It started—or maybe I should say ended—in early April. I’d wake up, stare at the manuscripts I’d been grinding on ever since completing a serviceable draft of Scambait, and nothing would happen.
By which I mean I couldn’t make myself make anything happen.
This was quite unusual for me. Since 2016, I’ve risen most mornings (read: almost every morning) shortly after five a.m. to clack away at the keys until about seven. There have been short-lived stretches when I’ve taken time off to grant myself peace of mind, but this felt different from the start.
The problem wasn’t that I needed to give myself space, it was that I didn’t want to write.
That’s what it seemed like, anyway.
After some reflection, I realized I did want to write, but I was (and am) so impossibly frustrated with the gobsmackingly harmful hustle culture that awaits on the far side of any manuscript’s completion that I elected to say, “You know what? No. Not until I have a plan. Not until there’s an alternative.”
All Roads Lead to Ruin
This is the conclusion I reached, at least initially. I spiraled for a few weeks, unsure what it meant to see no way forward. My days—once filled with early morning drafting, the writing of blog posts, the social media planning—stretched before me, desolate.
One weekend, this desolation came to a head. Was I just done? What is done, and what would done mean for me, personally, as someone whose identity has been so tied up in authordom to say, “Yeah, I think we’re moving on from that?”
These are not fun questions to confront on Saturday mornings.
Fortunately, after much lying on the floor and some helpful ushering from my wife, I realized there was a way forward if I was willing to look further down the road—and take a few risks while doing so.
I Am Become Hackerman
For years, I’ve been lowkey fascinated by computers, specifically the languages that underwrite their actions, if one can call them that. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s read Imminent Dawn or Mourning Dove, much of which centered around tightly guarded secrets related to the EMPATHY technology at the heart of the series.
Example: remember Expage? It was a website building tool that’s so old it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
Wikipedia may not remember Expage, but I do; it was the first platform where, in elementary school, I first learned the ins and outs of basic HTML, the language that gives any site on the web its most basic structure.
This, on top of my interest in human languages (I speak Spanish and Portuguese, and can get by in German and French), led me to a revelation that Saturday morning while I lied on the living room carpet—what if I wrote for computers instead of people?
Lacing Up the Boots
Knowing all questions need answers, I wound up enrolling in a 24-week web development bootcamp put on by my alma mater. Yup. It’s time to go back to school, and not for my MFA.
Does this mean I am, in fact, done with writing fiction? No. Does this mean I’ll be committing myself full-time to full-stack web development once I’ve completed this program? Yes, but also no.
Here’s the thing: I wrote for years while working full-time, and I got just about as much writing done then as I did once I shifted to part-time work (to allegedly focus more on my writing). What happened instead is I opened up more time to hustle, which, wow. Horrible. Not healthy, and not the point of what I set out to do.
The New Plan
So, I’m setting aside my focus on fiction for now, yes. The next six months will be dedicated to becoming the best web developer I can become, after which I intend to 1) revisit my creative well to see how much it has or hasn’t filled in that time, and 2) to return to full-time work outside of the home to ensure my writing is actually that: writing time.
In the meantime, I’ll be around this website, social media, and my author newsletter. You might not hear from me as often, but I’ll be around if you’d like to reach out.
And while I’m mostly away, write on (or don’t) and be well (please do).
Go for it! Best wishes.
You’ll be back! Mark my words, you’ll be back!!
Cool! Writing code is a great new way to explore writing. (Check out the hilarious TV series, Silicon Valley.) I’m taking a few months off sitting down every morning, too. My mind has felt so constricted over the last few months. I want it to breathe, and that means some kind of different direction. Nan
Yes! I’ve definitely seen Silicon Valley. I don’t think I ever watched the final season, though… I’ll have to check. And you make a good point about letting things breathe; that’s definitely a big part of what I’m doing here, too!
Thanks for sharing! I’ve enjoyed following your writing journey so far, and look forward to seeing what’s next. I like your point on freeing up some creative space and seeing what comes in. I think focusing on something else and letting that well fill back up subconsciously can produce some of the best stuff.
Thanks, Scott! Yeah, freeing up creative space by getting away from it for a while feels counterintuitive at first, but I do think there’s something to be said for letting our brains work in the background on those things now and then. It’s that idea of the subconscious, like you say!
You have years ahead of you, and I’m sure you’ll get to a time and place in your life where you enjoy writing again. Meanwhile, I wish you the very best with your new venture.
Thank you, Mary. I appreciate it.
This is refreshing and exactly how I think. Do what feels good and get out of the grind of the hustle to sell your writing or even to write. It’s okay to quit writing. It’s okay to take a break from writing. It’s okay to enjoy life. Nurture your creativity without guilt. Be you! It’s okay to take up any new thing and enjoy it. Too many writers get caught in the hustle. Facebook is filled with writers trying to sell, sell, sell. It’s tiring. I get what you’re doing and I applaud it.
Thanks, Christine. It really is that feeling of constantly being sold to (or that I’m constantly trying to sell) that’s got me down. It saddens me to see so much of what we do reduced to that. So, I’ll take a break for now and see how I feel in six months (while learning something new along the way)!
I’m happy you are taking time for yourself and learning new skills. Writers definitely need to refill the tank. What we do is not easy. I know that I can’t write well when I’m exhausted. Here’s to a refreshing break. Have fun! Blessings on this new direction.
Thanks for your comment, Barb! I appreciate your perspective and have my fingers crossed for a refreshing break.