Slashing through a maze of cobwebs, a bold writer descends into the deepest chamber of the dungeon. Dust rises with each step. It has been eons since anything even faintly human has walked this floor. Sheathing their cutlass, the writer reaches into a treasure chest to retrieve the worn and ancient tome known as The Blog.
*cough hack cough*
So… it’s, um, been a while. I have to admit I’ve been neglecting this blog, most notably Monster of the Week. I don’t want to waste your time or mine making excuses, but I do want to talk briefly about what’s been holding me back, because I don’t think I’m alone with it.
The political climate in my country (and others) is stifling. This isn’t new, but it’s become pervasive. Let me put it this way — in Dungeons and Dragons, there are different damage types. Fire, for example, is pretty straight-forward. I don’t think I’ve ever understood psychic damage, on a gut level, as well as I’ve come to understand it over the last eight months or so. Every day since November 8th, I’ve woken up and taken ten psychic damage. It feels like I’m permanently bracing myself for the next blow without knowing what it is or where it will come from.
Plenty of people who are smarter and more successful than I am have talked about how anxiety — political or otherwise — can get in the way of creative work. That anxiety is everywhere. It’s clear, it’s obvious, it announces itself. Much more insidious has been the doubt.
Who the fuck am I to retreat into my apartment and ~focus on my art~ when the world is on fire?
How selfish is that?
Self-doubt is one of the fiercest monsters that creative people have to face. A climate of stress and tension just makes it stronger — it’s like it just grew another head and yelled, “This isn’t even my FINAL FORM!” Suddenly your mighty broadsword feels like a toothpick.
I do believe that art is important. Pop culture matters. Stories can change lives, even save them.
So, no, it’s not selfish to spend time on creative work. But it’s not enough. Not on its own. A story only has as much power as an audience gives it, so when you’re unpublished and you don’t have much of an audience it’s very easy for that doubt to slither in and say, “stories matter, but yours don’t.”
I’ve spent a lot of time lately questioning what I want to say as a writer, even who I am as a person. What actions will I take? How am I helping?
Well, you know what doesn’t help anyone? Moping. Sitting around agonizing about how I’m not taking useful actions, how my writing isn’t strong enough to empower people, how I’m not good enough or don’t know the right things to say. That’s time that I’m never going to get back. Time spent feeling guilty about not helping enough is not better than time spent selfishly working on my writing. One of those things is productive and might even make a difference to somebody some day. I’ll let you sort out which.
If this all sounds a little depressing, don’t worry. I’m working on resisting my darker thoughts. I don’t always succeed, but I wanted to share so that if you’re also feeling this, you know you are not alone. Let’s join forces against this monster and the many others that give it strength. We are, indeed, stronger together.
Anyway, I’ve already spent more time on that than I wanted to.
On a much cheerier note, I have some good news:
I’ll be attending the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop this October! I’m thrilled to have been accepted and I’m really looking forward to learning from all the cool people who will be there.
This June I received first place in Story Seed Vault’s Antarctica-themed microfiction contest and neglected to post about it. So, this is me, posting about it.
I do plan to relaunch Monster of the Week, but my time will be consumed with preparation for Viable Paradise for the foreseeable future. Look for an update sometime after I return in late October. I hope to reevaluate what I’m trying to accomplish with this series and bring you more thoughtful and entertaining posts on monsters of all stripes.
That’s all! Just a quick update to let you know I’m still here, working away in the shadows. I will endeavor not to leave this tome of forgotten lore unattended for quite so long next time, as we all know nothing good ever comes of leaving those things lying around….