The past year, to say the least, was hell!
Well, that is probably the kindest word I use to express the journey of 2018.
Deaths in the family, break ups, and an all consuming depression that kept me away from doing the things I need to do. The job that I love doing is constantly in flux and the pay is even more fluctuating which has left me in a state of living in the constant hustle.
Looking for the next gig while you’re trying to complete the job you currently have drains you. It takes everything out of you until you feel like you have nothing left. Sleep becomes evasive. Moments of joy are instantly followed by a sense of dread.
When is the negative shoe gonna drop? I know it’s coming. I’m looking for it, waiting for it, knowing it’s just around the corner. It never comes when you feel you have the strength to deal with it. In fact, it always comes at the most inopportune times, and still you have to keep pushing forward, right? I mean, people constantly tell you that life is worth living. Don’t give up. You never know what’s around the corner all you have to do is fight through it.
Attempting to stay positive through all of this has been almost as draining as dealing with the problems right in front of my face. I’ve allowed myself to let things grow to a critical point and when it comes time to deal with all of these issues because you can’t wait any longer you end up feeling numb.
That’s how most of 2018 left me. A numb feeling of worthlessness that swallowed me whole and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I stayed in that darkness, avoiding any light that came into my life because it allowed me to clearly see the things I haven’t been doing.
You see, that’s all I allowed myself to see. In the midst of all of this craziness, I continued to write. I wrote furiously, all the time, anyplace I could. My phone, my laptop, notecards, notebooks… all of it scattered but it’s all there somewhere so when I choose to put all of this together I might find some joy in this dark journey.
I’ve been in this place before. It’s never been this dark but I’ve been here. It seems every 8 to 10 years I hit this void and question everything I’ve done and what I’m doing. I loose focus on the overall gaol and allow the details to consume everything. I can’t see beyond that and then, at the end of the year, you start to see how this forced sabbatical in the realm of darkness allowed me to create some of the best work I’ve done in years.
I’ve had three short stories and possibly a fourth accepted into anthologies this year. One that came out in earlier last year, one more coming out next month, and another coming out in April. These are all stories that saved me from those dark moments of the past year and with every contract I signed I started to see the light just a little bit more.
You can never see it when you’re trapped in it. Finding moments of joy during that time felt so painful but the one thing, going through the past year showed me is that sometimes you just have to create without focusing on and end goal.
All I could do was write. It’s the one thing I knew I had control over. I could write as little or as much as I needed to. The key was to just WRITE! I didn’t want to keep this discomfort in my body. I didn’t want to carry it around with me all day long and even if I had to sit in my car in the wee hours of the morning because, with me, depression and insomnia are joined at the hip.
I submitted to every submission that I could find. I would map out when the deadlines were and did my best to have those stories clean and ready to go at least two weeks before they were due. If I wasn’t solid on an idea that the deadline was coming up in a week, I’d skip it and move to the next one. My focus was to be as clear as possible with what I was writing. I worked on submission that were out of my comfort zone. Hell I started looking for submissions that I knew were so far away from how my mind work all with the intention of seeing a rejection letter in my inbox to prove that I didn’t know what I was doing.
That happened a lot but the flip side was almost every anthology I wanted my work to get into got accepted. I only picked five but of those there was only one where the work didn’t fit into what they were looking for.
In a round about way, this experience was just another version of diligent practice. I can even call it desperate diligent practice and I almost forgot how valuable how working on your craft with a different intent can be beneficial to your overall craft.
When I was a musician, I practiced all the time and when I got bored with scale, etudes, and sight reading, I find a genre of music that I couldn’t stand and do my best to master it. I would do my best to find something about it that I ‘liked’ and see if I could import that into the things that I loved. What that did was give me the ability to open up my skills. I can’t tell you how many times I was playing bass with a jazz combo and doing an improvised some modulated country riff would flow from my fingers that fit right in with the song I was playing.
It was never an intentional thing, I had just added something to my wheelhouse and allowed it to flow out of me when it needed to.
That’s exactly how it is with the writing journey. Even though it’s not happening in real time, in front of an audience, it still has value and I’m starting to slowly allow myself to embrace that.
It’s been over a year since I really posted anything on this blog. I’ve been writing my ass of I just haven’t been willing to shared this journey with any one because pealing off the layers of what I’ve been going through to a place where I’m raw seems like a solitary thing. It was something I needed to get through before I placed myself and what I’m going through to the world.
It’s still a little difficult to do but I’m going to try to let a little more of me out as I feel that I need to.
This isn’t a rebrand as much as it’s a real-brand, and feeling what I need to do in order to create the work I wanted to do when I started this all those years ago give me hope.