From the Mind of R. S. Hill
A blog about this, that, and more...
As 2021 began with a glimmer of real hope in the form of vaccines created by science, confidence that the worst year in recent history was behind us began to percolate despite January 6th. And while America has a long way to go to lick this bug and ‘the new normal’ ain’t going anywhere, people seem cautiously hopeful as we head into the holiday season.
Despite an air of mounting confidence in the future, I still hear despair in my student’s defeated voices or my neighbor’s lack of youthful industry. For nearly a year, I had to shout at him from across the wall between our properties just to have a conversation about how resurfacing his pool ‘ain’t happening.’ I must admit, though, the pandemic was, in a way, good for me. I still feel guilty about the productivity the pandemic brought to this writer. So, here is my confession.
The coronavirus threw down (and continues to throw) many challenges that forced humanity to adapt to a more hostile landscape, become more industrious with its technology, and search for meaning in a changed world. Among those challenges lurked isolation. As friends, family, colleagues, celebrities, and politicians wondered how they were going to cope with being isolated for most of 2020, I knew exactly what I was going to do. Having pledged to write three novels in just one year’s time, I was off pace in January of 2020 when the Wuhan virus became a full-blown pandemic.
A young adult dark/fantasy novel was nearly done, and my post-apocalyptic sci-fi series was stalled near the end of book one. When our school district closed its doors and we shifted to a make-shift, online learning platform, the city and state (Tucson, Arizona) established curfews, enforced mask mandates, and social distancing went into in full effect. I found myself sequestered and glad for it.
For many writers, writer’s block is not about losing mo-jo, a lack of ideas, or some deep-seeded psychological trauma that stems from that glass chandelier that fell on my head when I was four years old. It’s about distraction. COVID 19 forced us inside our homes and ourselves. For some this was catastrophic, especially young people (my students). I feel awful for those who slid into depression and battled with anxieties over not being able to make physical contact with friends and family for such a long time. For me, and other writers, the journey into self without physical connection is a necessity. I’ve always said, if I ever go to jail, put me in solitary and leave me there. Having the time to do what writers do without distraction was just what the doctor ordered.
As time passed and the virus took its deadly toll, I sank deeper and deeper into myself and the worlds embedded in my head. While people around me were freaking out, falling into depression, juggling suicidal thoughts, mourning the dead, and, sadly, dying, I was writing. At times, I felt truly guilty about my vocational apathy, but I couldn’t stop myself. My addiction was in full swing, and I was binging night and day. Writers that I know personally or have voyeuristic associations with on social media communicated that they had trouble concentrating during so much death. One writer tweeted, “It [writing] just doesn’t seem important anymore.”
Perhaps I kept writing because what I write usually cultivates dark themes? Maybe I was just lucky to be comfortable during the pandemic and not directly affected? Could it have been my time to write? Maybe I’m a shitty person inside? And while some of you may feel I am being too hard on myself or that the mere idea that I would write about such a thing speaks to how shitty I am, the bottom line, and what kept me typing through the guilt, was that I am a writer. Good reviews or bad, high sales or abysmal, fancy cover or cheap, it is what I must do rain or shine.
At one point during this deluge of productivity that saw me actually achieve my three-novel goal (Hence the Buy Me a Coffee publishing fund below), I sat alone at night tapping away at my keyboard well after midnight because I did not have to wake up at 6 AM anymore. I imagined myself a Frankensteinian recluse. Macabre and apathic to the suffering of the world, I stole away to my lab night after night to cultivate my secret abominations while the world suffered from a kind of event we foolishly hoped had been eradicated.
I freely admit that I may suffer from what could be called survivor’s guilt, which is why I had to write this confession. Yet many people around the world, like myself, cling to the notion that the pandemic happened for a reason. Writing speculative fiction does not lend me the wherewithal to speculate as to what those reasons are, I only know that as long as the planet keeps turning, writers will keep writing.
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