2020 has been a frustrating year for me in many ways. From a writing perspective, it’s been dominated by health issues. Late last year I suffered a heart attack (my second), from which I’m recovering well, thanks be to God. However, I’ve been on additional medications since then, and they’ve interacted with some of those I was already taking in connection with a partly disabling injury I suffered back in 2004. The combination at first derailed my “creative brain” – or, at least, the part of it with which I write fiction. I found myself unable to kickstart my writer’s inspiration at all, which has made the last ten months very frustrating indeed. I’ve been working hard at it, because the only way I know to get through a block (if you can’t go around it) is to break through it. I’m pleased to report that I’m seeing progress. I hope things will be back to normal before long, after my “new” medication is terminated (I’m supposed to take it for a year).
However, enduring this process has highlighted other frustrations I’m sure many writers face. If you can’t “feed your muse”, or your muse can’t feed you (delete whichever is not applicable), how does this influence your interactions with the rest of the world? I’ve found it hard not to let it affect how I react to events. The coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting shutdown of travel, book/writing conventions, etc? Political unrest and rioting in our streets? The daily round and common tasks that have to be done, no matter what else is going on? They all become more irritating and distracting than usual. “I don’t want to stop beating my head against a literary brick wall in order to mow the grass, dammit! Writing – or trying to write – is more important!” (It’s not, of course, but try telling that to your frustrated muse.) As for rioters in the streets, I’ve had to restrain myself from inventing suitably diabolical consequences for their actions and folding it into a novel . . .
There’s also the problem of trying to contribute to household income when the main source of that income – writing – is perforce on the back burner for an extended period. I was fortunate to have built up a moderately useful firearm collection over the years, and learned a fair amount about gunsmithing. I’ve sold part of my collection, and used my knowledge and experience to upgrade other guns for myself and friends. That’s brought in almost as much money as writing three novels over the past ten months would have done, which helps me feel less useless in financial terms. My collection is a finite resource, of course, but I hope that renewed writing will replace it as an income provider before long. Meanwhile, it helps pay the bills and keep bread and butter on the table.
One of the most frustrating things about current events is the way so many writers and publishers have piled on to current events, and are using them to promote fiction that has nothing to do with them. As an example, I went to Amazon’s Kindle Store and searched for “novels about pandemics”. It’s immediately apparent that the keyword “pandemic” has been assigned to books that have little or nothing to do with that topic. Some authors and/or publishers appear to be trying to take advantage of current news headlines to promote their work, regardless of whether it actually fits the criteria for that keyword. That makes me angry. Not only does it waste my time as a reader; it negatively affects every author who really is writing in that category, but will now be regarded with suspicion when such a search brings up their book. Readers who’ve been “once bitten” by such false advertising will be “twice shy” about trying a new book in the genre or field.
However, despite all those frustrations, I have a great deal for which to be thankful.
- I love my wife dearly, and I’m thankful every day for her competent, loving support. My life would be immeasurably poorer without Dorothy.
- I’m still able to move around and do things, despite my disabling injury and the pain it causes, and my cardiac problems. Others with similar injuries and ailments are wheelchair- or even bed-bound – or dead. When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remind myself of that, and I’m grateful.
- Dorothy and I are blessed to be part of a warm, welcoming group of friends in our area and elsewhere. We stand by each other, cheer each other on, and help each other in practical ways whenever possible. A mutual support network like that makes life much better for all of us.
- I’m very grateful for readers like you here at Mad Genius Club, the several thousand who drop by my blog, Bayou Renaissance Man, every day, and those who enjoy my books and have bought them in the past. I hope I’ll have more for you before too long. Thank you all very much! You make the hard work worthwhile.