*CW Politics and discussion of mental health.
Over the course of the Covid Pandemic this is a question I suspect many of us have been asking ourselves and, if not, maybe we should? Right now, today, my answer is ‘I don’t think so’ and, at that point it’s important to ask ‘why?’
At the sharp edge I’d say it’s because I’m struggling to write, that’s the upshot but the journey to get there is a roller coaster in itself. There’s the whole macrocosm of external influences.
- Covid of course, it’s not ‘gone away’ although many would like to believe so. The relaxation of safety measures is up there in causing anxiety whenever I leave the house.
- The war in the Ukraine is another background cause for stress and anxiety. Let’s not kid ourselves, there are over twenty active war zones in the world today (some have been ‘active’ since the fifties) but none has the potential to go nuclear like the Ukraine.
- Closer to home there’s the ‘knock-on’ effect of fuel prices. It’s not a knock-on, big oil has ever looked for excuses to squeeze the customers and they rarely drop the price once they’ve realised we’ll pay it. Reported profits of billions year after year and still they gouge and gouge.
- The Government, always the government. The conduct of Volodymr Zelensky just serves to further highlight the shortcomings of our own rabble (Boris hiding from ‘This Morning’ in a freezer, remember that?) and their disaster capitalism, nepotism, inhumanity, disillusionment and sheer, shamelessness.
I think I thought things would get better somehow? We’d learn to be kinder to each other and ourselves but it’s just business as normal, less ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ more, ‘Ignore it and Hope it Goes Away (and Incidentally, Look-over-there-while-we-shovel-public-money-into-our-rich-friends-pockets). The stories in my feed are of common people making sacrifices and trying to do good, while the oligarchs, politicians and power-mongers take and take, and take. Wealth, liberty and lives, without any end or improvement in sight. I look for tolerance and kindness and I find ignorance and opportunism, the one steadily outweighing the other.
Tighten focus still and I feel I’m changing. I used to LARP (I still do occasionally), but do I still want to? I think it was my outlet for story-telling but… now that I write? There are people out there, friends whom I only see in the field, and I really enjoy spending time with them, I’m just not sure I’m still that enthralled by the game. It’s almost come to a head recently, a situation has developed where I have a ticket to a Labyrinth-themed game (specifically the ballroom dream-sequence, so lots of lush costuming) but it coincides with the Bristolcon literary convention. My hobby (which I’m not sure is my hobby anymore) in direct contest with my career (which I’m struggling to see going anywhere right now).
Moreover, I have this three-book deal on a manuscript I initially wrote as a stand-alone. I know the universe and the characters have scope (I’ve been told by my proof reader time and time again), but still I’m struggling. Years ago I discovered that anger was a powerful force, for creation and change. As an old Honda advert about diesel engines said (in song) ‘Hate something, change something’. I finished ‘Camelot 2050’ on a tide of resentment over my work, I bulled through ‘Rendered Flesh’ using my dissatisfaction in the government and I had fun doing it. I turned that anger into joy in my writing. Right now I don’t have that fire, I’m not angry now, I’m tired. I think many of us are.
For the past four years I’ve released a book a year, building momentum. But the situation with ‘Riding the E-Rail’ is, quite logically for the publisher, that I need to have the manuscripts done before we go to print. Neither I, nor they want a failed, half-finished trilogy. That’s a hit for my momentum, the momentum that already took a hit from Covid and the two-year hiatus from events. The result being huge dose of impostor syndrome and strong desire to disassociate via games.
I know this feeling will pass, optimism will emerge like the sun from the clouds. Like many things it is transient but, it’s harder and harder to resist the feeling of all-over grey that swamps my agency, my impetus to do anything. Which is why I’ve written it down here. I *know* I’m not alone in feeling like this, and I want you to know the you’re not alone either.