Just under two years ago, I posted about how I had been posting weekly chapters for two hundred consecutive weeks. Since then, I've managed to do it for another hundred weeks which puts me up to six years of posting (mostly) consistently. There were two instances where I missed a week but I caught up and returned quickly. Overall, I can say three hundred weeks of posting with a straight face and still feel like I wasn't lying.
I had a lot of hopes in 2019. Things were looking positive and I was writing strong. I found a new community and they were throwing thumbs up at me. Then 2020 hit and things started to get a little less rosy. I don't need to say what happened, but my household has been in relative isolation since March and then we got hit by the derecho in August. They still haven't finished fixing the roof or repairing the hole in the side of my house before the snow came.
(Unlike my normal rule of limiting negative posts, this one talks about depression.)
Skill and Perceptions
Somewhere in September, I started to get a feeling that everything I was writing was “wrong”. I can't tell how it was wrong, only that I wasn't capable of fixing it because I couldn't tell what I was missing. It didn't take long to realized was in a slump probably related to the skill/perception curve (source).
I'm just left of frowning face, a point where I know something is wrong but my skills and abilities aren't enough to identify the problem. I've had this feeling before, where I know there is something wrong, but I've never had a situation where I had no clue how to improve my writing.
This discomfort with my writing continued to grow, sapping my creativity.
Flight of the Scions
In October 2020, I also had Flight of the Scions edited. When I didn't get the enthusiasm I was hoping for the piece, that pretty much sent me down a spiral and the growing sense that I was missing something turned into a full-blown loathing. I haven't integrated the edits for that novel because of it… because I feel like I can never do the piece justice.
In November, I got sick.
End of the Year
In mid-December, I still wasn't able to identify what was wrong with my writing. I was writing. I was still passionate about Allegro but every word that got down on the page felt alien, twisted and foul.
That was also the point I realized that I can't just push myself past it. There weren't enough words because I just spent months not liking my words but unable to find the epiphany that would help me through the roadblock.
Something has to change if I want to keep getting better at my writing. I've written a lot, I've grown as a writer and as a person. More importantly, I want to graduate from an “okay” writer to a “good” writer. This requires me to figure out what I'm missing.
While I thought about it, I looked at what writing weekly was giving me. At the beginning, much like NaNoWriMo, it was about “can I do it”. Six years of writing says I can. I also will admit, my writing has significantly improved in the six years of steady writing and I'm a much stronger creator than ever.
But I don't think I've improved much in the last year. I think I have reached the top of this mesa with my skill by just forcing out more words. I need something more deliberate, which also means less grinding out words and more of trying things to shuffle things up and expand in a new direction.
I said the same thing about NaNoWriMo. I was able to do it, but the month of writing wasn't really the challenge. For me, it was more about getting the word count, but I already know I can write fifty thousand words in four days. I've done it, more than once. I even published the results of one of those experiences.
NaNoWriMo came down to word count, which is a metric that I love to use but it also a useless one for me. It slides under the Goodhart's Law:
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
Word counts, including minimum words a day or reaching a certain number, isn't helping me because I just work toward the target. With NaNoWriMo, I find that I can't easily write past 50k words even if the story needs it. A word count in a day becomes a chore.
Same with writing time.
Using likes and reviews is also difficult because I'm an okay writer, not a good one. The volume of what I write means folks stop reading it, or they realize I'm not a good writer. I'm not sure without feedback, so I'm going to say they don't work because I can't measure anything.
To be honest, much of this feels like burnout also. I've gone through two major burnouts in my life and I think the weekly chapters are beginning to strip those screws bare again. That just gives more credence to the idea of stopping my weekly chapters.
Burnout also leads to depression and a feeling of worthlessness that never goes away. That's been hanging around me since I was seventeen but it got really bad since August. Every time I stumbled into the “never write out of your lane,” I realized I had created a world that would require me to venture out and I shouldn't have. Every time I got a rejection, I knew I wasn't that good of a writer. Every time I tried to convince someone to read my work and they just… gave up, it just reinforced that.
So the logical response, to avoid upsetting everyone, was to consider giving up. Not because of a “if I can't write that, then I should stop writing” but more of a realization that I'm not really that important and there are far better people out there that need the space more than me.
I've been struggling with this for months. I think one of the reasons I have have only made a single submission in the last four years is because of that. (I was rejected, of course.) There are “own voices” that need to be said more than what I do. I can't do much beyond boosting others, but not trying to draw attention to myself is one of those. This is something I've been considering for months.
Because of that, I'm having trouble wanting to draw attention to myself. My weekly chapters were a single post around six in the morning once a week and I consider that excessive. When I finished my last book, it was a second posting in a week and nothing more. I don't know if I can, or want, to go beyond that. I haven't asked for a table at ICON for the same reason. I haven't paid for advertisement either.
I'm not going to stop writing. I don't think I can stop writing. It brings me so much joy and I love creating stories. I just don't know who I'm writing for anymore. In many ways, the final lyrics of Harry Chaplin's “Mr. Tanner” have been speaking to me.
Music was his life, it was not his livelihood
And it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole
Much like James White's Fast Trip, “Mr. Tanner” has become a sign of the last year or so.
I don't know.
Right now, I'm focusing on finishing projects and not writing anything new. That includes a side piece, Flight of the Scions (hopefully for August), and Second-Hand Dresses for November.
If I do write something new, I want to finish Allegro because I'm almost near the end. I also had a vague idea of sending it to the inspiration of the novel, but then I made Linsan a demisexual with lesbian tendencies and I probably overstepped my bounds. I will release the chapters for public reading as I go because I started that way and I feel that is a social contract I'm not willing to
I honestly don't know about new stories or novels. I like the occasional up-vote on various channels. To be honest, very few folks are actually reading it. When they do, it's in a surge and then they wander off. I have two fans on Patron but only one speaks up; I can't thank either of them enough for the encouragement.
If this is burnout, then I need time to recover. I need adventures and to work on other things.
There is always a fear that I just started the process of giving up on writing, but I can't honestly tell at this moment. It's possible, but that is life. It changes, it evolves. I've been writing fiction, in some form, for at least forty years. I can't imagine just stopping cold, but then again, I wasn't planning on getting married, having children, and having a hole punched in the side of my house.