The Boring Side of Mental Stability

I have to admit, I’ve been on a good streak lately. No major ups or downs, staying (mostly) on my meds, and sleeping well at night, I’ve managed to get my second YA book published (released a few weeks ago), and I’m doing well at work and at home. No drama, no fights, no arguments – except maybe about those seedlings I promised to report and haven’t got around to you – life is good. I feel stable and well-adjusted, and even interviewing for a new position at work isn’t getting me overly stressed.

I also feel incredibly boring.

Not bored (although that’s a side-effect) – boring. I feel like I have nothing exciting about me to talk about, write about, blog about, or otherwise share with the world. Years ago when I started this blog, I was wildly unmedicated, and whilst it was incredibly unhealthy for me mentally – for my relationships as well – it gave me plenty of fodder for writing. It led to The Redemption of Erâth, in the sense that I wanted to write an allegorical tale about mental illness and depression, and it let to hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts, some of which garnered a fair amount of attention (one on mental illness was featured on WordPress’s front page).

But now, I just can’t feeling like day after day comes and goes without drama or excitement. I wake up, drink my coffee, go to work, come home, eat my peas, and settle into a routine that is far more midlife than crisis.

I don’t even find myself having particularly strong opinions on things that I otherwise would have had plenty to say about – mental health, racism, gun violence, or the blandness of most pistachio ice cream. It’s all just a blur of uninteresting blah, the world spinning rapidly around me while I just watch, idly interested but without significant input.

Of course, a lot has changed in the past almost-ten years since I started writing about things. Instead of dreaming about writing, I went and actually wrote three fantasy novels and two YA books, got them published, got them into readers’ hands, and learned from the process about what people like to read, and what they don’t. I’ve changed, too; I’m stably medicated, and despite dropping off from time to time (periods where I become more … interesting, at least), I haven’t felt like I’ve had a significant wagon-fall in almost eight months, if not longer.

The funny thing is that it leads to me feeling very dispassionate about life, even to the point of sometimes – sometimes – wishing I was a little less stable, and a little more crazy. It’s not that I necessarily enjoy feeling depressed and miserable, or in the throes of a manic fugue of whirlwind creativity, but at the very least it makes the days pass quicker, and gives me fuel for writing. I mean, look at this blog – my last post was almost a month ago, and the one before that was even longer ago. I used to write 2-3 posts a week!

And I want to continue being creative, and writing, and thinking of things to do; I really do. But I’m not willing to sacrifice my mental health and stability for it, nor my relationships at home and at work. A couple years ago I was calling out of work weekly because of the severity of my depression; now I look forward to being at work and the challenges each day brings. When I’m off my meds, I turn into a rage-monster, constantly fighting and arguing with my wife over the most trivial of things; now I feel like we’re actually able to get along like, well, you know – a married couple.

It’s frustrating, because I typically see myself as an inherently creative individual. But with no inspiration from strong feelings about things, I find myself with very little to create. My first YA novel about depression and self-harm was largely fueled by my own teenage years and the life I lived into my early twenties; my second, largely based on my love for music. The Redemption of Erâth, as I mentioned above, was all about describing depression in a fantastical setting. Now, I just feel like I’m … running out of creative juices.

So while I come here to WordPress from time to time with all the intention of keeping up with this blog, more often than not I find I just … don’t have anything to say. Even here, we have an 800-word post about how I can’t think of anything to write! I feel bad for seemingly abandoning the world I created, and I don’t really think of it as such, but if I’m absent more frequently these days, know it’s because I’m doing well, rather than the opposite.

So here’s to many more years of blogging, whether it’s every day, every week, or a couple times a year; fear not, for I will always return.

Back … Maybe?

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I last posted here. As I think I predicted at the start of the year, I had a flurry of writing for most of January and a little bit of February, and then it just kind of … died.

The good news is that this time, it isn’t because I was cripplingly depressed. (I mean, I’m always a little depressed, but that wasn’t the main driver behind my inactivity.) In fact, I’ve been remarkably productive in the past month or two – just not with writing.

Rather, I’ve been busy with my spare time (which I feel I have less and less of) writing music. Years ago (I literally mean in like 2005) I started work on a metal ‘symphony’, by which I mean it’s structured like a classical symphony in four movements. I wrote about two-thirds of it years ago, then abandoned it in favor of writing, and later, more traditional metal music.

But I always intended to revisit it, and in particular produce it with a more modern aesthetic. So over Christmas and into January, I set about re-producing the parts I’d written so far, and completing the parts I hadn’t. And if I do say so myself, it came out pretty damn good!

And that’s not all – fresh off the wave of satisfaction that comes with completing a project, I decided to embark on a second metal symphony – this one including full orchestral instrumentation. So far it’s about half written, and sounding good.

