Knowing When to Call It

I hardly know where to begin. When I look at the time stamp on the last post I wrote here, I’m reminded of the time warp this last year was for all of us. I did not lose anyone close to me during the pandemic–thank you, Lord–though I know a few who did. My family and I remained safe and continued to do our various kinds of work throughout 2020 and beyond. I finished another novel last summer and sent it in to my agent. Then I took an enormous writing break to have what I now suspect was an actual breakdown.

Is it okay to say that when others have suffered more? Maybe not, but I’m going to say it. I basically lost my ability to sleep (sometimes at all) for a solid year. That, of course, affected everything else in my life. I prayed about it, journaled, took sleeping bills, took a short course of anti-anxiety meds, thought about going on an anti-depressant, did not go on the anti-depressant, read books, raged, studied up on peri-menopause and the effects of hormones on sleep, and finally underwent a course of CBT-I. I saw some improvement in my sleep, but what became clear is that I was afraid and somehow couldn’t become unafraid.

God was, and is, gently leading me toward understanding some things I’d rather not know about myself, about the little security structures I’ve built instead of relying on him. This is good and holy work and I’m trying to be patient as I wait on Him to restore me. I know he’s doing something.

One thing, though: I cannot write and haven’t been able to for months.

If there’s one thing writers know about the traditional publishing game it’s that, if at first you don’t succeed (or, you know, twice or whatever), you try, try again. I have two novels out, and they’ve not found a home, so, naturally, I should be writing another novel. I should be doing a lot of things, but I can’t seem to do them.

True confession: I am thinking of quitting, not on life but on writing novels. Some have suggested I go indie, bypass the gatekeepers, etc. But I don’t think that’s the solution for me–at least not now. The very idea makes me tired.

Admitting this is not an attempt to throw myself a pity party. Indeed, there are many legitimate things to grieve from this last year, and writer ennui may very well not count as one of them. On the other hand, people are people. They are made of dust and get bogged down in profound ways, even when they survive a pandemic. They should be grateful, and they sometimes are, but more often they try to fight the feeling that there’s no real point to anything.

The Bible has an answer for that: we feel like there has to be something more to this life because there IS more to it. We’re meant for another time and place. I’m trying to figure out how to live in this now and not-yet, trying to be content.

I am hoping the words will come back.

Diving into the Darkness

As a creative, I look for windows into the human psyche wherever I can find them. I listen to conversations in the booth behind me at my local coffee shop (I know. Bad). I watch interesting documentaries on Netflix, pay attention to the lyrics in folk songs, read essays and poems, and watch indie films.

Almost more than anything else, I listen to podcasts.

Podcasts have an advantage over other forms of media because I can consume them while I’m running or washing dishes. I’ve written before about how well-chosen episodes stay with me for days, even weeks, after I’ve listened to them. They send my mind down new paths and bring fresh insight into old problems. All of this helps me craft better stories.

Recently, though, I’ve had to call it quits on one of my favorite genres–true crime.

The problem is I get into the habit of binge listening to one horrific incident after another. I’m riveted by them, but my spirit sinks with each gory detail. I notice I don’t feel like going for my afternoon run or talking to my kids when I’m on a listening jag. Worse, I dream about crime and often waking up groggy and disoriented. Finally, I start obsessing about how God sees all the wickedness people commit against one other, and how he could stop it but often doesn’t. At least not in this life.

I’m left lethargic and on edge.

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

So, yesterday, I went to my playlist and deleted my crime shows. I sort-of hated to do it because, as I’ve (also) mentioned before, I’m waiting to hear back about the status of my novel, and listening keeps my mind off things, at least for 30 minutes at a time. No amount of distraction is worth the emotional darkness, though. I’m simply going to have to find another way to survive, and, hopefully, to stay productive and present.

How about you? What do you do to pass the time when you’re in a season of waiting? How much darkness is too much?