People ask me when I stopped writing, and I say I haven’t. The reality is that no, I haven’t “stopped” writing, but I’m not getting the output of words like I used to in my twenties and early thirties. There is no lack of ideas – they still flow through my brain like a freight train in the middle of the night refusing to stop until the story is shown in flashes in my dreams. There’s a desk drawer filled with ideas and a pushpin board filled with titles of novels that are ready to be started, outlines, or completed.
There are three full first drafts of three different series book 1’s waiting for editing. I’m anywhere between 20K – 60K on four more novels. I have one “How to…” pamphlet half written to go along with my DragonCon lecture. So the lack of projects is not the problem. I know where all the series are going in the book 2’s – for the most part – so the plot is not the problem. I only work for 4 days a week, so there are three fulls days I can put time to writing, so time is not the problem.
Part of me puts blame on a lack of discipline, which in some ways is correct. It’s the same lack of discipline that keeps me from putting away my clothes when the laundry is done, from doing my exercises and physical therapy on a daily basis, and even from cooking real food for dinner. But even then, I’m still sitting on my recliner with my laptop and just talking on AIM and bouncing between the same three windows for the 3 hours I have between getting home from work and going to bed – not the mention the 3 full days at home.
Another part of my wants to blame my role-playing, but to be honest I procrastinate on that as well and there are days I don’t even touch the game responses I need to send out to the various journal based RPG’s I’m a member of. In a way, it’s a relief too because I enjoy the games and the friends I have made due to them, and I would hate to lose that part of my life to focus more on my writing.
No, it’s a hard thing to admit, but I finally talked to my doctor a few months ago about depression. I’m normally very happy-go-lucky when I’m in my right mind, but for the last few years I’ve noticed that I had lost that part of myself. I was becoming irritable and coarse, my patience was thin and my blood pressure was high. Weight gain started, as did pain in my left lower region. In 2013 I was diagnosed with a pulled groin muscle – a misdiagnose that’s symptoms would continue to come back and haunt me on and off until spring of 2015 when I changed doctors and was properly diagnosed with a bulging disc that would then rupture in October and require surgery in November.
On top of that, stress from a job that was compared to me being a domestic abuse survivor in relation to my supervisor… and then add into there the death of Aaron Allston who was my mentor and dear friend for almost half my life… and it was a recipe for the final straw that broke my back. Literally.
I hate not writing. Thinking about not being able to focus on my worlds and words hurts me in ways I never imagined I could be. The stress of sitting at the computer and not being able to focus on getting the words out of my head and onto the page just compounded everything more. What happened to my muse? Where did my drive disappear to?
Then the voices chime in: You’re a failure. What kind of writer are you? You weren’t meant for this. This is why no one asks you to join their anthologies. You shouldn’t be allowed to teach anymore. Who cares about your stories anyway – not like they are selling like hotcakes on Amazon.
Down and down the well I fell until finally, the arrows in my soul that I had put there had pierced it so much that I could feel anxiety coming anytime I tried to carve out time to write. And it was there, sitting in my bedroom crying because my back was starting to hurt again, I was still trapped in my job and I hadn’t written more than a few words here or there in over a year that I debated on what was it worth anymore.
Now I’m not suicidal. The one time I had gotten THAT far was already 17 years past and left on the windowsill of my dorm as my best friend wrapped me in a blanket and brought me back from the brink. But for me, giving up was giving into the voices and leaving my creative life behind and becoming the person who only cared about money and advancement and leaving creativity behind to pursue things that didn’t matter in the long run. It was just the same as killing myself, only from the inside. It was the reason I left NY, the reason I came to Nashville, and a struggle I constantly go through inside of my own head as I try to balance the whole “being an adult” with being a writer (not to mention other personal struggles that I’m not ready to publicly talk about).
My doctor noticed it when he saw me in late October. My body was broken, but he knew that walking in since he had the ER report from two weeks ago about my back. Instead he looked at me and saw my spirit broken and how even bringing up the idea of depression brought me to tears. We talked about what was happening, and what would be the best past for me. He felt at that point that, knowing me and how I was, that it was just too much stress and pain for me to handle and that medication may help give me just that boost I needed to make it through the days to come with recovery. We’d reevaluate in six months and see if I needed more help in the form of physiologists or stronger meds.
I saw him again last month and let’s just say I was much happier and the way he knew I should be. I was in a new job, with a chiropractor who was helping me manage my pain post-surgery, and things were looking a lot brighter in my life. But we didn’t stop the drug, and it was an agreement on both ends. I was afraid that I was still recovering and that going through the withdrawal would bring me back to where I was when the drug started. He was thinking the same thing, and was happy to see the game plan I had to recover and wanted to keep me going on the drug to give me the mental boost to help keep me positive.
In a way it’s still helping, which is good. I’m no longer a tiny little rain cloud of doom trapped in a recliner and in an immense amount of pain and I’m able to come up with a game plan to start weight loss, exercise, and come up with schedules for writing and rebuilding my failed two years of social media push on my author life.
Yet words are still not coming in the way they used to. Spurts, which are becoming more frequent thank god, are not a daily occurrence. My writing day is more of a finding an excuse to do other things and not sit at the computer day. Looking at the word count for this article – this is actually the most I have written this month that wasn’t work related. So where is the disconnect that is refusing to let me get back into a groove on the things I want to and am looking forward to doing?
Depression is a disease. The pill isn’t a cure for me, but a bridge. A stopgap that gets me through the day. I’m no where near as bad as many people who live with depression every day, and I can’t speak for them and their coping methods. I can sympathize, however, in their struggles and have an understanding that up to a year ago I refused to admit I had. But like a disease, it attacks people in different ways.
For me, it’s going after my ability to care about myself. The caring for other people is back to an all time high, but the caring for myself is low. Part of me is used to the routine from when I was nice and drugged for three months (October, November, December) and then with B’s parents here until April just letting me sit and rest and heal. I needed it, because I don’t like to sit still. But now I’m used to it – it’s my routine and it’s all the harder to get out of it. I keep trying, and I get maybe a week into a new routine and just slip out of it again. Then the voices start up again, and I’m stuck not knowing what to do and feeling like a failure all over again.
So here I sit now, trying to decide on what to do with my writing. I want to keep going. I want to keep writing and I know I have all the resources to do it. I just need to find a way to get my mind wrapped back around it again. Maybe if I can figure out how to get my writing going again, other things I’m having issues with will fall back into place. Maybe if I can find a way to create a writing routine that will work, I will be able to break out of this old routine and find my way back to the writer I was who could churn out a few thousand words a night. Maybe.
If you have any suggestions – I would love to hear them.