The best laid plans of mice and men are drowned in summer wine

When I set out on this weekend Friday, I had no plans. It was glorious – a weekend without commitments, without obligations, even without errands. Maybe a few chores – a body needs to bathe and wear clean clothes, after all – but nothing too demanding or distracting.

Alas.

First it was the middle daughter. We’ve been working on her driving (she wants to get her license in a few months when she turns 18), and she came to me with a bold plan: what if we went driving Saturday, practiced some things, and oh by the way, go see Suicide Squad while we’re over at the mall practicing?

Coy, clever, and of course, it worked. The movie, by the way, was a bit violent, a bit gruesome, and yet we both really enjoyed it. A lot. Also, it made a great PSA for wearing a mask.

Meanwhile, our youngest has been going to an arcade with a friend and their family just up the road in Vancouver. I’m sure you can see where this is going, and if not, I’ll go ahead and spill the beans – me, my three kids, and the friend all drove up to Vancouver Sunday afternoon.

Why am I such a pushover? Because this is the last summer it’s guaranteed to be all three kids are home. Our oldest is heading off to college in a month. That middle daughter? Entering her senior year of High School in a few weeks. And the youngest? A freshman. Time is catching up with us and I’m trying to drink as much of the last of the summer wine as I can before this next, scary phase of our lives has a chance to start.

Struggling with being creative

Do not despair, your RSS reader has not lied to you. This is indeed a new blog post. I’m making this post more for me than you, but strap in and enjoy the ride.


My confession: for the last two years, I’ve really struggled to be creative, i.e., write. It certainly started with the loss of my parents, and although I didn’t realize it, it was prolonged by the pandemic. I hesitate to call it writer’s block (or creative block?), but the evidence is plain to see here in the blog. The more productive I’m being in my creative work, the more often I blog. The fact that the last 12 months has seen barely a half dozen posts says it all.

The scenario: I sit down to write. A few words come to me. Maybe even a paragraph. On a rare occasion, a few pages. And then everything in my brain shuts down, usually for days at a time. When I return, I find I just can’t get behind what I wrote before.

For a while, I thought the problem was outlining. I’ve always written the story as I went, letting it flow and evolve. But maybe not knowing what all of the major points were going to be in advance was hindering me. So I tried to outline, or at least tried to try. That, too, failed.

And so I stew. Almost every day finds me making a note in my journal about how another day has passed without me writing.

I also find myself being more and more fickle in what I write about, and it is 100% a reflection of whatever it is I am reading. Continuing my read through of Malazan or A Song of Ice and Fire? Fantasy is where my brain is at. Reading King or the latest from Hendrix or Stephen Graham Jones? Horror, of course! Being influenced makes sense, but for some reason my brain has gone one step further and tied whatever is captivating me in my down time as the fodder for what I must be writing about.

And then finally, there’s a failure to escape my past mountain of writing. I have, over time, written the better part of 300k+ in a half dozen interconnected and largely unfinished novels. It is exceedingly difficult to ignore that mountain, try as I might. Especially when I’m at my low point creatively and could really use a boost – what’s better than a story I’m familiar with and that is mostly finished? Never mind the reasons I abandoned those projects originally, surely this time will be different. I will even begin work saying that this time, this time I will write from scratch and use my past efforts as an outline. Or a hint. Or, as time passes, maybe I can just copy this one passage…page…chapter. And sure enough, I am bogged down again and reminded why this regurgitation fails every time.

So where does that leave me? I honestly don’t know. I admit I’ve been in a slump for a few years now. I concede that there are a lot of factors, a few of them outside my control.

I also know that I still want to write. I still want to create, to share new worlds and new adventures with people. I just need to find my way through that brick wall I’ve erected.

So watch this space, because it is a direct corollary that the more you see blog posts, the more successful I’ve been at doing something creative.

Everything Is Cyclic

How do you pick up a blog after so many long pauses and breaks along the way? I don’t have an answer. I think when future generations looks back at the end of 2019 through the end of 2021, I’m sure a lot will be made of what the forced seclusion did to us as a culture and a world. I wish I could claim the gaps on this blog are a result of The Long Silence of the Soft Apocalypse.

They aren’t.

My absences on the blog are, sadly, a direct reflection of my lack of creative writing. Corona certainly fueled the absence, but it was a hiatus already in the making. Somewhere along the line, I lost confidence and faith in my writing. I look back at the books I’ve written, both published, drafted, and unfinished, and I marvel. How did I write so much back then? How did I feel so confident in what I was putting down that I then published it myself? I think back to that energetic thrill I had writing the two books I ultimately did publish and wonder how I accomplished that.

Two weeks ago I had a birthday. Birthdays are funny times, especially as we get older. They become more reflective, more retrospective. This year, I started thinking about me and writing, as I am wont to do.

I’ve never fully believed that if I were successful, I could live off writing (although I also cannot lie, the daydream is alive). Somewhere along the line, I still managed to confuse success in writing with liberation from having a day job. I know, that’s pretty silly of me, and flies against the reality of the vast majority of writers. But in seeing no path from writing to “freedom,” I lost faith in both writing and myself.

Sadly, I’ve been here before. Like so many things, it’s one of many cycles I replay (weight loss is another popular one). But the things about cycles is that they are both predictable (my next step will involve dusting myself off and trying again), and breakable. This time I feel like I’ve learned from some of the mistakes of my past.

I can only allow myself to create new. Too many times I’ve revisited old attempts at works, miring myself in past writing and thoughts. No more. No more reinventing, no more trying to salvage. Enough.

I’ve also felt like I have a lot to say on my blog. However, I’ve noticed in the past that there is a direct correlation between blogging and writing in general. There is a realtionship there, something in the wiring of the brain where words are generated and strung together.

Of course, now that I’ve revealed that secret, you all know how to tell when I’m writing. The more this blog is updated, the more I’m writing. I don’t think I can maintain daily – or even weekly, necessarily – updates. I’ve tried that before and it didn’t end well.

So, let’s see where this goes. Because at the end of the day, I really do miss creating fiction.

(As a side note, I’m writing this entry in Ulysses as a test run. It’s….interesting. Of course initial setup triggered a rate limit when it tried to authenticate, but after that it’s been fine.)