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.