This space vacant

I’m not sure whether I mean this blog space or the one between my ears. It applies to both, really.

I think it’s time to hang it up; stop pretending to be a writer, offer up this first-Friday space to someone who still is a working writer, admit that I don’t have it any more. That the Renaissance fantasy is just a huge undigested lump of research and I poke at the plotting once or twice a month, if that. Amateur hour. If somebody else told me that’s how they’re “working,” I’d tell them to get their skates on and work every day whether they feel “inspired” or not!

Ever since the knee surgeries I’ve struggled to concentrate enough to write, and that’s getting worse, not better. I always thought I was strong-minded enough to rise above circumstances like being housebound and in pain. Maybe not. Not any more, anyway.

I’m recycling a picture because last month I fried my laptop by spilling coffee on the keyboard, and since replacing the laptop and getting someone to rescue the data I haven’t bothered either to reload Photoshop Elements or to find out how to resize pictures using the built-in program. I mean, that’s what, an hour’s work, and I haven’t done it.

Darn it, I don’t want to be a sweet little old granny with no interests but her knitting and her grandchildren. The “sweet” part probably isn’t possible, but as for the rest… well, I’ve all but finished the shawl whose beginning fragments are illustrated, whereas my magically talented condottiere is still wandering around the Romagna in search of a plot.

Knitting. Grandbabies. All very good in their way, but I miss my creative mind.

27 thoughts on “This space vacant

  1. I think it may be something to do with how major surgeries affect some of us. I had major, unexpected surgery when I was 26, and dealt with a downput in creativity that lasted for years. (I only pushed through because I had no choice–I was trying to finish up an art degree). Then I graduated a few years later (yes, I was one of those idiots who farted around in college), and that forced-creativity largely dried up. That was in 2009. I’ve managed, in the years since, precisely ONE painting, a handful of sketches here and there, and a tiny bit of writing. Major surgery again in 2016 did not help this, and 2020 not only made another attempt to kill it dead, but seems to have killed my ability to do even the hobbies I loved (knitting and video games).

    I’m trying to work through it, because I am 41, and I do NOT want my creative life to continue as dead as it has been for the past thirteen years. But it’s proving a heck of a struggle.

    A friend shared something on Facebook the other day that really helped me. I can’t go dig it out right now, but to paraphrase: “Just because you haven’t done something you love in a really long time doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to ever pick it up again.” So…it’ll still be there. It might be hard to push through the inertia when the time comes when you say “I DO want to do this again” but…it’s still there.

    So, in short…you’re not alone. I know how you feel. Hang in there…but it’s okay to say “I just can’t for now.”

  2. If someone else was trying to beat themselves up for not being able to dispel pain through sheer will-power, you’d rightly scold them soundly and remind them that pain is insidious and we know it eats away at your ability to brain.

    1. Ah. That would be me. I deeply resent body needs such as sleep or when my digestion acts up or all the other ills of the flesh I’m subject too and that get in the way of writing and everything else. Yet I can look at a friend with epilepsy and say, she’s managing the best she can and you can’t expect marathons.
      Why do I then expect it of myself?

      1. Because we don’t think of ourselves as special and as deserving a rest and repair. Some of us *coughcough* have to be dragged off by relatives for R&R. Or we collapse, as I was doing every month this past fall.

  3. How about you try to digest the research, so you can have something where you look at it and can go “Yes. I did this.”?

  4. Listen to Foxfier. I understand where you’re at. Been there, still trying to run away from it. I’m here if you want to talk.

  5. Digest your research and let yourself think and dream and recover. It will come back. You may have to give it more time than you’d like, but have hope.

    Don’t give into despair and fall into the slough of despond.

  6. Offering long-distance hugs. Not sure how much the words of a stranger on the internet matter, but I will say that I really enjoy your writing, your books make me laugh at times when I really needed laughter, and I look forward to the Fridays when you post at MGC. I hope you reconsider.

    And BTW, when you do get Photoshop working again, I would love to see a picture of the completed shawl.

  7. As said above – rinse and repeat. And yes, I’m sitting in the same boat with you. Pain, stress, they do a number on us. Also, I just learned from my DiL, that if you are undiagnosed (or diagnosed) ADHD, that a large trauma (or enough small traumas) can “burn out” your learned coping mechanisms. Which means that things that worked before, were easy before, suddenly are hard or even impossible! That means it’s time to develop/learn some NEW coping mechanisms for daily life.

    I’m undiagnosed (I think, basically, I look at all the lists and tick most of the boxes- and hubby says, duh). Anyway, I found that about 7-8 years ago I went from super organized, knows where everything is, johnny on the spot, to actively avoiding calendars, routines, etc (My coping mechanisms). And while I had come to realize that i was doing this, I can not figure out how to “fix” it. Leaving things undone and fluttering in the wind, and thus creating more stress. This corresponds to a bunch of stress and trauma, followed by more stress and trauma, with a topping of pain, stress and trauma.

    Health issues definitely effect the brain-pan. So, work on healing the body and mind. And look at some new routines, maybe change up where you write, or write it on paper (away from the computer), and put away the riding crop, it doesn’t help. (And yes, I need to take my own advice).

  8. Being unable to write because of medical issues is stressful in itself. When I was severely hypothyroid, I lost the ability to write narrative. Ideas were still coming, and I could sketch them out until my hands cramped, and I even wrote bits of scene for various vignette challenges, but coherent narrative just wasn’t happening. And that really, really upset me, because I wanted to write, and I was afraid I never would be again.

