Observations from hiatus

First of all, I deeply appreciate all the kind words and well-wishes.  I think I have the best readers; I’m always blown away by how supportive and patient all of you are.  Having come off my decision to take a break feeling like doing so meant I’d fundamentally failed, the reassurances were materially vital in making this a recuperative break rather than another cause of spiraling stress.  Thank you all so very much.

Two weeks in, I am doing notably better, to the extent that I’m only belatedly becoming aware of how serious my condition was.  The violent mood swings have stopped, and I didn’t even notice I was having those until they went away.  I’m getting enough sleep for the first time in I think months, and my appetite has stabilized so I’m no longer ping-ponging between self-starvation and gorging on junk.  I was clearly having a fairly serious mental episode that went well beyond my inability to write, and am now improving on all fronts. 

My priority for the near future is doing a better job of keeping track of my mental condition and disciplining myself to take breaks, which is something I have consistently been very bad at.  TGAB updated three times a week almost without fail for its first two years, and as I look back at the pattern of updates and schedule slips it’s become apparent to me that I only started taking time off because I’d burned myself out and would miss updates due to being unable to continue.  I should’ve just been taking planned breaks on a gentler schedule to begin with; I think I did myself real long-term damage cranking out that much content starting long before I began to be aware of the effects.  My concern now is, as I’m getting a better handle on how this has actually affected me, it may take me more than a month of rest to recover my condition back to baseline.  I will definitely be in touch with all of you about any decisions I make.

My roommate mentioned this week that she’d been seeing signs of my deteriorating mental state but hesitated to bring it up, which I understand; that’s a hard conversation to have.  I’ve clarified that such observations will be welcome in the future as I have large blind spots in monitoring my own condition, so hopefully I’ll get some more outside warning if I begin to overextend myself again.

There’s something else I’ve discovered in the last week that may determine what and how I publish going forward.

I started to discover this when I began to do some writing again.  I know, I know; don’t worry, I am not pushing myself.  This is all part of the balance I’m trying to figure out: rest is important and I promise to do a better job of remembering that, but writing is a big enough part of my identity that I can’t completely stop it or I begin taking psychic damage.  I haven’t written very much, just some minor progress on a couple of side projects, but it was the nature of those which clued me in to a problem I failed to notice as it built.

I’ve been able to work on those additional stories, but not on TGAB, at all.  I didn’t realize the extent of this until I started doing a reread of TGAB to keep it fresh in my mind while I wasn’t working on it, and couldn’t even do that.  I could not focus on it or motivate myself to keep going.  The entire project is just pushing me away.

What I’ve come to realize is that I’ve burned myself out on this story in particular.

It goes without saying that this is shit timing.  TGAB has only one or two more books left; I honestly don’t know which right now as I literally cannot make my mind buckle down and plot out the final arc in detail.  That’s a terrible time to leave it hanging and the prospect makes me cringe, but I’ve come to a point where I just plain can’t work on it.  And my whole project for this hiatus is making myself recognize and respect these boundaries when they come up so as not to mentally damage myself further trying to push through them.  I have no doubt whatsoever that this will alleviate with time and I’ll be able to finish the story; what I do not know is when.

I am posting this, basically, to raise the possibility that when I return to writing and publishing, I may at first have to leave The Gods are Bastards on hiatus and post something else for a while; I’d like to solicit opinions and comments on this prospect, if anyone has any thoughts.  A decision is not made right now, I’m still taking stock of my condition and considering my options, and of course my own status will change as I continue to recuperate.

There are other things I can work on.  Despite how it appears, I’ve not abandoned Netherstar, and might welcome reason to pivot to that for a while.  There are also the two side projects I’ve been pecking at for a while, the ones I’ve been able to do some work toward in the last week: a classic C.S. Lewis-style portal fantasy about anthropology and the spoon theory of mental health, and an isekai deconstruction which is basically a therapy project for me, a way to work through some issues I (and a lot of the world) have been grappling with over the last year or so.  There’s also the story I’ve been plotting out and which was planned to be my next major serial project after TGAB; I know I’ve mentioned the phrase “steampunk kung fu space opera” before.  That one I’ve only been laying out mentally and haven’t done any actual writing down, and also don’t have a final decision on what to call it.  I don’t love the working title I’ve been using.  Point is, I have other things ready to launch, if it comes down to a need to do something other than TGAB.

