A slight delay while I’m crowdfunding…

This is embarrassing.

It seems my work with crowdfunding has caused me to fall behind with my pre-scheduled writing exercise posts.

The exercises will return shortly!

In the meantime, help me get the pre-order numbers up for Far Flung. Your help will help me create the best sci-fi experience I can!

pre-order far flung

#IWSG September – Writing and Apathy

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For the #IWSG folks visiting today, in my last posts here and here, I talked about apathy as it affects me as a writer.

I’ve been hit by a sort of burnout, and I’m in a position where I want to write, I even know what I want to write, and have a plan laid out, but – no motivation. Poof, gone – the drive to write (or else) isn’t coming.

I wondered in my last post if writers are any more prone to such burnouts than other professions. Well, I don’t think so, necessarily. You hear about teacher burnout all the time, and lots of people quit decent, well-paying jobs because they just can’t take it anymore.

I wrote about the paradoxes of writing that affect me now:

I have to write about other people facing problems and living their lives, but I’m shy and awkward around real people.

I have to get exercise and eat healthy food, both of which are imposing tasks to someone who needs to sit down and write, dammit.

I have to travel, explore new places and see new things to fuel my fiction, but I have a family and a tight budget.

I also saw articles like this:

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It’s clear that there is indeed a big risk of depression among writers, but I’m not so sure it’s clinical depression that I’m feeling. I’ve been depressed before, been on both Prozac and Zoloft. This … doesn’t feel like that. It’s not a crushing despair, it’s more like emotional procrastination. I’m putting it off, I’m pushing it back, and I can’t bring myself to care about writing as much as I did when I started this site.

Can anyone reading this relate?

Do you know this kind of apathy I’m talking about? It shares some symptoms with depression, and could be linked to depression, but it’s not quite as severe – it’s more just loss of emotional investment in writing or other passions.

I’m still exploring this, but will post more this month as I figure out what it is I’m actually dealing with and how I’ll work out some solutions.

 

Writing Past Apathy, Part 2

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Just a quick post today to reaffirm that I am addressing this apathy problem of mine.

Heh, I see the irony in that – one could say I don’t care enough to make a full post…

Here are some of the avenues my questioning mind has taken over the last week:

Are Writers More Likely to Get Burned Out?

You see, I think some writers may be especially prone to anxiety, apathy, or depression because of some basic contradictions that plague our work.

I have to write about other people facing problems and living their lives, but I’m shy and awkward around real people.

I have to get exercise and eat healthy food, both of which are imposing tasks to someone who needs to sit down and write, dammit.

I have to travel, explore new places and see new things to fuel my fiction, but I have a family and a tight budget.

I wonder if some writers give up on their dreams because these contradictions just seem too much.

How Much Does Diet Affect Writing?

This has come into my mind as an important question. I’m pretty sure a writer must be profoundly affected by diet and exercise – there’s a lot of research out there that shows how diet affects cognition. I love junk food (is this a thing with authors?), and the research says fast food and junk food are every bit as bad for the brain as they are for the body. In my case, I’m pretty sure now that junk food makes me more irritable and withdrawn (even on top of my usual introversion), so I’m thinking that my current frustration and burnout has a lot to do with the “fuel” I provide myself with for long writing sessions.

How Does One Keep Writing in a Bad Relationship?

I won’t blame my lack of writing recently on my bad relationship – that makes it sound like I’m not at fault. I’ve fallen into a trap – one I think is the most common trap of all. I like to blame things on my ‘bad relationship’ when there has been so much I’ve done or neglected to do that made this relationship bad. I also won’t blame myself as the sole reason for everything being bad. The growing distance between my wife and I came from things we both did and didn’t do.

While my wife and I work through this, I still need ways to write. There’s a good post here about how to keep blogging when things go to shit, and it looks like a good place to start. I also find myself writing about the problems I have with my wife in a private notebook, and I have to say, just taking constant measure of the problems seems to help a lot.

