You’ll have to forgive me this morning if I am a little bleak. This year has been sucker-punching me on it’s way out, and I am doing my best to maintain my optimism. However misguided that may be.
I try very hard to keep my black moods out of the public eye. I don’t always succeed. As an author, no one wants to know how you are struggling. It is, as it is with any entertainer, a case of ‘dance, monkey, dance!’ and rightly so. It’s only because social media makes it easy for me to whine and that’s a problem. I’m tempted, as I usually am when I go to the dark side, to just shut down or delete all the socials. That’s a problem, because I don’t have friends IRL. I have my immediate family, but everyone else lives hundreds of miles away and without social media I get scary isolated and lonely very fast.
So it’s a conundrum. I am dependent on a deeply flawed mechanism and it worries me. When I’m being emotional, I don’t want to leak in public. Not just because that’s a marketing platform. No, I have the same allergy to making a scene and need to keep a stiff upper lip that any rational person would have. But I know if I cut off my social content, my mood will tank even further, as will other things… humans, for all that we brag about our introversion, are deeply social beings.
We need social interactions with others. And no, your cats or dogs are not enough (although they certainly do help, as a certain soft kitten was snuggling up to me last night). Humans need humans. It’s bred into the blood and bone of us. We need to be able to talk, to laugh together, to share tears, and embraces, and to be able to lift the burdens from another which paradoxically lightens our own for a time. It’s the way we are.
My son and I watched The Martian yesterday (and Hidden Figures, and part of The Right Stuff, which we will finish today). The portrayal of a man fighting to stay alive in utter isolation was more focused on the actual physical demands on him. But they subtly slipped into the ways he stayed more-or-less sane while he was completely alone and every message took an hour to receive once he was able to communicate. I’d read the book years ago while it was still an Indie, and highly recommend it. One of the best Hard SF novels written in the recent past. The movie is very well done. My son was commenting that he really enjoyed the battle portrayed – Man struggling with nature, and against his own weaknesses. He also cheered on the (spoiler, sorry) friends who came back for him.
I’m thinking about this today. The struggle against one’s own nature, and friends who take time to send you encouragement. I don’t think I was obviously in distress online (and held it together in person until my son went to bed) but it seemed that there were several little messages that came to me, telling me how they were enjoying my work. Part of that was Christmas – my work was being honored highly enough to make into gifts – and part of it may have been some sense that I needed to hear this. I did. I do. I create art and writing because I have a need to. I make it public, by selling or sharing, because I also have a need to know that it’s… ok. I know it’s not great.
Lately, I’ve been worried if it is good enough. Because it has to be good enough to stand on it’s own little flat feet. I have the time to write, and create, and prepare it for public consumption. Or I could take the time to relentlessly promote and advertise and make a big hurrah over my work. I don’t have the time and energy to do both. I know this, but still, it hurts to pour my soul and three years of effort into a book and have it slip beneath the water, pale pages fading with a look of disappointment on their face as they go deeper. Barely a ripple on the surface, and it’s gone.
Is there a better way? Probably. I don’t know. Right now, I’m trying to stay afloat. If that means I quit writing I’ll have to do that. I have people who need me, more than they need me to be creative. They need food on the table, a roof over their head, and an education to fill their mind. For that, I need money. And I am a mercenary wench when it comes to Sanderley Studios, but I have my limits. Right now I think I’m standing at those limits. I’d spent 2020 trying to urge the writing and art into the next level. I am not seeing the level-up markers. I’m not good enough.
I’ve got some projects I’m committed to. I fulfil my commitments. I have one more novel complete and ready to fly once it’s been edited and formatted. I’ll do that. And then I’ll re-evaluate after the first quarter of the year. Right now my emotions are likely, possibly, clouding my judgement. That, and 2020 has been a brutal year on many levels. It’s possible next year will be better. It’s equally certain that it will be worse. I’m doing the best I can, but I’m stretched thin and beginning to fray.