As I write this, I’ve completed one of the last projects I was ‘behind’ on. I put that in parenthesis because the deadline which I fell behind on is one entirely of my own making.
I work closely with a publishing house, Caffeine & Ink, through which the Rhest novels and RocKaiju are released (as was Samifel). But the short story anthologies and the Proton continuity are my own creation and production (for better or for worse). This means that everything about them falls to me. I set the production schedule, I contract the artists to do the covers, I edit and copyedit (which probably explains a lot to my readers). So if I control the deadline, how can I really fall that far behind?
I fell behind in my writing back in the winter of 2016 (for a variety of reasons, not just the gapingly obvious). From that point onward, I’ve been scrambling to catch up. This is the reason I’ve failed to bring some of my stories to print at conventions like MAGFest, and also why I’ve failed to materialize my serials as I’ve long touted (and even longer hoped). But as of today, I’ll have cleared one of the last major hurdles to being caught up.
I’m tempted to try and forge ahead. One reason I got tripped up was trying to kick off my serials. I’m tempted to try again and see if I can learn from my mistakes. But I wonder if the problem wasn’t my implementation with the writing but with trying at all. Writing takes a toll on my energy and producing written work leaves me drained. I write 3000 words a day (if not more). I set that minimum so that I could continue to produce a novel and four short stories a quarter as well as produce the serials. Other schedules and variables played in, but I do wonder if just trying to write that much was too much. As a part-time strength & conditioning coach, I am acutely aware of how real, subtle, and insidious overtraining can be. The mind can get overworked just like the body.
More than that, however, I also entertain the notion of trying to figure out why I need to keep these schedules, produce these works, and generally spend my every spare moment trying to produce more and more content.
Writing is a pastime for me. When people ask what I do, I tell them my job is a cancer registrar, but my career is a writer. Is it? Writing is my passion, sure, and it’s my primary artistic and personal outlet, but it doesn’t pay the bills and it isn’t ‘going’ anywhere. And I’m fine with that (which I say genuinely and not bitterly). But if I’m fine with that, why do I feel the need to produce more and more?
In my 20s, I felt the need to compete with web comics. This prompted me to produce serials. I really enjoyed writing in that format, but it took a heavy toll. Not just on my energy but on my life. You wouldn’t think writing 4500 words a week would be that difficult, but it proved to be harder than you would believe. And as the stories stretched on, the continuity became harder and harder to juggle. The amount of notation and nuanced detail work I had to balance became as much of a task as the narrative itself. By the time I was working on Self-Alignment in 2009, I was probably spending half again as much time with chronicling continuity between my serials as I was actually writing them (the introduction of Knight-Speak in the original Teach The Sky was such a big deal!).
After 2010, when I returned to writing serials, and I began writing the Crossworld series, it was such a refreshing experience to leave behind the weighty canon of TtS. But then, I started to buckle under the strain again. By the time I made it to Queendom, I found the problem wasn’t just the details of the story but also pacing.
I don’t regret these stories at all. Quite the opposite, they were tremendously fun! And artistically gratifying. The semi-non-sequitur story between Jessica Cameron and Dan Hardin in Outcasts, about how Jessica got her name, remains a creative highlight. And that story was added to the tale as pure filler!
But the energy it took grew and grew and grew. If I had nothing to do all day, I would eagerly tackle these challenges. But I got work to do, chores to attend to, and a life (Ha!) I want to try and enjoy. So there’s a balance that I need to strike.
Just talking about those stories makes me smile. I miss the Crossworld Saga, and the Knights, and Neo-Romance, and all those fun tales. And they were going somewhere. But I’m also really enjoying Rhest and Samatra, and now I have a new series with Kate in Proton.
My life’s work will be the completion of all these stories. Maybe I’ll start over, with a fresh vision. Maybe I’ll release the old stories – warts and all – and then just pick up where I left off. I don’t know.
But now that I’m caught up, I need to be judicious in my efforts. But first, I need to catch my breath and remember what it was like to be able to have some artistic breathing room.