You just published a book, but you’ve been kinda quiet, what the heck?

anxiety

It’s been about a month since I’ve released Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. In that time, I’ve posted a single blog post about this, done a hand-full of tweets, paid for a bit of advertising on Amazon, and shared it on Facebook. Really, it’s not much, and I should be posting a lot more and working double-time on writing the next two or three books I intend to publish. I should also, at very least, be blogging about my experience launching a book impulsively and what I’ve learned. There isn’t any good excuse for why I haven’t. I mean, there is an excuse, but as with any excuse, it’s an excuse not really a good reason. To put it in a word – Anxiety. I can’t seem to get over it.

I am at the tail end of two weeks of vacation as I write this and just made the mistake of rechecking my work e-mail. I’ve been keeping half an eye on it just to make sure if something came up I had to deal with, I could. I went from a wee bit more relaxed to full-on stress-ball in the span of three heartbeats. It’s completely incapacitating. These past two weeks were intended to be time spent with the kids, write, blog, advertise, unwind, and generally catch-up on personal life stuff. None of that happened, really. I’ve been avoiding literally everything to the point where all I can do is play video games – which is usually a reinvigorating escape for me. Not this time. I have what I can only describe as a video-game hangover, and I don’t feel anything like rested up and ready to tackle work tomorrow (Tomorrow was supposed to be another day off, but things being what they are, I’ve got to go back a day early.)

There are what you could call extenuating circumstances here, making things worse than they might otherwise be. Right now, in the state of Alaska, my home, the governor has just vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. I believe it is the largest set of budget cuts ever for this state. Ostensibly, these cuts were made because the state can’t afford it. However, any state that can pay out thousands of dollars every year to its residents can’t possibly be so broke it can’t fund essential services – just one example is the emergency broadcast system – this for a state frequently beset by natural disasters and hazardous conditions.

I did keep my job after the cuts, and it’s looking pretty okay for the foreseeable future, but it’s not clear for my wife. Part of the cuts involved the elimination of all funding for the appellate courts. This is the state supreme court and all courts you might bring a non-criminal case to. I want that to sink in for a minute – he eliminated funding for the most critical aspects of the Alaska court system – if this part of the courts isn’t funded, Alaskan residents won’t have any legal recourse when something goes wrong. For any libertarians reading this-this is what happens when you don’t have a government, you don’t have a voice. It’s not a good thing. Reports are that the budget has the goal of reducing the state’s population. Read: Make it an unsuitable place to live for people with families, unless you’re already wealthy.

The bottom line is that this governor and the people who voted for him are working toward a place that is wholly impractical for my children to settle when they reach adulthood – no education, no services, no safety. I grew up here. This is home. In spite of the fact I make noises about moving to New Zealand or some other state, this isn’t realistic. I did leave for a year when I couldn’t find work, but I couldn’t make it elsewhere. I came back fully understanding that I might very well end up living in a shitty apartment, working two minimum wage jobs. As it was just the two of us at the time, we felt we could make that work. Now, with kids, the calculation is different. It’s not about me anymore. Regardless, this is home, and it will be, even if I’m holed up in a homeless camp at the edge of town with thousands of others in the same boat. The same can’t be said for the people making the cuts. They aren’t, actually, from here and will likely leave in the future anyhow. One of them came here specifically to implement these cuts and then leave immediately.

Even then, for me, it still gets deeper and harder to cope with. I do work for the state. Yes, I still have a job after the cuts, something conservatives say I should be grateful for, but for the first time ever, the cuts have been so dramatic that I’m unsure that I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations to the state, which are written in state law. The hard part about this is that it’s not my fault, but I get to be blamed for the failure. The politicians have taken away resources necessary to be successful and will then point their greasy fingers at people like me and say, “look at that lazy bastard.” So, when I look at my e-mail and realize that I’ve got six weeks of work due in something like the next 10 days. I’m feeling super extra fucked, a failure, and someone else made it so. I don’t like letting people down or just walking away from things, but I’m in a position to do just that.

Alright, so that’s the core of the anxiety, climate change is the other aspect, but I already went semi-viral on a particular rant there and don’t care to repeat the experience. The rest boils down to being impulsive and releasing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks when I did. I don’t actually think I was personally ready for this. I have had a lot of support and positive feedback, but I’m still learning, and it’s committed me to things that I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cope with. I mean, I will with a smile and as much gusto as needed, that’s how I am –recall that I build most of a house with just the help of friends in two years because I was too stupid to know I couldn’t. That house withstood a 7.1 earthquake. However, as it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, I don’t know if I can pull it off. I’ve goofed around with advertisements and things, but it’s pretty clear that the only books being sold are to those folks I routinely interact with or know IRL. Which is fantastic, but it’s not getting reach beyond that. It’s a lot of effort to go through, and I don’t know if I’m doing it right.

As a result of all of this, I’ve been effectively immobilized. Every time I start thinking about something, the weight of everything else breaks in, and I just can’t properly concentrate. So that’s it. There’s my excuse and what’s going on with me. Now I’ve gotten it off my chest, I will (hopefully) be producing more content and really getting to work on more books.

Can’t I just disappear for a while?