I will continue to prioritize resting up, for now, and will remain in touch about any developments.  As I said, I haven’t come to any final decisions about any of this, I’m just trying to be transparent with everyone about what’s going on.  Thanks again, very much, for your patience and support.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Onward and upward.

31 thoughts on “Observations from hiatus

  1. Pirateaba of the wandering Inn takes a week long break every month and a 3 week long break every year for their mental health, planned breaks are good

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was just about to say this. That week bums me out, but Pirate thinks it helps produce quality chapter qnd they have been top tier.
      Having a period set aside for relaxation and planning sounds like a wonderful idea

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  2. I think it is a very good idea to write something else for a time, considering that you said that writing is a part of your mental well-being.

    At the risk of telling you something you already know, I’m going to get personal.

    When I dealt with my panic attacks what helped me recover the ability to face previous triggers was to use DIM-SIM methods. Where (for me) gym was a ‘danger’ signal to my brain to the point where even thinking about it could trigger a relapse.

    Part of me trying recover was to sandwich the ‘danger’ signal with two ‘safety’ signals. In this way I eventually retrained my brain to realise that gym wasn’t in fact a danger and that it could relax and let me do it again.

    How it relates to you is my advice not to try and power through the negative thoughts about continuing writing TGAB, but to give your brain time to relearn that it isn’t a danger, and to give it stimulus to help it learn in that direction.

    Put on nice music, open up your writing folder, close the writing folder, eat a bucket of ice cream.

    Continue until the brain is okay with the thought of opening the writing folder. Then go to harder and harder challenges.

    Whatever you choose to do, good luck. We will be ready when you are.

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  3. I am so glad to hear you’re doing better! I hope you can continue to heal, and establish better patterns, routines, and safeguards for yourself.

    On the subject of writing, I’ll be delighted to read just about anything you write. Your skill in worldbuilding and your style of writing is what drew me to TGaB in the first place, not any specific story (although I grew to love the story too, as you told it). So yeah, write whatever strikes your fancy! Take something fun, and run with it!

    Please don’t be concerned about this block with TGaB. You’ll be able to write it again, whether that time is measured in weeks or months. You’ve had troubles with it, and a lot of memories of flagellating yourself over it, and that’s nothing that won’t be overcome with time. And even if you decide you can’t go back to that tale (which might feel like losing right now, but there’s a wisdom in leaving TGaB behind if you need to), we’d have enjoyed what you wrote, and that’d be enough.

    By the way, please tell me if this actually doesn’t apply to you or if I’m overstepping. I’ve been trying to be more conscious about when I’m Pretending to be Wise, and I don’t want to come across as telling you how to live your life when I know little about who you actually are as a person.

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  4. I think I speak for all of us when I say that as much as we love the story, we also want you to be all right writing it. Take as much time as you need.

    As for the side projects, all of them sound good but I would pay actual american dollars to read that C.S. Lewis anthropology one.

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  5. Take as long as you need to.
    Getting better is a process that will take however long it takes, and trying to rush it will do you no good.

    As for getting burned out on TGAB … sure, the end is in sight, but if you’re burned out on it, trying to push through burnout won’t help you. It’ll probably end up being slower and not as good a product if you try to push through instead of waiting to recover from getting burned out before you return to it. So take however long you need to take to recover from burnout before returning to TGAB.
    And, yeah, your output on TGAB has been ridiculously high in terms of both quantity and quality, even if we’re counting all the breaks (planned or otherwise).

    Take whatever steps you need to take to get better – that’s the most important thing.

    If working on different projects helps, so much the better.

    Going forwards, remember to plan breaks and rotate what you’re working on, so that you can avoid getting burned out in the future.

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  6. I had a lot typed out but accidentally deleted it so I’d just like to say I hope you do what makes you well in both mind and life. I’d like to eventually see the ending of TGAB as someone who has become invested in the story/characters, but if it requires you taking a long break from it (ignoring that as a person I hope you do what you need to do for yourself) then I think that is perfectly fine.