    Once I got prescribed thyroid medicine, writing was the last thing to recover. Two days after my first dose, my energy was back sufficiently that I could go to our storage unit and prepare merchandise for a convention. It took several months to rebuild my strength to the point I could lift normal loads again and work at speed. But it was almost the end of the year before stories became coherent narratives instead of jumbles of scenes and ideas. And then things clicked, and my biggest problem was having so many stories all pulling me different directions that it was hard to stick to any one long enough to produce a finished product. (And then 2020 happened, but that’s another story).

    So do what you can. If it’s just jotting down notes, get them on paper so you can go back to them later. Your subconscious mind may well be working on what the conscious mind can’t yet deal with.

  9. I’ve heard/read mentioned that surgical anesthetic sometimes does a number on people. It can take some time to get the mojo back, as they say. It might be worth doing a little research into the issue, and seeing if there are medications/treatments/therapies available that address the issue.

    I’ve seen cranio-sacral PT therapy have quite the effect on mood/brain function in my patients over the years, and it is not expensive. Might be worth a go. Many people in Canada have been having good results with CBD in oils or the unrefined cannabis flower. Some cannabis strains have no THC to speak of, just CBD. Works well on anxiety and inflammatory issues in the over-50 set, according to the research I’ve seen so far. Many people report getting off their other pain killers or reducing them significantly.

    I went for quite some time without doing any work in my shop. For a couple of years my tools got very lazy and no sawdust was made at all. But this year the shop has been back in action, and I feel pretty good about it. I just finished a pair of saw benches with splayed legs and hand-cut joinery, they turned out quite nicely if I say so myself. With any luck, this will happen with your writing. The dam will burst and a book will come rushing out.

    1. What Phantom said about anesthesia. If you are of a Certain Age (over 65), general anesthesia seems to mess with your brain – a bit like “chemo-brain.” And it takes longer for the stuff to clear the system (for most people. YMMV).

      1. Aaaah. The light, it dawns. (Through yonder window east.)

        …Carry on!

    2. ATM, bit closer to home than I really wanna talk about.

      But I went under general anesthesia for something before I hit middle age. Really knocked me for a loop, in a bunch of ways.

      If I had done it in 2020/2021, the general stress from the insanity that I am and was sensing would have left me very confused about what was permanent medical condition and what was situational.

      I can imagine crippling myself because of the emotions, and mistaking it for regular medical crippling. I can see myself accepting that, unnecessarily.

      Can’t really lay out the best case that this would have been a profound mistake without sharing stuff I don’t share online in public.

    3. Weirdly – I have had commenters to a post about how my mom’s cat seemingly changed her character after major surgery note that animals do have that temperamental change after anesthesia. She was weird and standoffish before the surgery – but has been affectionate ever since.

      1. I always wondered what happened to him. Those Wizard books were so much fun, and then he just stopped. That really sucks. Poor guy.

        Brain damage from anesthesia and/or oxygen deprivation can be subtle. Heart stuff is scary. 😦

  10. Does your character suspect the plot to harvest DNA from the catacombs to resurrect some apostles and martyrs?

  11. I know a little bit about sometimes temporary losses of mental function.

    I would not encourage you to take counsel of your fears.

    Further, I would disagree with ‘making room for someone else’. a) There is plenty of extra room here, and someone would have to show up and start producing before there could be any question of ‘excluding’ someone. b) Struggling with concerns about having lost whatever essential quality seem to be pretty significantly relevant to this field. c) I like you, and appreciate hearing from you. d) For various reasons my reaction of ‘that is depression talking, and listening to the depression is a bad idea’ is a bit stronger than usual. This may be disordered emotions, from my own mental challenges.

  12. Thank you – all of you – your responses are more helpful than I can say. It’s easy to forget that I’m not the only person in the world who has ever gotten stuck or off track. Not to mention that I was unaware of the problems general anesthesia can create, probably even worse at my advanced age.

    I have probably been listening to my demons too much, and not enough to my characters. Anyway, after whining in public this morning I did discover that a new character had marched into the scraps of the book. Cousin Lucrezia is one of those characters you love to hate, and she is elbowing her way into the story and throwing my heroine’s life into chaos and none of it is ever her fault. I’m going to have to get her shrill voice and bullying style on paper this weekend, even if I still don’t have a plot or anything else clearly defined. So, maybe words on paper will happen.

    They’d better happen. She is going to continue screeching until I let her have her say.

    And I can’t listen to the demons while I’m listening to her.

  13. You can do this. Even if you cannot do it well. “Well” is for later. Take a page from the Gamergaters and take a break if you need it. I’ve been exactly where you are not very long ago. Months on end not sleeping from the pain more than a hour or two at a stretch, until the fatigue gives you five hours or so and upu wake up barely able to move.

    The secret cost of pain is that it kills sleep and that kills brain function.

    It is FINE to say “not now” or to cope in … Idiosyncratic ways. Do make sure you get the physio you need, even if you have to hang other expenses: it really is an investment. As the physical limitations slowly, slowly improve, be open to novel ways to restart your fires. Mrs. Sanderson gave me a HUGE gift last fall when I was nearly tapped out (feel free to collect on that debt BTW).

    Saying “Not now. Today I need to work on healing” does not mean that tomorrow you cannot pick it up again. Even if to tomorrow is three – six months from now.

    I found that having a way to meet some regular deadline (say 1 or 2x per week) using the hard-won craftsmanship, but without needing to provide the “spark” kept me going.

    Godspeed ma’am.

  14. Hugs. Build yourself back up physically, and don’t beat yourself up mentally. Maybe look into what promotes better respiration and more energy, and see if your brain feels better after a bit!

    As they say in Gurren Lagann, “Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me, who believes in you!”

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