. Now, well. It took me nearly six months to write the last one. Ouch.
There’s a lecture here that the Editrix gives me, when I’m not applying it to myself. Writing is a muscle. As referred to in the push-ups analogy above, if you don’t use it, it’ll atrophy and wither and become less strong than you’re used to. I haven’t used those muscles in four months, and that’s a lot of atrophy. And at the speed and strength I was used to before, that’s a lot of difference. A lot of weasel room, so to speak. Double ouch.
And the problem with this is, as with muscles and push-ups, there is no magic button. There’s no set of criteria you can meet, the right workspace or the right background music or the right snack, that will get you to that place you used to be. You just have to work the muscles again. In a way it may be worse than first-try writing progress, when you’re trying to get better or faster or develop a new set of writing skills for the first time; I know how good I used to be, how fast, and how much I could do, and I can’t do that anymore. And it sucks. And it’s an opening for my brain to trick itself, for the weasels to get in and start gnawing on my self-confidence. I don’t have what it takes. I can’t hack it. I was just fooling myself all those years when I thought I could.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, yes, there is a “punch it in the face” coming.
You have to do the work. There’s no way around it. As with most things in life, you have to do the work, but you can make it easier on yourself. I’ve broken up the next six weeks into calendars and goals, and to my amazement I seem to be on top of things. I sat my ass down and I wrote the end to the dime novel I started four, five. Six? Months ago, and I did not let myself move on until I’d finished it. Because I had only three or four scenes left to go, and because I knew I could do at least that much. They were right there in my head, clear as day in vivid color and that sharp smell of blood (it’s that kind of a story) and I just needed to set them down on paper. Well, screen. So I sat my dumb ass down and did it. And I kept reminding myself, as many times as it took, yes, it sucks now. You’re tired, and it sucks, and it hurts that you can’t do this like you used to. Suck it up, buttercup. You don’t get a Steve Rogers super-serum to make you into the super-powered writer you used to be, you have to work at it.
That dime novel’s off in the Editrix’s hands now, getting shredded in green pen. I’ve got blog-work to do, I’m reading over the other thing I was in the middle of so I can finish that, then it’s on to Sandborn. It still feels exhausting. Like I’m not the person I used to be, worse, like I never was the person I thought I was. But I am. I have the mountains and mountains and Himalayan fucking mountains of old fiction of greater or lesser quality to prove it. I have friends who will not let me forget it. I have an Editrix who will sit on my head if I try to squirm out of it.
So. Bring on the weasels, and break out the gym equipment. It seems I have some training to do.