The Excuses We Make Ourselves…

23rd March 2020, essentially when our neo-nightmare began. Lock Down might have eased once or twice (but who’s counting anymore? Boris’s bungles are more numerous than his unacknowledged children!) but we’ve been social distancing the whole time (I’ve essentially been a hermit since 2017 when I stopped working ‘for the man’) and the buildup of social anxiety and emotional fatigue is, I have to admit, even getting to me.

once counted myself as a gregarious, friendly, occasionally cynical-in-a-fun-way individual, but on the rare excursions I do make out these days I feel the onset of suspicion and judgment. Why is your mask not covering your nose? Why aren’t your children masked at all? What with Boris’s roadmap back to ‘normal’ many events (events I booked to appear at two years ago now) are announcing that they intend to run and, vaccinated or not I cannot afford not to attend. I hope I’ll be vaccinated by then, I hope we all are, but I’ll still be taking precautions.

That’s not strictly what this post is about though, it’s just an admission that I’m tired and it kinda ties into what comes next. I was directed toward this article in the Guardian about writers struggling after a year in lock down and I had to have a really good look at some of the excuses I’ve been telling myself and that my family have been telling on my behalf. Now, I do procrastinate, just lately I’ve been telling myself I don’t want to step too far away from my recently ‘completed’ project incase the publisher wants me to do any rewrites. That one is, at least, a new and welcome excuse. But, going back to the beginning of lock down I told myself that I was struggling to work with my whole family in the house at the same time, I needed quiet and freedom. I said in a blog that I would have to learn to adapt to the new working environment and, truth be told, I haven’t. Between my writing, the more traditional office role and home-schooling we share the everyday chores but, we all have bad days and I *still* have days when I resent doing the washing up/making the tea or lunches. I tell myself it’s taking me away from my process, but I’m not even *in* my process, I’m gaming.

As you probably know my latest book Rendered Flesh (headed for print courtesy of LevelUp Publishing) is a LitRPG and I’ve talked at length about what that is. Well, in order to make the book as authentic as I could in those aspects that demand it, I got back into online gaming. Now, I’ve long been a gamer, titles that characterize my entry into computer gaming include Doom, Hexen and Quake (horror FPS was my bag) but I’ve played racing sims, real-time strategy and puzzle games, I’ve dipped toes in all manner of genres and, yes, I’ve played multiple Call of Duty titles. So, in order to emulate the online experience I was going for and sound out the community for the right atmosphere I jumped into Ark: Survival Evolved. It’s not a zombie game but it has dinosaurs, and I like dinosaurs. Since July 2020 I’ve clocked 2000+ hours. That’s over eighty-three days. I can tell myself it’s research, I can tell myself I’m stimulating my creativity (surely that’s the excuse my partner makes for me) but at some point I have to recognise that I’m just procrastinating and, in these Lock-Down days, when Boris and Hancock are literally forking out cash to their old college chums at the expense, not just of the public purse, but at the expense of peoples lives, maybe that’s okay.

One of the messages I repeatedly use in these blogs is ‘Be kind to yourself’ and that message is more important now than ever. It’s okay to excuse yourself from writing under the current conditions. Any writing you can manage is great, equally, being able to admit that you just can’t right now is also valid. If the excuses or the distractions help you, like they help me, then use them. I don’t want ‘normal’ back. ‘Normal’ was broken and I’d hoped that this whole situation would encourage a different, healthier way for people to work. An attitude where businesses discovered a new appreciation for their workers. Whether that happens or not the vaccine train is rolling and we’re headed toward something ‘not lock down’, whatever that might look like. Until it arrives make your way as best you can, achieve whatever you can and be proud of it. for me, I have a new house and a new garden so, with the winter behind us, that’ll take me away from the screen for a few hours a day (as long as the rain holds off).

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