Tuesday, January 1, 2019

I'm Ready to Be Myself

The Muses have fled, or so I thought. Without putting too fine a point on it, 2018 was one of the most difficult years of my life. Let’s set aside the global drama and fractious state of politics (as a wonk, I dread to think how much time I’ve spent simply refreshing my Twitter feed). For me, it’s been a year of coping with an array of family issues and navigating a turbulent career path. My life as an author took the back burner while I spent much of my time getting up to speed in new skills and acclimating to what has amounted to nonstop chaos. Stress ruled the year, and while I found time to start doing research for my fifth novel, the heart of the story has failed to coalesce thus far. Vague impressions about the style and setting of the novel swirl in my mind, and I can list the main characters, but the story won’t actually get anywhere until I start writing.

Writing has been like breathing for years, but with so many dramatic changes in a short period of time, words failed me. I felt lost, like I was failing at what I was most passionate about. I even began to wonder if I was going to ever seriously write again. It was an easy enough conclusion to come to after my fourth novel was published in 2016. After all, I started it in 1994. While not the first novel I set out to write, it was the most cohesive, and didn’t function like a work of fan fiction like my first effort did (the Dragonlance series is effectively what pushed me into the creative sphere in high school. A few handwritten pages still exist, but most of the work has been lost). The fourth novel, Lords of Kur, was a cornerstone that helped me through dark days—it took so many years to cultivate an actual novel out of the concept. But with its publication, I realized something had changed in me as an artist. Understanding how to roll with it and cope was the hard part.

Toward the end of 2018 something took hold. I had become more settled in my job and there was more time to focus. As I looked back on my fractured past it became clear that there was more to it than time management. My voice as an artist changed. I just didn’t catch on. How I present myself has changed a lot too. As I prepare to write novel number five, I find I’m thinking about the narrative differently than I used to. All my stories have focused on extraordinary women who have been marginalized by history. While I’ll never let go of that concept entirely, the next few novels in development forge a new path. Because my focus has been historical fiction, I rely on tons of research in the beginning of each story. This time is no different. But rather than stringently adhere to a historical timeline, the stories are getting more complex with themes and character development.

As much as I appreciate the opportunity to evolve as an artist, the struggle of that evolution can be discouraging. In today’s fast-paced world where content and social media happen at a dizzying pace, it’s hard to remember that some art takes time. I used to beat myself up for not sticking to a schedule—I should be reaching my tenth novel if all had gone according to plan (LOL!), but instead of worrying about running out of time, I’ve learned to embrace patience. Maybe it’s growing older. 
Maybe it’s a new level of maturity as a writer. I’m bolder than I used to be, and I’m finally ready to be myself more openly, rather than trying to be invisible, which was how I spent too much of my time. In any case, I’m happy to be moving forward again, and rediscovering a facet of myself that had been lost in 2018.

Best wishes in all your endeavors for 2019!