 

My next post will be the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post for Wednesday, September 7. I think I’ll choose one of the three avenues I’m thinking about here and expand on it. Maybe the IWSG folks will have some thoughts to add, too.

Writing Past Apathy, Part 1

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Apathy, Part 1 – My Attempt to Assess and Understand

It’s a dangerous, comfortable thing. Its danger is in the relief it provides. You weather a storm of emotions, swirling in subconscious corridors, pulling apart the delicate fabric of synapses. Finally, your mind just cannot handle it. Some sort of overload, like a fuse that finally blows in the electrochemical circuitry of the brain and suddenly, the emotions no longer bother you.

Oh, they don’t go away. You should never think an apathetic person doesn’t have feelings; quite the opposite. The feelings simply stop registering. The brain withdraws, refusing to let the emotions cause more pain or stress. But with the stress, willpower, motivation, and the urge to improve can also get washed away in the numbing mental bleach of apathy.

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I find myself at my writer’s desk. The story is within, yet so are many other thoughts, a tangle of threads that seems impossible to unravel. I know what will happen next; I know what I have planned for my characters. Yet I cannot remember why.  My reasons for writing, my motivations, they can’t break through the mess of feelings or the apathy that stands between those feelings and my full awareness of them. A coffee seems good right about now. Maybe a chocolate bar. I wonder what’s happening on Reddit and Twitter now? How about a session of Skyrim or No Man’s Sky? Anything would be better than trying to pry the story out from under the layers of feelings and negative thoughts covering it.

My personal life is a wreck. My schedule has left me little time for a social life. Even when I do meet people, they aren’t my people. The writer’s club I was with now meets on a night I simply can’t get out. Those people were my support, my backup, my reason for writing. It was easy to write when I could meet them every week.

I’ve lost the in-person meetings with that group. With my kids and my wife’s full-time-plus job, it doesn’t seem like I’ll get back together with them regularly anytime soon.

My relationship with my wife is at an all-time-low. We barely talk, and when we do, it’s so that she can complain or lecture me. I know so much is my fault, and that I probably deserve the bad feelings, but it’s so hard to improve when I know exactly what our next conversation will be.

This first post about my apathy problem is my attempt to size it up, look at why I’m burnt out. I think I can sum it up like this: my apathy manifested once my mind couldn’t handle all of the feelings. My writing has suffered because I can’t meet my friends, yes, but there’s another reason I can’t write. Writing requires me to process feelings and experiences, weave them into a narrative. My desire to write is down, because my willingness to confront my feelings is way, way down.

Over the next few Sundays, I will post updates on this apathy. I will look for ways to meet people, ways to boost my writing morale, and ways to confront the relationship problems that are behind the writing problems.

For my readers, I’d appreciate if you share experiences of burnout or apathy, especially as they relate to writing. I’ll read your replies, and work them into the next post.

I appreciate any and all insights. Thank you so much in advance.


Images:

Apathy, sculpture at Canary Warf, photo by Monika Bota, https://www.flickr.com/photos/monikabota/4768246617

The Passion of Creation, painting by Leonid Pasternak – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation.jpg

I am 40! (Cross-post from tccedwards.com)

I’ve copied this post from my other blog, tccedwards.com.

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I’m 40 today, and I’m feeling pretty okay with it.

I mean, there’s a lot that’s been wrong with my life, but there’s also a lot that’s been right, and I hope both sides have shown up in my writing. My wife and I have serious issues to get through. We agree on our kids, though – our wonderful boys bring joy into our lives, even as we both work harder than ever to provide for them.

This impending birthday is one reason my online story, Far Flung, has been long in getting another update. I’ve been pretty anxious about turning 40, and wondering what exactly it means. I have a career, a family, and kids, but nowhere near as much writing as I wanted to do. There may be some interesting news soon – I’ve been in talks with a potential publisher, describing my plans for a story very different from Far Flung. I can’t say more now, but I’m pretty hopeful something new and different will come of it.

