Your regular Monday post was eaten by the Smoke Monster

No? Not buying it? Meh. Works on Lost.

I got precious little writing done last week or over the weekend because, frankly, I was too depressed to care. It happens once in a while, and this time I wasn’t able to push through and write anyway. The experience did give me an idea for writing a piece on the best examination of what it’s really like to be clinically depressed I have seen in popular media (yes, I’m serious), and when the damn finally burst, well. I’m working on one of my way-too-long-for-a-blog how-tos on how to be cloud-based and use local, OS-native applications anyway, a “hey! you writers!” cautionary piece about not talking your story to death before you write it, and, get this, a short story (which I will not be talking about until it’s done, because, hey, read the previous clause in this sentence).

So, really, more to come. Honest. In the meantime, console yourself with the knowledge that some questions are just unanswerable, like where did the phrase “on the fritz” come from.

In which the blogger peers out from behind the curtain of depression


I’ve been gone for a while. I haven’t written here, or really any anywhere else, for about three months. During most of that time, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever write again. I’ve been the slap-bitch of that old dog, depression.

Depression is a weird thing. It’s part mental, obviously, but also part very much physical. My brain, thanks to a genetic mutation passed down on my mother’s side, doesn’t either produce or retain enough of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Low levels of serotonin suck all the color out of life, leaving the sufferer in a gray twilight—sans sparkly vampires—where nothing much seems to matter. No drive, no ambition, no dreams of something better.

In my case, the symptoms of depression are normally held back by the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) I take every day. But they can be pushed over the edge by an emotional trigger, the likes of which I got the first week of January.

I was already teetering on the edge, because I’d just finished writing a novel, the first one I’d actually finished in thirteen years. Writers often go through something very much like post-partum depression when they finish a book, for largely the same reasons. We just finished this really intense emotional commitment, and now it’s just… over. Now what? This is especially hard to deal with if you, like me, get stalled trying to immediately jump into the next book.

Queso, I was already a little fragile dealing with post-partum writer’s block, and then I lost my job. I mean I didn’t actually lose my job I mean I know where my job is still. They just don’t let me go there anymore. Instead of transferring from Old Job to New Job as expected, Old Job instead recalled me and then laid me off. Word had come down from On High that IT Support had to cut payroll by 20%. If you want to do that and lose as few people as possible because you’re barely hanging on as it is, you cut the people making more money than their peers. And who has two thumbs and was the highest paid person on the Helpdesk? This guy!

But here’s where it gets screwed up. If they just transferred me, as had already been approved, they’d lose my salary, but it wouldn’t count towards the 20% cut. So they had to lay me off instead so the bookkeeping would work out. I lost my job in the Great Recession because of friggin’ accountants.

As you might expect, the sheer cosmic insult of this was enough to push me over the edge. At first, I watched a lot of TV. You see, the last thing a depressed person wants to do is confront their own life, their own problems. Life becomes an almost manic struggle to keep oneself distracted, anything to avoid actually thinking about your life. You cling to these distractions like a life preserver in shark infested waters, because they make the pain go away.

Eventually, and this surprised me too, I ran out of forensic shows in syndication to watch. I know! Between NCIS, the various CSIs, Criminal Minds, Cold Case, etc. you’d think I’d be set, but over time I started to recognize the ones I’d already seen. And once you’ve seen @wilw run over by a semi, you really don’t need to see it again.

In February, I got into the beta for Star Trek Online, and zeroed in on something else I could lose myself in. I now understand those guys at SF cons debating the finer points of Trek canon, like why the Gorn are so damn angry. Trek has nearly fifty years of backstory, and the game ties into quite a bit of it. To get the full experience—and, as mentioned, avoid my own experiences—I immersed myself in Star Trek.

I’ve always been a casual Trek fan. I watched most of TNG and the early seasons of DS9, and of course all the movies. I remembered sitting with my Dad as a kid while he watched the original series in syndication, but didn’t really remember anything specific. And I loved the JJ Abrams reboot last summer.

Now, in my desperation to avoid thinking about myself, I went full-on Vulcan salute Trekkie. I bought all the TV series on iTunes and started watching them in chronological order: Enterprise, TOS, movies, TNG, DS9, Voyager. I redownloaded all the Trek novels I’d bought over the years from eReader and arranged them in chronological order, and bought the dozen or so books that take place in the 30 years between the end of Nemesis and the beginning of the game.

And I played a lot of the game.

Star Trek Online isn’t the first MMO I’ve played by a long shot, but it’s the first one where I’ve hit level cap, gotten a character to the point where they can no longer progress because the developers haven’t built that content yet. But after weeks of shooting Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians and Borg, something at the back of my mind started to itch. A few weeks more, and I started to listen.

That itch was telling me that it was time to start writing my own stories again. Time to start blogging again, time to go back to the Unification Chronicles universe and finish telling the story. I have my own centuries-long sprawling space opera, dammit.

My tentative plan is to go back and finish rewriting Revelation, make it as solid as I can, then post it to Smashwords/iBooks, Amazon and Fictionwise/eReader/Barnes&Noble. Once it’s out of my hands and "in the wild," I start on Crusade and ride it all the way to release as well, then Jihad and so on until the series is done. I have absolutely NO timeframe in mind in which to do this. I have no illusions or intentions about getting any of it published commercially or making a living as a novelist. This isn’t about business.

It’s about the itch. It’s about telling stories. And it’s about time to get back to writing.

Rhythms of a bipolar writer

I’ve noticed something about my approach to blogging, and writing in general. I don’t think I’m ever going to be a consistent, post daily or even 2-3 times a week blogger. The problem is that when I’m in a manic phase, like I am now, I’ll post daily or even multiple times a day. But then when I slide back over into depression, I won’t post anything for weeks.

For novelists, this kind of workflow isn’t really a big deal so long as the depressive phases don’t last so long that you lose the story. But blogging is an interactive medium and intended to be a steady flow of words. I know this is what prevents me from becoming a successful blogger, but I’m not sure how to make myself keep writing even when nothing seems interesting enough to write about (or, as is more common when I’m depressed, I can’t believe anyone would care what I have to say in the first place).

So this is more of a question to my readers than an article in its own right. Let me know in the comments how you stay motivated to write even when you aren’t motivated to do much of anything.