    This may come off as entitled but I think as a content creator one of the only real ways to screw up is to not offer up communication. It doesn’t have to be in depth but I think everyone is better off when people have realistic expectations of what will be happening. If taking a break from TGAB is what you need, then saying that you will be taking a break is all you’d have to do for me to be content as a reader. If you never want to work on TGAB again, while I might end up disappointed I would completely understand and eventually settle my feelings on it. Honestly I think it’s amazing how open you are with us on the state of TGAB, it is so much better than the radio silence that sometimes happens in other web serials.

    Overall, I’d just like to echo that I hope you continue to keep your own health in mind and even if you have to do the complete opposite of what I’ve said here that you do what you have to do.

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  7. Do what you need to do to stay sane.

    I would love to find out the end of this story, but certainly not at the expense of your health.

    That is the extent of my thoughts, comments, and opinions on the matter.

    Like

  8. If you’re taking fan polls On what to write next, I’m going to maintain my position of being the one guy stumping for Rowena’s Rise. On a far more important note, don’t be ashamed to take the time that you need to get yourself mentally straight. If it helps, think of it like blacksmithing. If you work the metal too much while cold, then it gets stresses built up inside of it. Keep working with it like that, and it’ll shatter and explode. Every now and then you have to take it back to the fire to reheat and retemper it. Go back to the fire man. Take care of yourself. We all care about you as a person. And just keep in minding yourself that you can’t put out good work if you’re also stressing out

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Self realisation is hard and I am incredibly glad to now have a template for how to communicate this sort of thing; thank you for this post.

    “when I return to writing and publishing, I may at first have to leave The Gods are Bastards on hiatus and post something else for a while; I’d like to solicit opinions and comments on this prospect, if anyone has any thoughts”

    It’s already established in my head that you’re a good writer, and in my browsing habits that you’re someone I should check back with every now and then. If, as part of those check-ins, I discover you’re posting something else, I’ll … oh no, I’ll end up with another story(s) I can read and be excited about! The horror!! How will I possibly cope?!?!?! :p :p :p

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  10. Take the break.
    I’d like it if you gave us links to the “other stuff”.
    And if you happen to know a way for me / others to get pinged when new stuff turns up here, let us know.

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  11. Hey,

    Just chiming in to say – Take care of yourself, and get back to tGaB when you feel like it. I really enjoy your writing, but not enough to want you to keep going when it’s hurting you.

    As someone who’s gone through similar things, can I suggest a mood diary? My partner uses Daylio (Available on Android and iOS, and free IIRC). You just hit a button every day to rate your mood, and you can also tag activities that have happened that day. It’s useful for spotting trends that you’re too close to see.

    I’d also second the idea of building in regular breaks. I don’t know how well it would work with your writing style, but if it’s possible to de-couple the writing schedule and the release schedule, I’d give serious thought to it. If you’re able to get back to writing 3 chapters a week, 3 weeks out of 4, you can then release them as 2 chapters a week every week, and keep a slightly growing buffer. You get your break, and you get to keep a regular schedule.

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  12. While I can totally understand your frustration in stumbling at the finish line, so to speak, I think I would definitely prefer you put out the best possible ending you can, even if that means we have to wait a while. And I totally don’t mind reading a different story from you in the meantime. Netherstar’s intro was fun, and I expect to enjoy anything you write.

    Like

  13. So, to echo everyone else, take the time you need and work on whatever you need to in order to get to a better mental and emotional state. It feels like the reader base takes a simple philosophy to heart “be excellent unto each other.”

    2020 has done a number to me and to others, which i see as i am trying to help family members with hoarding issues that have hit extreme levels in the last 8 months. So make sure you focus on yourself before things get to far, please.

    I will be pleased to read whatever you fill in with (my vote is for steampunk kung fu space opera, LOL).

    Good luck and best wishes, fellow traveler.

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  14. I’d be happy to read whatever you feel like writing, I know it will be great because your track record has proven that! I would vote for Netherstar as I really liked that initially and was hungry for more 🙂

    I would be sad to not see TGaB for a while, but I think that just speaks to the quality of the work. Also, don’t forget, you are not responsible for my happiness 🙂

    Take care and thank you for all your amazing work so far!

