2015 has certainly been a year of trials. I had to take a break of several months from my day job to deal with some issues regarding my adult autistic son’s needs. The irony of that break was that we didn’t actually get initiate anything official until three weeks after I was back to work but then that’s the way things tend to go isn’t it.
I did take the opportunity of the time when I wasn’t embroiled in the fight for more services for Colin to start the sequel to Devil’s Gambit and also publish another short novel called Reliance. And while for the most part I didn’t miss the constant stress of my day job (people mostly call when they’re in dire straits), I did miss the general banter and ball busting that goes on in any places where a bunch of guys work. There really is no better school for dialogue and some of the running commentary you get through the day is pretty hilarious or at least it seems so, maybe to outsiders it can play a little too close to the wind.
Family is also a very critical component because if anything is going to keep you grounded in the real world it’s going to be through being with them. You might be trying to be the next Stephen King but your autistic son’s meltdown that’s in the process of kicking off is going to take priority no matter how great your idea for the next scene is.
Not that I don’t spend swatches of time alone either, especially when I’m on the road doing a motorcycle trip that’s going to appear in a future book. Though because I’m beginning to focus on more technical and difficult tracks and terrain, I’ve taken to partnering up either on the trip itself with somebody you meet on the road or planning the trip with somebody else. My SPOT tracker’s over watch only flicks my way once every five minutes and it’s always a bit of a surprise how much distance between pings you can cover. Plus the added benefit of riding solo is nobody can see you cry under your helmet.
Writing by comparison is a pretty lonely profession and you spend a lot of time alone in front of your computer while your mind ricochets off the walls inside your head. Which is fine, though I do like to bounce ideas off of other people as I fumble my way through breaking a story.
So to clarify this upcoming next bit, you need to know a few of my deeply held beliefs. I don’t expect you to agree with them but I want them out there so you get my, “Me,” a little better.
- Life falls into two piles. Shit that is my problem and shit that is not my problem. The trick is to keep pile B way larger than Pile A.
- Anybody tells me they hold the, “Secret,” to doing anything in life other than a cool knot, I head in the other direction. They well may hold such a, “Secret,” but nine times out of ten that sort of thing ends up with you being asked to drink a dubious cup of Kool Aid.
- I’m a hands on sort of guy but I like to read the manual first. At some point I will be up to my elbows in something, trying to figure out where I’ve gone wrong (the point in any process where the real learning begins). I’m automatically suspect of people with, “Soft hands,” offering advice. Scarred knuckles speak of experience.
And there you have it. My central essence. I prefer to do, rather than talk about it. If it’s in one of my books, I’ve either done it or something like it or I’ve interviewed at length people who have, “Been there and done that.” I don’t just pull shit out of my ass and present it as fact. I have a lot of different and varied people who advise me on what I’m writing about be it combat, security, science or soup. The Devil really is in the details.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about this next part but then I reasoned that mental health is something we all need to keep an eye on and if just one person reads this and it moves them to get some help, that would be a good thing.
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I recently had a meeting with a fellow writer Who doesn’t seem to have any of my interpersonal supports or other anchors in their life. It’s just them, the page and the desert of the second act. That’s a pretty lonely expanse to be confronted with on a daily basis. It’s also somewhat daunting from my point of view to be presented with somebody who over the course of a few hours conversation turns out to possess such a negative outlook on the world and humanity in general. It becomes a chicken and egg moment, and while I’d seen the seeds of it in them before, I was sort of shocked when I saw how deeply they’d taken root. The fruit they look to bear seems very bitter indeed and coloured by loneliness and isolation as their attitude and worldview drive away friends and support.
So here’s my feelings on the matter of isolation.
I know it’s hard and sometimes the effort is almost too great to be initiated but you have to get out and be with people. Even if it’s just for a coffee. Get out, have a laugh, recharge the mental batteries. Unless you’re a research MD writing a book about curing cancer, you’re not curing cancer but you may be helping yourself in ways you can’t yet guess at.
I recently joined a local writing group and it been pretty great. Everybody reads a bit of what they’re working on. I’m working my way through a first person experimental science fiction piece I’m looking to publish later in the year. The best part though is just chatting and batting stuff around. You leave your ego at the door and just be open to what’s being said and suddenly writing isn’t so lonely a profession anymore.
It’s okay to take a break now and then.
It’s okay to breathe.
Life isn’t personal, it just feels that way sometimes.
Your friends and family miss you.
I wish you all a Happy New Year. May it be prosperous and filled with experiences big and small that lift you up and carry you forward.