Where I’m at Mentally

Howdy, folks. It’s been a while. I’d say I hope you’re well, and I genuinely do. But I know the odds of that are pretty slim right now.

I’m doing well in some respects. I’ve managed to not get sick, which I’m thankful for, because I’m in several categories of people that the CDC says are especially vulnerable to COVID. My job has moved us all to working remotely, so I don’t have to worry about risking going into the office, or about losing financial security. I’m especially fortunate to have a job I genuinely enjoy, that doesn’t feel like a chore, which is beyond invaluable at a time like this. (Getting laid off last year has truly, truly proven to be a blessing in disguise.) I’ve found out that I love Minesweeper, and have been enjoying other logic-based games like it. Things could definitely be worse.

They could also be a hell of a lot better. Mostly that relates to what’s happening on a national level. It’s common knowledge that the US is a shitshow, at least to anyone who hasn’t drunk the red, white, and blue koolaid. And the way things are going, it’s hard to have hope that things will get better.

All of that has made it very hard for me to write. That was true at the start of the pandemic, but it’s been especially true for the past three months. I mentioned having difficulty with writing in the descriptions of my last few stories, but that’s become even more true.

Partly it’s because a lot of the ideas I’ve had for stories have been darker than my usual fare. I guess that’s a reflection of where my mind is right now, with everything going on. I’ve tried writing a few of them, and we’ll get to why those haven’t worked out. But for the most part, if I try to write one of those darker ideas, I find myself thinking: There’s enough darkness in the world. Why should I add more? Why should I wallow in pessimism when writing has always been an escape for me?

So I try focusing on happier story ideas, when they come. But then something happens in the world, some news item whips by that immediately drains out my motivation to do… well, anything, really. In the face of such insurmountable problems, my stories feel so puny, so insignificant. Why bother trying to write when the world is just going to shit?

But even when I manage to start a story, I’m never able to finish one. And that’s because I just don’t have the motivation to write anymore. I’ll get 1,000 to 2,000 words into a story, often starting it with some enthusiasm. But that tapers away, and by the end, writing it feels like a chore. It feels like I’d rather do anything else than keep working on that story. I’ve talked about dealing with writer’s block before, but this feels so much more daunting. So much more unassailable.

And then I feel like a failure for leaving another story unfinished. I’ve had friends who tell me that I should keep trying to write. They say if I give up, I’ll never start writing again, but if I try, there’s a chance I could. The “worst that could happen”, they say, is that I’m back to where I started.

But for me, giving up on a story feels so much worse than not having written it in the first place. I’m not “back to where I started”; I feel worse than I would have if I’d never tried to write it in the first place. It’s like how people tell me that if I like someone, I should just tell them, because the worst thing that could happen is I’m back where I started. But for me, rejection feels so much worse than never having tried at all. And failure is much the same.

I wish I had a happier note to end this post on. But that would just be a lie to you folks, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t know what it’s going to take for me to be able to start writing again. It could probably happen if things get better in this country, but given the trajectory we’re on, I don’t see that happening any time soon. And if Trump wins in November, there’s a very real chance I’ll never start writing again.

If that happens, at least I can say I had a good run.

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