On Absence and the Impossibility of Book Five

I’ve been…absent for a while, I know. Missing in action. Lost.

Well, it’s time to blow the cobwebs off the site and get to writing again.

I was…stalled on Book Five for most of the last year. I was about two-thirds done with it, with all the major beats written (or at least plotted out) and how I wanted it to end figured out. “I just have to connect the dots,” I’d tell anyone who asked how it was going. “It’s almost done,” I’d add.

But…I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t feeling the urge, the desire, to write, and so I…didn’t. I went several months — most of last year — without putting a word on the page.

Every time I’d open up Dropbox and look at the Hazzard folder, I’d see the file sitting there, daring me to open it and type a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or even, God forbid, a whole page. Can you imagine, a whole page? But I’d open it, and stare at the words already on the page, and I’d come up with…nothing.

Just absolutely nothing, for months at a time. And then I looked and realized I hadn’t written anything here, even, for several months. I’d sort of abandoned all writing, except for my daily webcomic, and even that I took several extended breaks from in the past several months.

I felt bad about it. Really bad. Embarrassed and annoyed with myself and just angry that I couldn’t sit down and finish this damn book, or write a blog post describing why I couldn’t write. And there were an endless number of reasons I couldn’t put words on paper, though most of it boiled down to (1) depression or (2) apathy.

And I feel bad about that, too. Not the depression part — I have depression, it’s something I have to live with, and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing the things that bring me joy. The apathy is probably tied up in the depression, if I’m being honest.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, those are only part of the reason I stopped writing Book Five. I also stopped writing because of reader apathy.

Now, this isn’t an exercise in passing the blame. If readers aren’t flocking to my books, lavishing me with praise and million-dollar Hollywood contracts, that’s probably on me. I don’t do marketing, like, at all. And in the indie publishing game, if you aren’t hustling 24-7, you aren’t gonna find your readership.

All of which is a long way of saying: I was dormant for a long while, but I’m getting back in the swing of things. I’ve added a few thousand words to Book Five, and I’m hoping to have the first draft done in the next few weeks. I’ll try to post more consistently here as well.

Not Giving Up

I’ll be honest: the past couple of months, I’ve thought about giving up on writing.

It’s all very self-pitying. Book Two has not been selling. At all. And that’s had my depression whispering in my ear that I’m not good enough and that I should just quit. It’s a seductive, nasty voice, one that I’ve worked hard over the years to learn to ignore. Nonetheless, it still pops up from time to time, still tells me I’m not good enough and that giving up would be so much easier.

Then I got a call from my brother over the weekend. He’s been one of my patrons over on Patreon, which is apparently in the middle of revising its approach to patron fees in a way that really screws over the folks who are supporting you. He wanted to let me know he was going to cancel his pledge due to the fees issue, but he still wanted to send me money every month.

“That’s not really necessary,” I said.

“No, it is,” he replied, and proceeded to explain:

Apparently, my niece, Annabelle, enjoys reading my comics every morning, but she really got excited when she found out I write books. She’s been trying to read one of them (which, um, she really shouldn’t. It’s not meant for five-year-olds), and has even started trying to write a book of her own.

And it just…well, I might’ve cried a bit, as I am wont to do.

It was encouraging, and reminded me why I enjoy writing so much in the first place. I love telling stories. I love inspiring people. And I love that my niece wants to write and read things I’ve written.

So, maybe I need to take a break from writing hard-boiled detective stories. I’ve got two more already written and ready to send to an editor, so I could take a break from Eddie and company and work on things more age-appropriate for my niece. I already have an idea. I already know what it’ll be about. It’ll be right up her alley, and it’ll be written so that she can read it and enjoy it.

And then, when she’s older, maybe she can read the Hazzard Pay books. Maybe.

Regardless, I’m not going to stop writing. I’m not giving up. That voice in my ear is strong and cruel, but I’m stronger. And I’m stubborn. I’ll keep plugging away until I accomplish what I want.

No Depression

If I’m honest with myself – and, to be honest, I’m often not – my depression has been a problem lately.  It’s left me feeling listless and worthless, which isn’t uncommon for me.

I’ve been like this…well, pretty much always, I guess.  These bouts of lowness, of feeling like I’d be better off not existing, like maybe no one would really notice or mind that much if I wasn’t around.  It’s a terrible way to feel.

The disjointedness.  Feeling like I’m jumping from rock to rock, idea to idea, with no coherent connection between them.  Hopping across stones over a rushing river, or maybe it’s lava.  Not caring enough to look down to find out.  What does it matter, if it’s water or lava?  Falling in would kill me just as dead either way.

Or the emptiness.  The sense that you’ve somehow become hollow inside, waiting to be filled up by something, anything, but nothing is forthcoming.  It’s disheartening.

With the emptiness comes the loneliness, the isolation, the sense of being cut off from everyone.  Like there’s no one I can talk to about it, no one who would understand.

I came to work this morning, more out of habit than anything.  I didn’t want to come in.  I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything worthwhile.  I wanted to call in sick, to be honest.  Call in depressed.  Is that a legitimate reason to be out?  It should be, but it probably wouldn’t look that way from the outside.  Because the truth is, I just don’t feel like being here today.  I don’t feel like being anywhere.

I know it’s all a lie.  Depression is a liar, but a damned persuasive one.  It lies and it lies, it fills your head with falsehoods and emptiness and a smothering blank of despair, and it tells you this is all you are.  All you’re worth.  Depression lies, and I try to lie to myself that I’m okay and that I can handle it.  But the truth is, the honest truth that I don’t share even with myself some times, I can’t handle it.  The depression is always stronger than I am.  Always.  Even if I push it back this time, it will return.  It always comes back.  Things I thought I’d conquered, fears I’d believed I’d overcome, slip back in insidiously, slinking in from the dark corners and making themselves at home as if they’d never left.

I’m not alone.  I’m not.  I’ve got a support group, a good one, one filled with people who love me and whom I love, too.  But right this second, in this place, I don’t feel it.  Depression’s lie – I’m alone – feels so real.  So true.  And then it starts whispering in my ear that this is what I deserve: being alone.  Apart.  Empty.  Depression is a bastard and a liar, an entity made up of all the worst things in your soul, the bits you try to forget or push out of yourself or ignore and hope they’ll go away on their own.  Depression is made up of those, finds more of them to add to itself, builds itself up into this monolithic force that you can’t resist.

I want to be able to end this post on a note of hope.  It’s hard, right now, in the throes of the depression, to even think positively, even though I know this isn’t permanent.  The usual platitude, “This, too, shall pass,” doesn’t feel true at all.