This morning I got up, dragged my sorry rump off to work, got stuck in traffic and rolled into work late. Not awesome. I was able to stay late to make it up, no problem. The bigger problem was that when I hit the parking lot and climbed out. My first thought was “I am so done, so done.” To be clear, I don’t hate my job, but I’m so so busy, so incredibly busy. I know I claim to be a writer and should easily be able to describe how many flavors of busy I am and how it feels to work in an environment so saturated with crises that everyone seems to think adding unnecessary crises is a pretty good idea  – you know to really show how busy we are, but the best I can come up with is that I can’t finish a current task without having two more added to the list. My colleague and I have written about 120 reports in the past five months. To add some context to that, this is roughly the annual throughput of the entire team prior to our arrival. As this is my job and I’m well compensated for it, it should be YAY us, we’re freaking awesome. Nope. Not feeling it -I’m tired.

Last weekend, the wife and I went to Seattle, sans children, to have a romantic stress-free weekend. This was fully achieved, it was great. I don’t care how many homeless people I didn’t see or how much I didn’t have my car broken into or any of those things that happen in big cities. I frikkin’ loved Seattle. LOVED. I figured the trip would really recharge my batteries. It did for about a day. Then, I came back and reality hit again.

I have made myself so busy, I now feel guilty about the 1 hour a week I’m devoting to watching Westworld. I’ve got a demanding job, for which I’ve recently had a title change that I can’t tell anybody about that because apparently something got screwed up, I don’t know what got screwed up, just that I have a shiny new meaningless title and I’m also pretty sure everyone thinks I’m slacking. On top of that, I’m trying to start another company for another company, which is NOT going as hoped. I’m also trying to write 2 (no, actually 4, but only two actively) books AND I’m trying to get a book published on inkshares – that’s not going great, but I’m doing the best I can to promote without being absolutely insufferable. To continue to add to the list, I’m writing a recipe article for my wife’s dad’s newspaper (any suggestions? – due tomorrow, looks like). Then, last but not least, I’m trying to keep up on my blog, which (obviously) is not going well. I’m so damn over-taxed that I’ve tried about half a dozen posts in the last week or two and have gotten just past the “hey, I had this great thought I wanted to share” point and realized I didn’t have the mental energy to get to the point and wrap it.

Yesterday, I started the audiobook for Felicia Day’s autobiography – it’s called something about being weird on the internet, don’t ask me the title, I’m too lazy to pick up my iPod or open another tab to Google it and get it right. This audio book is good, I mean I love her work, and think she’s a spectacular writer. I’m pretty sure the book is meant to be a ‘rah-rah, love yourself and follow your dreams’ sort of story. Well, it didn’t work for me. I pretty much finished it and have more or less come a way thinking that this woman is brilliant and talented, and I am not, and no amount of hard work I put into anything is going to amount to anything one tenth so brilliant.

Part of the reason I’m so busy at work is that I’ve built a system that lends itself to extremely rapid adhoc report development. Someone can ask me the question: How many CCU visits resulted in this particular diagnosis in August & September 2016 and the same for 2015. I can spin that around in like 20 minutes. The usual timeline for an adhoc like that is like six months – largely because it would take 3-6 hours, maybe more, and it doesn’t count as a big important thing, so it gets dropped to the bottom of the list. In any case, having built this system up, I am becoming ‘the guy’. I’m not the only ‘the guy’, but I am one, and so I’m in demand. On one hand, you could call this a win and say it’s brilliant within my work context, but I don’t see it that way. I still have 50 unresolved tickets and have a mountain of documentation and training materials, plus hours of meetings and requirements gathering for more reports, I don’t have much of a handle on planning or even progress, my whole project management game is shit, really. Basically, I have worked my ass off and am further behind than when I started. This is not a win, nor is is anything like brilliant.

I wrote a book I love and characters I think are awesome. That book received 0 response from more than 40 agents and has not gained any sort of momentum on inkshares. I have had TREMENDOUS support from so many people, who are endlessly sharing and tweeting and pre-ordering, but with less than a month and more than 200 copies to go. The win is looking beyond remote. That book is very unlikely to see the light of day. I can’t tell you how much THAT makes me feel like I’m letting folks down. So much support, and I’m unable to make the win. When you crowd-fund like that, the project becomes the project of everyone who supported, and for me to not hit the magic number is an ENORMOUS failure to deliver for EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has helped and been generous and supportive.

I’m not stuck on my other works as much as I simply haven’t got the time to work on them as much as is necessary to finish any one of them. I mean, I do write -every day. Sometimes, I get super productive and knock out 2K in a single night, but those nights are rare and with so little energy to spare, the best I can do is read through what I wrote on one of those WIPs and think about how much work remains.

So.

Here I am.

I don’t have the bandwidth. I just want to walk away from all of it. I’m tired and my motivation for doing more than coming home, having a beer and falling asleep on the couch is basically non-existent. I clearly haven’t got the drive or talent of a person capable of pulling off any of what I’ve set out out to do. The hard part is that I can’t help but try. I suppose that for every ‘I worked my ass off to get here’ story you get, you get as many ‘I worked my ass off and I’m no further down the road than I was ten years ago’ stories. Anyhow, now I’m off to work on something that requires my attention.

Maybe stupidity and unrelenting stubbornness will pay off at some point?