As someone who loves to blog about food, and connect food and literature, I wanted nothing more than to open this post with a photo of a freshly made loaf of bread and talk about some amazing book I read that featured food in a unique way. The bread’s on hiatus—the blog is not—and I’m getting my life back in order after an unexpected turn of events.
It started as a lark. I work in type 1 diabetes research. Out of scientific curiosity, I check my own blood glucose from time to time. My husband has type 2 diabetes, and it’s become a customary joke to stick my hand in front of his as he prepares to check his blood sugar some mornings. “Ha ha—you can’t catch me!” Then he did. I wasn’t prepared for bad news. 108. Too high for a fasting blood glucose reading.
“Well, what do you expect?” he said. “We had a big Thanksgiving meal yesterday!”
True, and with adequate pacing, I can probably eat my body weight in stuffing. But still. For days after that, I used the hub’s spare meter to check my blood sugar. Always too high in the morning. And the numbers varied greatly otherwise. I kept a chart and made an appointment.
Fortunately, recent conversations with friends led me to start a low-carb/ketogenic diet anyway. The past four years have been intense and have kept me sedentary, and only recently have I been able to work out regularly. I was about 2 weeks into the new diet when I broke regimen at a staff retreat and indulged in a half bagel and tuna sandwich. Post-meal readings went alarmingly above normal. My pancreas is trolling me.
My A1c is just on the edge of prediabetes. In addition, perimenopause has been terribly disruptive, the lack of reliable research on it has been frustrating, and the myriad symptoms have been kicking my literary butt for some time now. Even in this short time on the keto diet, some of those symptoms have abated to a noticeable degree. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when they next check my A1c in six months.
2015 has been a turbulent year, beginning with selling my old place in Somerville and buying a home a few towns over. Then came the unpacking, the renovations, the unexpected house projects (broken water heater, leaky sink, discovering a gas leak that had been “fixed” by the former owners by wrapping a corroded pipe with electrical tape…). Getting back to a regular writing routine has been slow. Frustratingly so. I was certain the fourth novel would be close to done by now. I’m barely halfway there.
Blog posts have been slow but steady. A short story was submitted to, and rejected by, and anthology. These things happen. This novel has been playing in my head for so long, there shouldn’t be any hold-ups when I sit in front of the computer. Alas…
Stress. Distractions. Trying to perfect a strength-training and cardio routine. Family stuff. Life.
Then the short story I wrote blossomed into what appears to be a trilogy, and the abyss Nietzsche warned about was staring back at me.
I already have too many novels on my list to write about in a lifetime, especially if I have to keep my day job. How can I prioritize them?
I’d convinced myself my deadlines weren’t arbitrary because I was aiming for maximum production, figuring I’d be able to keep up the pace until I was about 80 or so. Plus, many years at a high-pressure academic institution has given me a touch of PTSD when it comes to fostering the tendency to be an overachiever to the detriment of wellness. And then suddenly to have an epiphany after years at said institution and realize the toxic morass I found myself in was destroying my true sense of self.
In short, I spend so much time beating myself up that I haven’t given myself the space to deal with a massive amount of physical and psychological change.
I don’t have all the answers yet. I’m still dealing with an unwieldy list of novels to write, and short story ideas pop up all the time for journals and anthologies. But the bottom line seems to be that I need to write what I’m passionate about—and that is many things. I came into the literary world as an author who found real women who were rebels and outcasts, marginalized by history, and gave them a voice to tell their tale. I could spend a lifetime doing that alone. But there’s a speculative fiction novel that’s been in development for years, as well as a fantasy series of who-knows-how-many books. And now a Steampunk trilogy.
My heart is with them all. For someone who has tried so hard to maintain structure and impose deadlines, it’s helped me to remember some things must change. My first two novels were written with detailed outlines and chapter summaries. The third with fewer notes, and I never finished the outline. I’ve made a transition from a plotter to a panster, as they say in the writing world—though the background research I do is still in-depth. Maybe it’s time to take the same approach to the list of novels. Don’t worry about what comes next. When the fourth novel is published, go with my heart when deciding what will be the fifth novel. And if the fantasy series takes off like George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and that’s all I have time for in the future, is that such a bad thing?
I feel like I’m betraying the women I wanted to write about. Doing all that research for many years—I made a vow to them—and I might break some of those promises. I have to square with that. Or maybe it’s time to pivot, as they say in Silicon Valley. Some may be short stories instead of novels, and those short stories can be compiled into a collection. Does it matter? They all have strong, empowered women, regardless of genre. The women of the fictional worlds have been nurtured by real women of history. Just write.
There are other numbers to be more worried about.