Comfort food for the winter of the soul
I’m sure there are writers who walk through life is if it was their personal bowl of bloop-berries (no it’s not a typo, it’s a reference to a comfort-food book. Anyone recognize it?) I’ve never met one of these authors, but then I don’t know many people. And for some reason (maybe because for most of us it is a very tough row to hoe.) bleakness, despair are things I’ve encountered in many a writer. Maybe it’s the flip side of the creative coin. I don’t know. I just know dealing with it is important to me, and, methinks also for many of my writer-friends. Obviously there are many other reasons for depression and despair, but writing seems to do well at providing extra (and yes, a lot of it has to do with the movement of small bits of green paper.). It also comes down to sheer tired a lot of the time. The author –trad published or not, is doing 3-4 people’s jobs most of time, and probably more if they’re Indy and worse if they have a day job. Worry and stress don’t help the sleep either.
I’ve been through this far too often. Still, I think the important point is ‘been through it’ which says I can look back on it, a situation less fraught with uncertainty than ‘looking forward to it (which I don’t)’.
I know the importance of friends (especially ones who can listen and will understand, and lift). They’re precious and to be loved and cared for when you’re doing well.
I have my own list of rituals and patterns that help me. Exercise – especially in natural sunlight (or being on Flinders – natural wind and possibly rain). A bit of adrenalin – being frightened out of my little mind while clinging to three-quarters of nothing seventy feet above the reaching ground does make the problems of publishing appear small. Or wondering if my body will come out of this underwater cave or whether justice will be served and the spiny lobster in there will get to eat me instead. I do appreciate that not everyone is this silly. Perhaps making to-do lists of small things and actually crossing off those successes is more practical. I tidy my desk. You know I am fighting it when I tidy my desk. It is not a normal situation, and ties to some extent with ‘book dead, post-partum depression.’ (and yes, I know it is not the same, more like empty nest syndrome. It’s a vast thing which takes over your whole life at the end, and in which you are exposing at least a large part of what happens in your head to a largely uncaring world… and letting go.) The other thing I try to do is finish finishable tasks. Tasks where I can see a tangible result. That has shifted a little bit, with Indie publishing, but the limbo-lag was always the hardest part of writing for me.
There is seldom time or money for things like holidays or more sleep. (my wait for first readers this time has been a frantic rush to do all those other tasks I should have done, including killing and butchering the pigs (which were rather like books. Cute little piglets, inclined to panic and go into hiding at first, eating voraciously, demanding more and more and getting to point where they might just eat me, or dig out of their pen and destroy the world. Raising them was mildly demanding – but the task wasn’t over until they were killed (which has to be done. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s quick, clean, and they lived well. I do it, that way I know that.), scalded, gutted, hung, butchered. My day started at 5.30 this morning, butchering before the flies and heat. I’ve got about 40 pounds of bacon curing in the fridge right now, and some sausages made, hocks and ribs curing… Hams tomorrow. The job isn’t done until they’re in the freezer – or if they were books, for sale.)
But one thing I have found that is best of all is retreating for a couple of hours to my personal comfort food for the bleaks. Probably “LEST DARKNESS FALL” or “FLINT” or ‘THE UNKNOWN AJAX’ for really the bottom of the pit. But there is quite a list of books for winter-times of a writer’s life. I am sure you have your own. We could have a few recommendations, and what makes them that. I must admit it really made my day… well, week if not month, to be told I wrote comfort-food books. Made me feel like it was all worth doing, after all.You can keep being literary prizewinner, or even a bestseller. If I can do that, I’ve done all right.