When to Walk Away

This post is going up a few days late for Patrons, and I apologize for that.  It’s also going to be a fairly short one as these things go.  The last couple of weeks have been weird for me.  Between getting the news that I’m going to be published, and getting my second Covid vaccine, this past week has been nearly a complete loss.  There’s also the fact that this is a hard post for me to write, because it kicks me right in the pride.

A few weeks ago, when I finished the first draft of The Inevitable Singularity, I jumped into writing a project called The Defective Paragons.  It’s a good project.  Fun premise, solid themes, despicable villains.  It deals with colonialism, child soldiers, PTSD, and transphobia.  I got about twenty thousand words in, and then, I just stalled.

It wasn’t writers block.  I could go write pretty much anything else.  It was just I couldn’t work on this particular story.  I knew what was going on to happen next, but every time I sat down to write, I just stared at the screen.  Something wasn’t working for me.  I felt this creeping sense of dread, because I’ve been here before, and I know what comes next.  I put the novel down and don’t finish it.

I didn’t want to do that this time.  I liked the story.  It’s important to me.  I want to finish it.  But something about it just wasn’t clicking for me, and I it took me a while to realize it.  I’d been working on the wrong story.  It happens sometimes.  You want to write, you need to write, so you start something, but it’s the wrong story at the wrong time and you just can’t make it work.  That’s what was happening to me.

I will eventually go back to finish The Defective Paragons.  Like I said, I like the story and it’s important to me.  But it’s just not the right time for me to work on something as deep or heavy as that.  I’m still emotionally reeling from the one two punch that was working on Transistor and The Inevitable Singularity back-to-back.  Transistor was hard because I had to dig so deep into my own history and trauma to write it.  The Inevitable Singularity just ripped my guts out for an entirely different reason.

Writing is something that happens entirely in your head.  The ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the victories and tragedies.  All those emotions come from inside of you, and all of them can have a huge impact on your mental health.  If that’s something you already struggle with, sometimes, dealing with your own writing can be a challenge.  The Defective Paragons was that for me.  It might not have been, if there wasn’t a part of the story that deals rather directly with transphobia, but that’s kind of a core thread of the story, and I realized that the reason I had to step away from it, the reason it was the wrong story at the wrong time, was because it was having a negative impact on my mental health.

So, I set it aside.  The timing was good.  I’ve just got the edits back for Scatter, so I’ll be free to work on them, and when I’m done, I’ll jump back in with a fantasy project I’m currently calling The Proximal Frontier.  And that’s the lesson I hope you take away from this.  Sometimes, you need to set things aside for your own good.  If a project is hurting you, walk away.  I waited too long to learn that lesson, and spent a lot of years hurting myself trying to work on things because I was supposed to.  Now I know better, and I hope I can save other people the pain.