Call it a reset.
If the word didn’t have so many negative connotations, I would even go so far as to say it’s a creative bankruptcy, because that’s what it feels like: I have so many real and assumed creative obligations to myself and to my community of friends and fans, but it’s been so long since I could dedicate time and resources to being creative, the psychic pressure of that debt has become a source of daunting stress.
What’s been going on?
Well. An awful lot, personally and professionally, both with me and the people I love. I’ve been drained, frankly, and I haven’t had really anything left in me to dedicate to creative endeavors.
About a month after my last Scribtotum article, my mother, who was eighty one years old at the time, had a rapid series of three “silent” heart attacks that put her in the hospital, and then into a short-term rehabilitation / nursing home, until late October. She was in her apartment (she lives about an hour away from me, and I’m her nearest relative and sole caregiver) for about three weeks before a series of falls led to another hospitalization — and the discovery that her potassium was at a near-fatal level.
The hospital got her potassium down to normal, but rather than investigate the underlying cause, the doctor kicked her out after three days. The bastard literally told me, over the phone, “We fixed what was wrong with her. She doesn’t need to be here anymore. Do you know how much trouble I’d get in if Medicare found out they were paying for her longer than they needed to?”
I might have called him a name or two. He hung up on me.
That’s another story.
In any event, my mother was moved to a different nursing home for short term rehab (elderly folks often can’t just go straight home after a hospital stay — it’s too exhausting).
She was there for a week before she experienced kidney failure. Back in the hospital… a different, and, thankfully, much, much better hospital.
She was admitted the day before Thanksgiving, nearly incoherent and barely conscious. She had a round of dialysis on Thanksgiving day.
The doctors prepared me for the possibility that she would not live to see the weekend.
But she did. And she slowly recovered, thanks to the care of several specialists.
My girlfriend and I stayed with her in that hospital room, on a tiny and sadistically uncomfortable fold-out sofa-bed, for twelve days. It was exhausting in every way. Then, my mother was moved to yet another short-term rehabilitation facility, where she stayed until December 30th before returning to her apartment.
She’s not the same woman she was before August, and she needs a lot more help than ever before… and I need help to help her. Acting as her proxy and agent on the phone and in person with pharmacies, insurance companies, and doctor’s offices, as well as spending at least one day a week with her, has become my new normal. It’s a second job, really… but what else does one do?
In fact… it’s a third job. As you know, I’m a freelance creative services provider. The fortunes of a freelancer — at least, this freelancer; I’ll speak only for myself — tend to be erratic. So I accepted a full-time, on-site temp job that started at the beginning of the year and runs through April. It doesn’t pay a living wage, but it adds some financial consistency.
The result has been that I’m working full-time during the day at the temp gig (and making phone calls to my mother or on her behalf during my lunch breaks), working on freelance stuff at night, and spending one weekend day at my mother’s running errands for her.
Somewhere in there, I try to make my girlfriend a priority, too.
I’ve been mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, as well as a bit depressed. The creative projects I’d committed to (Thing magazine, Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights, songwriting, article writing, novel and short story writing) have been, for all intents and purposes, abandoned.
The psychic pressure of my fallow creativity…. call it a creative deficit… has contributed to my overall anxiety and stress, like a stack of unpaid and overdue bills on a dusty corner of the kitchen counter.
So. I’m starting over as a new independent creator; my slate, as much as is possible in the real world, wiped clean.
I’m forgiving myself of that debt.
It’s my hope that you will forgive me, too.
How Can I Just Decide To Be “New?”
As someone who was one of the first podcasters, one of the first independent publishers; someone with hundreds of original songs and lots and lots of content out there in the world; someone who’s helped scores of creators with their own creative endeavors across the last fifteen years… how can I declare myself as “new?”
If I’m honest about it, the independent creative universe of authors and podcasters and musicians and bloggers is so different and so much larger than when I started creating content twenty years ago, I, who was never more than (briefly) a medium-sized fish in a few small ponds, am now more like a brine shrimp in the ocean.
It doesn’t matter that I’m not literally new on the scene. For most of the world, I’m utterly unknown.
I’m embracing that fact.
I’m taking advantage of it!
A Renewed Commitment to Learn and Share
I have so much to re-learn, and learn, and forget, and discover.
As I do, I’ll document it here, and on the Sonitotum podcast (coming soon…), and in other media as it seems appropriate… so you can learn with me.
I hope you’ll join me, whether you’re an absolute beginner, a seasoned creative pro, or, like me, someone looking to start fresh with a beginner’s mind.
Together, we’ll examine how to build a balanced, mindful, sane creative life while also touching on craft, practice, resources, tools, and interesting stuff that attracts my attention along the way. The emphasis will be on creative writing, especially fiction, but since I’m also a musician with an abiding interest in the processes behind all creativity, expect me to touch on other forms of creative expression, too.
It’s my experience that art and life are intricately, persistently, and messily intermingled. Tangled, even. So I will be getting personal, at least as personal as is possible while still respecting the privacy of others. It’s a counter-intuitive fact that an experience is more relatable when it’s very specific, so in the interest of creating “teachable moments” (and believe me, I gotta million of ’em) I’ll be as transparent as possible.
Let’s Be Absolute Beginners Together
Here are some of the ways you can come along with me:
- Join the community of friends and fans receiving my e-mail newsletter.
- Subscribe to Sonitotum, the podcast companion to Scribtotum (coming soon — stay tuned to the e-mail newsletter!)
- Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Here we go!