Sunday, 12 April 2015

I'm taking 2015 off

Looking back over the first quarter of 2015, the only writing-related thing I've achieved was to edit the Bird Book. I didn't find the heart or energy to write anything else. There's a few thousand words of Dark Heart, but it's been a hard, fruitless struggle after an initial burst of energy.

It's hard to ignore that little voice that tells me that I don't have to write. Nobody forces me to write. Certainly not for money. That battle's been waged and won.

For about ten years or so, writing's been almost the sole focus of my life. Arguably longer than that. I've always defined myself as a writer. I've since learned that nobody is ever just one thing. We're much bigger than that. It's pretty much a miracle that I've achieved anything besides writing. I'm almost curious what else I am outside of writing. All my friends are writers or reader or reviewers, too.

Writing was that thing that kept me enthralled so much I didn't find many other pursuits interesting enough to focus on them. But recently I've been wondering - about drawing, painting, or doing more (much more) sports, or possibly doing something semi-professionally in terms of academia/research. (I do love my research.) Volunteer in a museum. Learn how to be a tour guide. I have two thousand years of history right outside the door, and it's something I have a passion for that nobody could attempt to take away.

Above all, I don't feel the lightness, energy and passion anymore. I used to be obsessed with my current book. I wrote Return on Investment that way, in one glorious rush of energy. And these days, it's all bogged down, polished for the market, targeted at a certain readership; I spend more time editing, polishing, thinking of proper blurbs, keywords and millions of marketing blog posts than I've recently spent writing.

So, for about three months I've been beating myself up over not writing, but I'm pretty sure the Muse simply refuses to play because it's simply not fun anymore. Having to earn a living strangled the fun out of it, and the patient is now on life support. It's alive, but tremendously weakened. If you entered that emergency room, you wouldn't recognize it as what it was.

So I'm not sure whether I'm sending this as a letter from Burnout Country. Mentally and emotionally, I'm actually in a good space. I just feel a bit like I've just woken up and asking myself, "Wow, freaky dream. Why am I doing this to myself?"

And yeah, I did this to myself. I worked hard, crazy hard, in fact, chasing that "dream" that's "quitting the day job/living off writing", chasing other dreams, too, but over the last 12 months or so, I realised how quickly a dream can turn into a nightmare. How quickly a whole-hearted commitment can be used to beat and humiliate me, and how easily I can exploit myself with that carrot-and-stick combination of money and guilt, and how every failure to hit targets just ramps up the guilt.

I guess I have a fair amount of Boxer from Animal Farm in me.

I will work harder.

I will work harder.

I will work even harder.

I will work even harder than that.

So Boxer's out to pasture. Animal Rescue got to him in the nick of time. They'll feed him properly and won't let him get anywhere near work for a year.

I'm regrouping and changing things around. Focus on the "real world". Enjoy the sunshine. About all, I'm getting off the guilt train. I will honour what commitments I have left (I will run my workshop, attend the conferences I've booked, and I'll talk to my co-writers, who know the situation), and I will continue to do all kinds of coaching, as that is something I truly, passionately enjoy.

Writing - I'm not even going there. The Bird Book is on the way to market, and it should come out in October. I might oversee some translation and audio projects (which is where I'll invest the royalties I'm still earning), but in terms of new books, I'm off the hamster wheel.

I'm taking 2015 off to think things through, pursue other hobbies, look after myself, and towards the end of the year, I'll re-evaluate what I'll do and how I'll do it. Part of me will always be a writer, I guess. I also think it might just result in the passion coming back, but that's not the intention behind taking time off.

I'll greatly reduce my exposure to social media too, but you can still reach me through there, or at conferences/workshops or good old email.


  1. Hugs you hard... really really hard.. love & kisses, RJ X

  2. If I've learned one thing during my 50-odd years here it is that you should do what's best for you and that your body and mind will let you know what that is, provided you're smart enough to listen to them. Clearly you are. Take your break and see where it takes you. Wherever that may be those who have become your friends while you were writing will still be your friends in your new endeavours.

    First and foremost, be happy

  3. Sorry to hear this, but you have to do what is right for you. All the best.

  4. I dyed yarn and sold it for three years running. Now I don't even want to pick up my knitting needles. I didn't try to make a living off of it, but I did make quite a lot of money on the side, which taxes ate up.

    So I can see how the passion can be killed by trying to make a living off of it.

    Hope we can continue to have the odd five way twitter conversation! Good luck with everything.

  5. I'll be sorry not to have any more reading material from you for the next little while; but I'm happy that you're choosing how to live your life and how to explore new things and how to just 'be' :)

    Your well-being, both in body and mind, is of the utmost importance, so this choice of yours is not really a choice - it's the next stage of your life! As long as you are happy and find contentment in everything you do, we readers/fans cannot deny you. We will be here, rejoicing, if/when you write another story for us.

    So, huge {{hugs}} and lots of love.

  6. Enjoy your journey of discovery Aleks. Enjoy the Dude and that world outside your door. If you write again that will be a blessing and if you don't that's fine too.

  7. Hello, it is important to re-charge. You have been a source of much delight and superb stories that grabbed me at the first reading. You are in my Top Five favorite authors who write about gay men. Your integrity has inspired me in the stumbling I do as a new writer. Your work is appreciated. I will be looking for Dark Heart.