Long story short: I didn’t write.
Long story long:
Note: this is a super long blog post. I’m writing it down primarily so I can work some things out on paper, and hopefully not forget them. You are under NO EXPECTATION of reading the whole thing.
I went into this year with high hopes for my writing. I knew how to fix an MG novel which I was excited about, and I’ve gotten to a point in my research where I could put it aside and work on plot. I was bursting with short story ideas. I wanted to get my writing career going. I expected to get my writing career going, more dangerously and more to the point. I legitimately expected to write at least two novels, maybe only one if I started querying it, and sell two or three new short stories. All I had to do was write them, right?
At any rate, what did I write this past year? I wrote a little over 15 thousand words of terrible school work, about 80 thousand words of non-fiction work-for-hire (I was writing a textbook), a couple thousand hopefully funny tweets, and less than a thousand words of fiction. And I hate every single word that I wrote.
This isn’t simply thinking that it’s bad. I’ve written bad things before. I look at what I wrote and I feel physically nauseated. I would rather inflict pain on myself than write more. I tried to break my hand rather than write one of my last school papers, but it’s hard to punch a wall hard enough to break bones without forfeiting your damage deposit. I was so close to dropping out of my undergrad program because of the writing that I had a letter drafted to the registrar. (Thank you to Kendra and Stephanie for talking me back from the edge of that one.) I caught myself in the post office seething with hatred because of how stupidly I wrote my name.
In simple terms, I had a nice case of writer’s block. You know that less-than-a-thousand-words-of-fiction? That is all the fiction I have written since I finished my last story for Clarion, summer of 2011. Writing has become extremely difficult. I’ve been trying to figure out why something that I still love to do just did not work this year. I spent a lot of the year assuming it was laziness, that’s probably not actually true. In the last two weeks, I have come up three reasons I believe my word count this year was not what I wanted it to be.
The first is exhaustion. In fall of 2011, I was coming up to speed with school work after three years working in a bank, and I spent time I was not doing school work hyperventilating with anxiety over said school work. I spent christmas worrying over how I would find money to go back to school in January, and then in January, when that money didn’t materialize, I started working two jobs. In March I switched to doing one job, the work-for-hire textbook writing, and spent two glorious months resting, researching for writing, and writing that scrap of fiction I managed. Then the textbook took over my life. I surfaced from that in September, went through three weeks of intensive school work, and then went to South East Asia for two months. We spent a lot of time waiting in Asia, but not a lot of time resting. This is particularly important because as an introvert my idea of rest involves my own space, privacy, a good book and a bed. That did not happen in Asia.
When I came back to North America, I had been battling a head cold since August, and I had collected the new symptoms of hot and cold flashes and numb extremities. (Sometimes when you don’t treat your body right your body decides to fight dirty. “You won’t rest? HAH HAVE DIZZY SPELLS.”) I tried VERY HARD to rest in November and December, because at this point I was totally sick of being sick, but a.) I had a nice selection of school work to do, and b.) at this point, a two hour nap was not sufficient to cure me. I was in that lovely cycle where you need to rest, but you can’t take enough time off to rest enough to get better. Shout out to Kendra, who let me sleep for most of the visit I spent in November, and to my parents, who let me sleep, read and minecraft through Christmas. Now I’m well enough to only have the head cold!
Resolution for 2013: deal with scheduling and stress better.
The second reason is depression. I don’t know whether my anxiety is getting overwhelming enough that it’s leaching into everything, or if I actually have some depression going on too, but I am pretty sure my brain chemistry was doing some unattractive remixes this year. If your brain ever offers to do the dubstep version of your life, SAY NO.
Resolution for 2013: Take care of yourself. This is getting ridiculous.
The third reason is more than a bit silly: it’s because I knew my writing could be good. Before Clarion, I wrote just to send my friends. I wanted to be pro some day, but for now I was just trying to add more things to make them laugh and more crazy worldbuilding. And then, with Clarion, I realized I had the potential to be good now. Then I felt responsible to be good, and I got very hard on myself.
Resolution for 2013: accept that sometimes you’re bad at writing. It happens. You can be perfect later.
I was gonna talk about what I actually LEARNED about writing, but this post is too long already, so imma stop for now.