    Like

  15. > I’d like to solicit opinions and comments on this prospect, if anyone has any thoughts.

    I think your thoughts are more important than ours here. 😉

    But it is good that you’re managing to get a little perspective. Don’t worry about length of the break — heck, All Night Laundry fans have been waiting over a year for the epilogues, and I’m not the only one who’s still checking on that occasionally.

    And yeah, burnout sucks, especially when you’ve already got mental-health issues to deal with. {{{e-hugs}}}

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  16. It does seem to me that forcing yourself to move TGaB forward, when something in you is strongly against that, isn’t likely to have a good outcome (for you or for the story). 🙂

    So yeah, don’t do that.

    Lots of paths from here. I’m happy that this update sounds much less in-pain than the last one, and your priorities are sound – something like basic physical & psychological needs first, then keep an eye on what motivates you now, and don’t rush to make any promises.

    Personally, actually, I didn’t even realize you had other writing… I’d be perfectly happy if you just point me and other uninformed souls to whatever you’re working on next.

    I do suspect TGaB will regain its pull for you at some point, but if it never does, it’d just join a fairly long list of forever-hiatus works I’ve read; I’m pretty sure I’d survive.

    Cheers & take care.

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  17. I don’t remember which author it was, but one of them said that being an author meant spending alot of time doing anything but writing.

    Taking care of yourself and not burning yourself out on a project is super important, and I’m glad you are working on finding the boundaries for yourself. Looking forward to whatever it is you decide to work on, whether it is finishing TGAB or something completely new.

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  18. Your health is the #1 priority. If working on TGAB would help you feel better, then work on TGAB. But it sounds like you’ve already found out that it’s not going to help you right now, and may even be hurting you, and that this may continue to be the case for quite some time to come.

    The sheer amount of work you’ve already put into TGAB would have burned out half a dozen normal people. The fact that you were able to endure it for as long as you did just shows how strong you are. 🙂

    If working on other projects for a while is what you need, then you should work on other projects. None of us will fault you for that.

    Like

    1. Clearly the problem is that Justinian fears his ultimate defeat is imminent and has sent interdimensional chaotic brainwaves to prevent the author from continuing. That tricky Justinian!

      The answer is to slip sideways into another time and place even he doesn’t know about, He’ll never find you on Terminus.

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  19. I’ll echo everyone else and say that you should take all of the time you need to rest up and recover. I’d rather TGaB take longer to finish but leave you feeling happy with the final product than have it rushed to your detriment.

    As fast as side projects go I was going to go all in on Netherstar because the chapters that are out now had me hooked from the start. But, “steam punk Kung fu space opera” is a word salad made of everything that I enjoy so I’m for sure putting my vote towards that.

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  20. We love you and want you to thrive. Therefore rest. As a practical matter, writing some short things might be helpful: Stories where you don’t have to spin out a whole backstory and thousands of words of description, just enough to get across a personality, a situation and a resolution that leaves the reader imagining what comes next. The focus, and the fact that you’d see something finished in a manageable time, might be a way to get away from feeling overwhelmed. (Hell, kick down the barn door and write sonnets! Or haiku) Take your time. Breathe a lot. Read nonfiction.

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  21. I’m very glad you’re stabalizing. I hope you do find a good balance for yourself! I wish I could offer you more advice but I relied heavily on my fiance through the worst of my issues.

    I was honestly hoping to give my opinion on which project you might go to but honestly each time you gave a description of one I thought ‘I’d like to read that too’. So write whatever you want to, man.

    The only suggestion I’d have is to take my advice and get a lot of back log going. Not right now of course! Definitely not right now. Whenever you’re ready. When I was planning a web serial, back before my own fall into near homelessness (and now kids), I had planned on having an entire book ready to release on a bi-weekly schedule before even getting a website, with two month breaks in between books. This was based on observations I made while studying how writing affected me and how much I was able to manage. I also made sure I was always producing more then I was releasing, so that I actually got ahead on my buffer rather then having it remain static. That also meant disruptions to my schedule meant that once I got back on track I didn’t need to do any extra work to build that buffer back up.

