We are pretty much exactly half-way through the year now. It’s been too long. It’s been too short. On the one hand, I find myself asking where time is going; it seems to be clipping right along. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like we’re going fast enough, in some ways. We spent almost the entirety of the first six months of the year in some kind of lockdown or under a stay-at-home order here. We are only now slowly reopening, and the delta variant of the virus is on the rise. The pandemic has been dragging on for sixteen months now. When will it end?
There’s More to Do When the Pandemic Ends
And once it does, what of the other ills in the world? Even if the pandemic ends, that doesn’t change the climate crisis, which is now in full swing. In the last week, we’ve seen historic heat waves all around the world. The first hurricane of the year has just formed in the Atlantic; hurricane season is normally August to November. It’s July. Sure, we get oddball storms now and then, but last year, hurricane season started early too. And same with the year before it.
What about the scourge of capitalism? It continues to run amok, with billionaires and large corporations raking in billions of dollars while ordinary people suffered during the pandemic. The argument over living wages continues.
Hated Won’t Disappear
What of racism? Here in Canada, we are only just now listening to what Indigenous peoples across the country. Only now that we have proof—the bodies of children in unmarked graves at residential schools—do we believe what they have told us for so many years. How many more decades, centuries before we actually admit to the ongoing genocidal colonization project? How long must Indigenous peoples around the world wait for anything more material than “acknowledgment”? And we see the ongoing colonization project in Israel as well. The violence continues.
We’ve seen capitalism leave effectually non-white nations in the dust when it comes to vaccines. We see anti-Blackness in full swing at the Olympics, alongside transmisogyny. We see continued hatred of LGBTQ+ individuals, infighting among those of different stripes.
The world will not be “all better” when the pandemic recedes—far from it. What then? We can’t pretend it’s going back to “normal”—because normal is broken and awful. We have a unique moment to change the world.
And yet …
We are all so fucking tired.
The Ongoing Trauma of the Pandemic
At this point, we’ve been living in an extended state of acute trauma. (I say that to differentiate it from the longer, ongoing trauma of the various other ills I outlined above: racism, homophobia, transmisogyny and transphobia, capitalism and climate change, among others.) When the pandemic broke out, we went into fight-or-flight mode. But that soon abated; sixteen months down the line, we’re no longer feeling panicky. The initial adrenaline has given way to feelings that are perhaps more muted, yet somehow no less potent.
In short, many of us feel numb or listless. We are tired—exhausted. We want a break. Beyond that, we want to enjoy the world again, yet we also aren’t sure we ever can. Can anything be “normal”?
Languishing, Grief, and More
In this state, it’s understandable that we find ourselves less motivated. Everything feels … well, a bit pointless. We can no longer console ourselves with baking bread or gardening, sing-songing that by working together, we can make the pandemic end sooner. It’s pretty clear that didn’t happen—we seem incapable of working together. Even with vaccines, we’re still fucking it up and prolonging the pandemic. The rise of the delta variant overshadows any recovery. We worry, but we’re almost all out of worry. We’ve been living in a state of heightened anxiety for well over a year. We can’t crank it up any more notches.
And even with delta on the rise, people are still pushing for some sort of “post-pandemic” free-for-all. A hot girl summer. A summer of love. An unhinged summer. We’re all so tired and here we are being herded back to “normal” before we even have a chance to think about recovering. We have no time to grieve. We have no time to sit with ourselves and process what has happened. There is no choice. We must simply shove the trauma aside and pretend like everything is back to normal and great.
What Can You Get Done in a Year Like This?
Given all this, I think it’s understandable that a lot of us have found it almost impossible to get anything done. Our concentration might be shot. Things that were pleasurable are no longer enjoyable at all. We might wonder what the point is. We feel little to no motivation.
Even for those of us who have motivation, the anxiety, the exhaustion, the go-go-go-ness of the world, and the trauma might prevent us. We want to write or garden or bake or even read and we just … can’t.
So, I think we all need to forgive ourselves, by and large, if we find ourselves six months in and we’re not hitting goals. I remember we had a lot of optimism coming into 2021. Maybe that was misguided, but 2021 quickly eroded those feelings anyway. I wanted to publish three Zodiac books, four books altogether this year.
Learning to Be Gentle
I’m definitely finding myself in this boat. As I sit here and reflect on the last six months, I’m both frustrated and impressed. I’m tired, yet hopeful. I’m listless, yet motivated.