It’s been over a month since I’ve published a Far Flung episode, and it will probably be one more before I really get back to it. I’m looking at an early July release for the next episode – but rest assured, I have drafts for 2 episodes almost ready now, with a 3rd in the works. My goal is to have 1 episode ready and 3 more nearly ready when I post the next part.

The next episode will also start a new act in the overall arc of the story, with the Tereshkova colonists trying to live in the habitat prepared for them by their alien allies. There will be several episodes devoted to life in this temporary colony and the tensions that develop between members of the Tereshkova crew.

It’ll be really fun if something comes of the publishing talks and I work on Far Flung at the same time. Either way, I expect to start a Patreon funding scheme for Far Flung soon – something to help me devote more time to Far Flung, hire editing services, and produce better episodes with material on characters, technology, and other background information.

So that’s what’s going on. Just your friendly neighborhood author keeping busy and having an existential crisis as another decade of life passes!

What can authors learn from Deadpool?

Deadpool, image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Woohoo, I’m topical!

Deadpool is out, and it rocks. Seriously, go see it. I’ll wait.

Still haven’t? No worries, I’ll keep this spoiler-free.

As I’m sure many are aware, Deadpool  took a lot of arm-twisting to get into production. The studio feared the rating, figuring it would cut out half the potential audience.

Isn’t this mentality a bit odd? I mean, us readers and writers know that sex and violence (both gratuitous and plot-justified) do wonders for book sales, so why should a movie studio be surprised that an R-rated movie could do so well?

But mindful readers and good writers already knew it could succeed! In bookstores, books are organized by genre and audience. We know the YA books (usually) won’t have wanton sex and violence, while all bets are off in the aisles of books aimed at adult readers. Why shouldn’t a movie, clearly labeled as being for adults, be able to cash in just like Song of Ice and Fire, 50 Shades of Whatever, and other adult-oriented books?

Okay, my little rant is going off-topic. I wanted to write about what this means for authors.

Deadpool shows one major way to have graphic content in a story and still have it appeal to many.

You can have graphic content in writing in basically two ways, I think, if you want good art and good sales:

  1. The characters and story are developed in such ways that violence and sex are perfectly justified – it would be unrealistic not to have them there.
  2. The graphic content punctuates the story, and allows the reader to see raw desires played out in a fictional setting (rather than among real people).

Deadpool falls into category 2. The graphic nature takes it over-the-top, fulfilling dark fantasies while poking fun at our own dark natures. This is an art – the movie makers had to balance the violence carefully. If we see Deadpool drop-kick a newborn kitten, we are not going to cheer for him. But if we see him decapitate bad guys, we’re cheering for him! This is an important point – Deadpool doesn’t just have wanton violence. It has violence directed in ways that match dark desires in the audience, and that violence serves a ‘means to an end’ for the character.

We dream about getting revenge on those who wrong us, which is why so many successful antiheroes are ‘out for vengeance’. But even the bloodiest antihero has to have a “soft side”. In the movie, Deadpool really just wants to get back to his girlfriend (that’s not a spoiler, is it?). In other stories of antiheroes, there is some ‘good’ motivation we can latch onto – true love, rescuing someone, defending loved ones, desire for justice – there has to be some ‘greater good’ (at least from the antihero’s point of view).

So I think this is the main takeaway from Deadpool for authors:

If you want lots of graphic content in your story, give it a direction. There is a reason your characters inflict violence, and a ‘point’ to your sex scenes. The point might be humorous or over-the-top, but it matters. If the scenes are there just because you’re hoping they will sell copies – well, this strategy does inexplicably work sometimes (*cough* 50 Shades *cough*), but it’s not something you can rely on for a good reputation as an author.

Am I overthinking this, or am I on to something here? Let me know!