This is going to be a ramble-y update, so please bear with me. This is part of me finding my bearings again and establishing a starting point.
This is that starting point for 2021:
I look back at 2020 and it’s a blur. At least the first half of it is.
I started the year reeling from the suicide of a good friend while convincing myself I was OK. So I planned out my year to be as busy as possible with release dates and book ideas and so many other things.
But of course the pandemic hit and then the lockdown which for me started on March 13th which was the last day my son was in school for the year. I remember tackling the lockdown with humor. I baked banana bread like everybody did. I sewed a cover for one of our rotating stools that we got from IKEA that didn’t come with additional covers. I even hand-sewed masks at that time because I was so lazy to pull out one of my three sewing machines.
And then it hit me somewhere down the road. Burnout. Depression. It crept up and slapped me in the face and suddenly I couldn’t find the words that I normally found so easily.
My stories suddenly felt alien to me and my characters whom I needed to write about because I had a deadline, I didn’t care for. I couldn’t care less if they got hit by a bus and every single day, that’s how I felt about them. I really did not care about them at all. They were a burden I didn’t want to carry but I had to because I had a deadline.
And so I wrote words like I was supposed to. Joined writing groups where we’d log the number of words we wrote each day. 2,000 one day, 5,000 the next. 10,000 by the week’s end. It made me feel like I’d accomplished something each day, that I still belonged to this group of authors who did more than just show up, they did the work.
They wrote the words.
But in the end, they were words I didn’t care for, words for characters I did not give a damn about.
I did not see their hearts and their souls like I used to. And do you know what a horrible feeling that is, not to feel your characters’ words anymore? I felt like someone had carved up my heart and my soul and left me hollow. And those characters I used to write about with such passion? Even they abandoned me.
I used to tell Carly Quinn that I have this virtual bar where my characters hang out. The Velvet Room, or something like that, where they’d wait until they got their turn on the page with me. Ashe, Riley, Gareth, Paige, Billie, Heath, Luca and Hailey, and Devlin and Luna.
But they were gone. The bar was empty, the neon sign still flickering, but the seats were all empty.
And I couldn’t blame them for abandoning me for I had spent the previous two years undoing the way I used to write and in its place, write the way others said I should write. Write to market, they said, use an outline, write 12 novellas in a year, join a group pen, advertise, post on social media every day, check your advertising stats every morning and pivot, pivot, pivot.
You name it, I did it, replacing my tried and true way of having my characters tell me their stories while I did my best to write everything down and always ask the question, “So what happens next?”
Burnout felt like I’d lost a limb, my creative limb, the one that gave me so much happiness even if that book of my heart didn’t sell a single copy or ended up being the butt of bad reviews. I felt so empty I almost called it quits in June and July, turning off my reader group, deleting my ARC team, and almost deleting my whole social media presence entirely.
It would take my discovery of erotic audio, of all things, to help me find my way again. To hear someone say positive words that countered all the negative words I told myself every day. Little by little, I found the words, and not just words to fill a Word Count logbook, but words that told a story. Word by word, line by line. One page after another.
I also found myself again…really find myself, and not my usual song-and-dance of “hey guys, I’m back!” when I really wasn’t. Not yet.
But I’m back.
I found my joy and I’m doing it again. Telling my stories the way I used to, inside the virtual bar inside my head where every seat is occupied and everyone is home.
After all, that’s what I am, a storyteller. And this month, a year and almost-a-half since I lost my muse, I found him again. And boy, do I love him with all my heart and my soul.
And no, I don’t ever want him to get hit by a bus.