So it has been One of Those Weeks, Months, Years. I think there will come a time when I will look back on these almost-3 years and understand that it was, indeed, a hard slog, that it wasn’t just me being grouchy and negative. As a very kind friend put it, “you’re working two jobs, one that pays pretty lousy and one that doesn’t pay at all.”
I think I wrote a little while back that I have been here before—that in fact I am where I was as of fall 2010, when I started making noises for a real vacation, a sabbatical, anything just to take a break. Which I got in 2011, and which kickstarted my writing one more time. Because third time is indeed the charm.
But what I realized yesterday is that I have, in fact, been here a couple times before, overworked and on a nonstop run of rejections and nothing quite getting finished the way I want to and . . . those were the times when I just put it all in a drawer, told myself I would come back to it when life was easier, and stopped writing.
This is what happens when I stop writing: for the first few months it is bliss. All the stress of it fades away, all the nagging worries and frustrations slowly dribble into the cracks and disappear. Work stays stressful, but it’s a manageable stress, because I come home at night and I do . . . nothing. Just routine things, mundane things. I see people again. I see movies. I sleep like a log. I play with my cats. I work more hours and the bank account starts to smile again. The laundry gets done, the house is, well, closer to clean, everything that needs to get done happens like clockwork.
Everything is bliss . . . except for my sleep, which becomes increasingly troubled. And my mood, because however easier life is I’m not happy, at all, I am grouchy and snappish and don’t you dare ask me if I’m still doing that writing thing . . . and it all goes downhill from there. And when I finally cave in, and open the drawer again? It is hard. It is so much harder than it was when I quit. Everything comes out at a blurt, nothing has shape, I have to learn how to start and end and structure and find my voice all over again. It’s not like riding a bicycle; it’s like remembering how to drive a big rig. It takes months, again, to get back to where I was.
So here I am, at the quitting time, and I am not quitting.
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Though I should add that one of the things that helps, right now, is that dratted Internet. My sleep is remarkably poor these days, even by my standards; my rejection pile has increased in direct proportion to the increasing number of stories I have to send out; the work-life balance is poor to say the least. Yet what the Internet tells me—which I truly did not know at the last quitting time, or the time before—is that I am not alone. Just the sheer number of writer-types complaining about their insomnia on Twitter is comforting. To hear about rejection-to-publication ratios from successful writers, to see others missing deadlines because of day jobs and kids? To know how many published authors still have day jobs? It all helps, all of it. Things may feel lousy right now, but thanks to that marvelous time-sucking social media, I know that it’s not just me.