It’s a strange state to be in. More than anything, I think I have to be gentle with myself in this environment. I had a lot of high hopes coming into this year; I maybe got swept up in some of that misguided enthusiasm. At this point, I feel like some of the goals I set were unrealistic. That’s nothing new, really—it’s a normal pattern for me. I always set these very lofty goals.
And then work kicks my ass usually. Sadly, writing this blog does not generate money; it doesn’t pay my bills. Even books, as much as I love them, aren’t really generating a profit yet.
So I’m always torn between writing books and marketing them and doing paid work to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. And I know that if I want to ever make a living on my books, so I can free up time to work on them, I have to put the time in now. It becomes a kind of tug-of-war where I need to do paid work, but that eats up my time and energy for books. So they fall further and further behind, and then I need more paid work.
Looking at 2021’s Goals Halfway Through
Work started its usual kick-in-the-teeth of my writing goals in January. I made a decision to realign my business; I ditched part of the business so I could focus on the other half. At this point, I am still working through this change. Revenue took a dip in the early part of the year.
It’s rebounded now—work is booming, but because of that dip, I’m behind the eight-ball when it comes to income. I’m swamped now, almost going under, but I need to do the work I’m taking on now to get back on top. So once again, my writing time is getting eaten up by work. And somehow, I’m still struggling to make ends meet.
It’s like the worst of both worlds. I’m hoping—hoping—hoping that things will settle down, but that’s still far in the future. And I need to work on books now.
Revisions Are Needed
At this point, I have to re-evaluate the goals I set in January. I’m not likely going to get three Zodiac books published this year. I haven’t been able to get blog posts up every week. I’m working on a plan to fix that. And I wanted to send a newsletter out every month, and I’ve been doing that.
I’ve also released one book already, with plans for at least two more publications. So I’m not doing any less than last year at least. I’m not going to get to three Zodiac books, but I’m still getting there.
And there’s a chance I might even get to four publications, thanks to a book that has just sailed through every stage so far. I drafted it in February, re-read it twice before sending it to betas. That feedback has been good thus far, so now I just need to make some revisions and get it to my editor. The biggest challenge, thus far, has been getting a cover (and that’s on me).
Trying to Stay Sane
If I look at it, then, 2021 has had both ups and downs, but it’s incredibly positive. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, the world is seemingly on fire. And yes, there’s a lot of work going on here.
But I made major changes to my business and it rebounded in less than six months. Things are going really well there. I’ve stayed mostly healthy.
More than that, I’m trying to balance wants and needs here. I want to do more writing—if I could, I would just write all the time. I have so many ideas, so many books I want to write. There is literally no shortage of inspiration over here. I’ve started five new stories already. In addition to that, I’ve unearthed more new ideas—even including some previously written stuff that I want to rejig.
And sure, only one of those new stories is done yet. And I’ve had to knock one of the Zodiac books from the publishing schedule. But I’d rather publish a good book than rush one out just to get another publication out, you know?
So there has to be a balance. There has to be compromise. I can’t write all the time, but I can’t work all the time either. Trying to find the balance is challenging.
But I’m trying.
What’s Ahead for the Rest of 2021?
I’m working on two stories for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, including a 20k short that will be available in the Fated & Claimed anthology this December. Then I’m drafting what will become Book 6 in the Zodiac series (Capricorn), which will be available in January 2022.
Lions Will Tame Leopards is at editing now. It will be a bit of a rush to get it done for August 17, but I am committed. (I just need to hear what Editor thinks about it …)
I was hoping to have Two Scorpions in a Bottle ready for publication this fall too. But I don’t think it’s possible. Between Lions, Fated & Claimed, work, moving house (?!), and trying to get next year’s books lined up, I just don’t think it will fit in. The manuscript, although it exists, is pretty rough. I want to give it the time it deserves—to ensure readers get the story they deserve—so it’s not coming out this year.
It’s Not All Bad News
The book that is ready to go is Boardroom Omega, which is a total surprise to me. I started drafting it in January/February, and it just kind of … poured out. And apparently it’s good? (I have a joke about needing to retire, because I’ve apparently done the impossible and written an almost-perfect first draft, so really, I’ve set the bar too high and must quit while I’m ahead. I won’t, because I’m silly, but I should.) And so it will be taking the place of Scorpions as my fall book.
I think that makes more sense—release a seemingly solid book first and spend more time working on the hot mess that needs a lot of revisions. And that should work for readers too—better stories, better books.
I am still ambitious. Probably overly ambitious. But I also want to stay optimistic. Even if I’m tired, even if I know that my goals are unrealistic … there has to be something said for trying.
So let’s see what the rest of 2021 has in store!