What do you do when your passion becomes your primary source of anxiety?
Writing used to soothe this busted old brain o' mine. So, while my instinct is to quietly disappear, I'm going to attempt to write my way out of this self-defeating mire of depression and anxiety.
Another exhausting slew of nightmares last night, complete with the now habitual wide-awake-at-2AM panic. Not that the dreams aren't entertaining in retrospect. I'd much rather fight zombies than watch my brain cannibalize itself. There has also been a consistent protector theme - whether that be babysitting a newborn human-dog hybrid, defending a nest of turtle eggs, or standing up to a discriminatory bar owner. Do I feel on the defensive about something? Or are the lady-time hormones just kicking up some dormant mama bear instinct? Either way, when I was a smoker, I never remembered my dreams. Apparently, that's a side effect. Now that I'm a few months into this sobriety thing, dreaming is kind of novel.
But the panic. Ohhh, the panic. The editorial process for Terminus has entered a fresh phase of uncertainty and self-flagellation. I now have two mostly complete drafts (because, really, they could always use more work) - the original and the version that I wrote based on the publisher's suggestions. At one time, I was excited about each of them. Now, the first is full of obvious holes and the second, upon stepping back and rereading, stands in complete thematic opposition to the story that I wanted to tell. Terminus was supposed to be about letting go of the past and moving forward. The second draft is about people succumbing to their guilt and fear to do the very opposite. Nor do I think that a linear origin story makes a good entry point for readers. The fun is exploring all the ways in which this technology has changed the world. I'd rather do the origin in a later installment within the established context, or set it up as a mystery to be unraveled. Also, the second version completely lost that "dancing at the edge of the abyss" feel. I added some new characters to the world that I really do like (lookin' at you, Elias), but they are some depressed motherfuckers. And there's no redemption in sight. Also, releasing that version would feel like a bait-and-switch on the readers. They wanted a brave new world to explore, threw their support behind that project, and instead would get an emotional slog with occasional dead people. Initial feedback on the second take has definitely backed that up.
I have posed all of this to the editor and outlined an alternate take that hews closer to the original. It really does need higher stakes, more personal impact for the protagonists, and concrete systems. He's 100% right on that. His latest notes, though, have questioned some of the elements that were present in both versions - the fact that use of the Terminus is tied to genetics /family and that it functions through a central human soul that assists others in crossing over (a sacrifice to its creation). I've explained myself on both counts but, without those elements, both versions lose traction. As of now, I'm still waiting for a response to my response to his responses. My editor is a busy dude, of course, and I feel like all of my recent questions, proposals, and anxious word vomit are coming off as unnecessarily needy. I feel that way about my interactions with most people, though. I largely consider myself a human inconvenience, prone to rolling over and exposing my belly at the slightest push-back. I have to be stronger than that. I have to be patient. Mostly, I've got to give the guy more than a few days to reply before I start panicking about it.
There are ideas in the latest write-up that I'm excited about, particularly the new ending. What's keeping me spiraling is the idea that people are waiting for it, that I've taken too long, that I'm wasting everyone's time. Logically, I know that creation takes time. Logically, I know that the story's improving with every new take, every new suggestion. But the fact that 265 lovely people believe in this story enough to have pre-ordered it... well, I owe them. I recite their names like a damn mantra during those early morning freakouts. The publisher, too. They saw enough potential to lend me all this extra developmental support and I still haven't produced anything that I consider worth their time. I keep scanning the horizon, expecting to ram up against the limits of everyone's patience. Sometimes, I want to just quit. Hell, while working on the second draft I was ready to quit everything. Suicidal ideation, my old friend. (Told you that take was too depressing.) But, obviously, I'm still here. Not going anywhere. I know myself well enough to know that I can't be trusted. Those brain chemicals are sneaky bastards.
And that's certainly a factor. Those months between jobs (i.e. without health insurance) saw me kicking all of my meds. No Prozac for the depression, no birth control to regulate the PMDD and hormonal imbalances. For a while, it was okay. Because I live in Oregon and there are more natural alternatives. Now, though, with the new job I've been flying 100% clean of anything. Not even alcohol because, as I was recently reminded, that opens a whole can of additional problems. So the brain coaster is completely without brakes. Nothing to do but throw up my hands and scream. For all my initial excitement about going natural, I'm ready to find a new doctor, fall at their knees and whimper "pharmaceuticals, please." But that involves the anxiety-inspiring task of finding one, arranging transportation from my middle-of-nowhere hideaway, and feeling like I'm inconveniencing a whole new person. Good times.
It's not all negativity, though. My support system is amazing. I'm loving the quiet, small-town life. The new job has given me much-needed routine, a sense of accomplishment where I can see immediate results, and a casual atmosphere with the nicest people. Also, a quiet office and a door? Take that, The Bank! Not to mention the fact that we live in freakin' Oregon now. The rainy winter weather has been soothing in its way but, now that it's turning to spring, just stepping outside recharges me. I can sit by the lake, or do lunch in the Shire-like copse of trees by the office. And now that the hubby and I are both gainfully employed, there's a lost less stress in that arena. He's such a social guy, so getting out and about (not to mention working alongside his BFF) has him blooming again. We've even been able to start venturing out again, even if it's just a grocery shopping trip into the city. Ah, domesticity.
I'm even sketching on a few new projects. Admittedly, since they're not Terminus, there's a shadow of guilt over the whole thing. Until I'm unleashed on the new changes, though, remembering why I love the craft has to be good for me, right? Even if baring down to birth that particular project is painful, it's not the end of all writing (as 2AM brain likes to claim). Plus, I apparently have a lot to say about gender issues, capitalism, and popcorny action sequences that just don't fit over there. It does feel a bit like I'm spinning my wheels, that nothing will ever actually be finished, but I need to channel this energy somewhere. I don't know how to switch my brain off anymore (without chemical assistance) so I might as well put that bitch to work. Better than sitting here trembling and jumping at every email and news alert. Gods, I have a headache.
Times like this, I can't help but think of the Captain. Well, the guy behind him. Chris Evans gave a interview a while back that really stuck with me. The premise is simple: when you're beset by anxiety and the noise of your own brain, just say "ssh."
“The problem is I think, in most of our lives, the root of suffering is following that brain noise and listening to that brain noise and actually identifying with it as if it’s who you are. That’s just the noise your brain makes. More often than not it probably doesn’t have much to say that’s going to help you.” - Chris Evans
Quality human, right there. Most wise. Maybe I'll get the hang of it someday. If anything, I can at least drag my carcass to Infinity War, right? Get hype, you mopey nerd!
Hope y'all are faring better. Peace. <3
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