So as you can see, I have been busy – just not with blogging and writing. Which is unfortunate in a way, of course, because I always intended to keep up with things here as well. We’ll see if I’m able to continue updates, Thoughts of the Week, and all that good stuff, but I wanted to check in at the very least and say hi, because I felt bad that I’d left this for such a long time.

As far as other projects go, I should be getting the edits back for my second YA novel from the editor today, for which I’m exceptionally excited; I’ve been waiting a while, and she’s been delayed (understandably, with COVID and everything), but I can’t wait to see what she has to say – so far apparently it’s made her cry (!).

The Redemption of Erâth is also progressing, if slowly; every so often I’ll try to write a little bit more of it, but I’ve lost – not the enthusiasm for it, but the drive, perhaps? I still want to complete the story, but there’s a lot ahead of me, and other projects just seem to keep getting in the way.

Writing is a lonely profession, and feels thankless, often; I write to get readers, not for money, and reviews are one of the few ways in which I know people are reading my books. And whilst I’ve amassed a fair few reviews for my YA work on Goodreads and Amazon, The Redemption of Erâth remains a little less … accessible, perhaps. I realize it’s a slow story, and I think this puts people off sometimes; in the years since its publication, I’ve only had fourteen reviews for the first book on Amazon, seven for the second, and exactly one for the third.

Still, it isn’t a reason to stop – the story must be written – and I will continue, however long it takes me, until the story of Brandyé, Elven and their companions is complete.

And in the meantime, I will try my best to continue posting here, as well as on cmnorthauthor.com, with updates, thoughts, and random things, because blogging is another way to connect with readers, and I actually really enjoy it.

So thank you until next time – which hopefully won’t be another month and a half!

Writing in the Film Generation

If I’m to be brutally honest, I don’t really read that much – particularly not as much as I think I should, as a writer. This isn’t a new problem for me, but I haven’t always been this way – in my youth and young adulthood, I used to read voraciously, devouring book after book with gusto. In fact, I would argue that I stopped reading so much around when I started writing (an odd coincidence, to be sure), but it also occurs to me that I stopped reading quite so much when I started watching.

I’ve always loved movies, film and TV, and there was a time when I would be excited about all the newest movies in theaters, or the latest TV show to grace cable networks (I’ve also come to realize that, as I get older, I kind of just want to watch the same stuff over and over again, a kind of comfort in familiarity). And if I’ve never said as much outright, I find that film and literature are really two sides of the same coin – namely, storytelling.

I think that’s what I really enjoy more than anything – a good story. Something that triggers the imagination, that gets the creative juices flowing, or simply makes you feel. And I don’t particularly think that any given story ‘needs’ to be told through any particular medium; the core essence of the story can be just as valid as a book, a poem, a photograph or a full-length movie. However, the way in which the story is told is more important to the medium, and this is where I think that, as I write more and more, I’m slowly realizing the influences that are guiding my storytelling.

You see, reading in the past – wonderful books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Great Expectations, or even Salem’s Lot – got me feeling in a way that, in my experience, only a book could. When Scout and her brother are being stalked through the dark, or when Magwitch is waiting in the staircase for Pip, I remember feeling a deep unease, a fright and terror that no movie could ever instill in me – something that came from a deep caring of lovingly crafted characters, and the words on the page painted emotion as much as they did images.

Film, on the other hand, is (obviously) a heavily visual medium. And whilst some films don’t necessarily explore this in depth, others manage to convey the story in a way only visual imagery could. The Lord of the Rings, Lawrence of Arabia, or even the manufactured but highly enjoyable Marvel movies … these are all prime examples of stories that, I feel, are absolutely best told through film. The grandeur, spectacle, and beautiful blending of sound and light simply wouldn’t work as words on paper (ironic, that all of these would have started life as scripts – or in some cases, actual books).

But as I delve deeper into writing my own novels, I’ve come to realize that I’ve become more influenced by these visual stories even as I put digital ink onto screen. When I write The Redemption of Erâth, I see the story in my head, almost as a film playing before my eyes; I write it as if I were describing a movie. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m really writing movies – 400-page movies, to be sure, but movies nonetheless. My inspirations aren’t the books of my past, but the films I’ve watched and adored.

It’s interesting, because in some of the reviews I’ve read, people have actually said that they would make great movies – perhaps because of the visual element I’m trying to instill into black and white text (not always successfully, of course). And it makes me wonder – is there room for a different kind of story in me? Can I even write a book that toys with emotions and thoughts in a way that film can’t do justice to?

In any case, I enjoy writing these stories – whether they’re primarily visual in my head or not – and I suppose I’ll carry on for now in the way I always have; after all, I don’t particularly want to see a great change of style halfway through the Redemption of Erâth series. But as I continue through my literary journey, perhaps I can try to include a little more of the written story in my books, as well.

What do you think? What books have made you feel things that you couldn’t imagine from a film? Or vice versa?