November 17, 2021

Hopefuls, Monthly Author Check-In, Personal, The Beacon Campaigns

Monthly Author Check-In: November 2021

What I’m Writing: All the things
What I’m Reading: The Shimmering State by Meredith Westgate
What I’m Loving: The 2.0 update on Animal Crossing: New Horizons—I have finally learned how to properly decorate my island, and to say I’m obsessed is putting it mildly

A few loose thoughts on creativity and process

How many times do I need to relearn the same lesson?

Or, that’s not even really it. I know that a key part of my writing process is to work on multiple projects at once. I know this. I tell people that all the time when describing how I work, and if you were to ask me, Jenn, do you work on multiple projects at once?, you would get a resounding yes. So that knowledge firmly exists within my brain and yet, inevitably, when the pressure and guilt start building up and I feel my mental “deadlines” looming (used loosely, because me and deadlines are a whole other topic), I will always buckle down and tell myself that I am going to just focus on writing my main priority book. With, okay, maybe cheat days on the weekends to keep my creativity fresh, or a session or two with a play project once I’ve got my goal for the day, but Monday-Friday, nose-the-grindstone time? That’s going to be the Next Book, and the Next Book only.

Also inevitably, this approach will fail, and fail hardcore. Because my brain just does not work that way. I’ll do good at first, maybe, but then as soon as I get slightly stuck and would normally jump around to keep myself fresh, I’ll double-down and try to solve the problems I am having through… what, sheer force of will? And when that fails, as it always will, my project either stalls out completely, or spins out of control in a thousand different directions. And I stay there, halted in my own stubborn determination, until I finally break down and jump to another project in earnest. Where, soon enough, I will need a break from that one and, oh look, suddenly my priority project seems not only interesting again, but I immediately know exactly how to fix what was previously wrong with it.

It is literally faster to jump ship as soon as I feel like it, play around with something fresh, and jump back reinspired, than to sit there and struggle forever before finally “giving in” to this need to bounce around. And every time I relearn this lesson, I resolve that I will never again spiral into this mess, and yet. Oh, right, here we are again.

Back toward the end of summer, I reignited my passion for fantasy books.

It’s not that it ever truly left me, but for a while I was honestly burned from what I called worldbuilding fatigue. Simply put, the effort it took to learn the social rules, politics, and magic each time I picked up a new story was exhausting to me, and draining far more energy than I was getting back out of the joy of reading them. So I listened to my needs, and I all but stopped reading them.

There’s no particular reason why I came back to it a few months ago. A title must have just called to me, I guess. So I listened to that again, and oh look, now I am obsessed with the genre just as much as I was back in my heyday.

This, of course, led to me picking up the drafts of my remaining Beacon Campaigns books (the aforementioned break I needed from my other project). But it also started sparks flying in my brain for both an old project or two I’d like to revisit, as well as a new idea that I have only thus far poked at with the barest of effort, that almost feels ready to come to life on the page.

So we’ll see how it goes. My plan is still to publish the next Hopefuls book before anything else, but I do want to wrap up Beacons as soon as I am able, and expand creatively into these new directions as well. In addition to everything else, I genuinely think a large factor in my creative drought recently was simple burnout: I’d been writing nothing but these same two series for around eight or nine years now, and I honestly need new creative challenges in order to thrive and produce my best work. So I’m finding the balance I need, to keep my writing life exciting for me, while still honoring the commitments I’ve made to my readers.

All that said, the mental struggles of 2020 and 2021 are finally lifting. I’m currently in the happiest and healthiest routine I’ve ever had. Two dedicated writing sessions first thing in the morning, workouts four times a week, freelance work, plus I have gotten back into drawing and other art making, which I haven’t really pursued much since I was a kid so it feels like playing every time I pick up my pencils. Yesterday, I started a gradual office reorganization project that will probably take me at least six months to complete. It’s not that it’s a huge project, but it just feels right to take my time on it. Yesterday I cleared out all the stuff that was no longer serving me (or “sparking joy,” as Marie Kondo would put it), and already my desk feels so much brighter and more functional.

It’s finally a good time again in my brain and my office lately, is what I am getting at. I hope all your stars are also shining just as brightly, or that you’re finding joy wherever you can if they’re not.