    I was also writing maybe a 5th of what you did on average, with only a few rare amounts of my chapters making it anywhere near the length of yours. So I have a few bits of advice for time management. The landscape has changed a lot… But an ounce of prevention and all.

    1. Observe your ability to write, when you start pushing back into it full time again. See how much you can handle and for how long before you deal with any issues (even a little). Mark the time. Then go to the next marker and so on until you need to stop. However many hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month and months in a year you can manage. Continually monitor this even once you find a good schedule to work with.

    2. Smaller releases might be more viable. If you’re producing at the same rate you’re releasing, you can never get ahead. That leads to…

    3. Buffer. Build a buffer. The big thing I noted was a huge source of a stress for a lot of webcomics was the deadline. Many, many webcomics die because there is never any breathing room for the creators.

    4. Planned breaks based on dates, not goals. I’ve noticed this a lot too. The best (in time management) web artists are able to plan their breaks based on both the story and the date it will finish being released. Most don’t manage that and so go for one or the other. The most successful option I saw was breaks based on dates, not goals. If you take a month break every three months, it seems frustrating to do, but maybe you need it and you always have it too look forward to. Or maybe it’s one week every month instead. Whatever schedule you choose, make sure it’s a set thing. Make sure that you have some days of pure rest along side the ‘work rest’ that comes with loving to write. Work on other projects, but take a break from the one you’re on.

    5. Finally, find what works for you. Try my ideas, but also try others. I have no idea if what works for me works for you. Keep looking until you find it. I’ll be here looking forward to whatever you put out for us to read.

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  22. Dude, no offense, but it doesn’t seem like you could finish TGaB currently. Take a nice break. Come back to it when you feel like it (next year, or the year after, maybe?). We are here for a good story, not to watch you spiral. Have some fun writing other things (or not at all, if you want). Maybe seek professional help? This is clearly a persistent problem that impacts your quality of life. To paraphrase what whatshisface said to Miranda: It’s a mistake to not see the mind healer.

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  23. As I think has been said many times before, it’s hard to love a story without loving the author a bit too. As much as we all want to read TGAB, life is about more than a single story, and we respect that brains cannot be forced to work in ways that they do not, ya know … work.

    Whatever you want to write, whatever breaks you want to take, please take care of yourself. TGAB will be there when you’re ready for it, and whatever you write in the meantime, whether it works out as well or not, should be what feels right for you.

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  24. First of all, I’m so glad to hear that you are improving and taking care of yourself first and foremost. You are worth more than what your produce.
    Second, I think it’s completely reasonable to go between projects or take long breaks between books. Lots of traditionally published authors do. You should feel absolutely valid in shelving TGAB for a while. And when/if you come back to it (I personally hope very much that you do) it will be a better story because you WANT to be writing it. I hope whatever you write next is something that excites and inspires you.
    Lastly just some self indulgent notes. I’d love to read more Netherstar. And my unsolicited advice is to stick to short projects for a while. Don’t commit to anything that’ll be to overwhelming, or at least only commit to a chunk at a time and then rotate to working on something else. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. I hope to continue reading your work, whatever it may be, for a long time to come.

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  25. To paraphrase a popular quote from Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo fame:
    “A delayed [story] is eventually good, but a rushed [story] is forever bad.”

    Take all the time you need. I would much rather read a well-written ending to this story in a few years than read an ending you had to torture yourself to bang out in a few months. Based on all the other comments, I’m willing to bet that I am not the only person who feels this way. Take as much time as you need to get better, write as many other things as you want, and whenever you’re ready to come back to TGaB, I’ll be ready to continue reading.

    I also want to say that I really appreciate that you’ve let us know what’s going on. I know how hard it can be to recognize and talk about your own mental health. I respect the strength it takes to make these posts and wish you all the best as you recover 🙂

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  26. I’m fairly sure people have written this already, but take the time you need. If it’s a want then you’re still entitled to it, but if it’s a need then you really can’t afford not to.

    If you can’t finish the story then you simply can’t and that’s the way it is.

    Take care of yourself the best you can.

    Like

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