I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…
(It’s me. I need to hear this. And chances are, so do you.)
I’ve been writing a lot of these sorts of articles for Medium of late, and I’d love it if you joined me there, but for this, I wanted to speak to my fans–actual and potential–directly. Because this is important.
Fact is, we’re still in a pandemic. A global one. Yes, there are vaccines (of which I have received the Moderna variety), and yes, there are signs of progress and hope. But there’s also at least one super-contagious variant running around (no, not the one with the giant golden horns), lagging vaccination numbers, and a general unease that if we’re not careful, this coming fall is going to look a lot like two springs ago and last summer and…
So yeah. It’s okay if you’re still stressed. Because we’ve all been stressed for the last year and a half. It’s also okay if that stress has manifested itself in you not being as productive or as creative as you feel like you should be.
Hear me out: to this point, I’ve been one of the fortunate ones. I haven’t come down with COVID yet, and neither has anyone in my immediate family or among the few close friends I have. We’re all vaccinated, and we’ve all managed to maintain our employment.
I released Betrayal (Jill Andersen #5) in April 2020, when the world was on fire, but it seemed like just a little fire, and as the calendar flipped to 2021, I had big plans. Big, giant creative plans. I was going to write all the things and then publish all the things and I would make money from all the things…only to have barely puttered along in my numerous WIPs (works-in-progress) and find my non-work time taken up more with lying in bed doing nothing and less with dates with my keyboard.
From March through December 2020, I had a lot of free time on my hands. Yes, I was still employed, but being employed in college athletics is strange when there are no athletics going on. Yet I wasn’t making a lot of progress on any of my projects, even as I cranked out my annual 50,000-word vomitfest in November.
Come January 2021, work picked back up. Big time. Tends to happen when you’re trying to complete fall, winter, and spring sports seasons all in a period from January to May.
Naturally, my writing dried up even more. The drip-drip-drip came to a halt.
Even if you take the day job out of the equation–because I understand my situation is mine alone–I don’t think we’re giving ourselves enough credit for just how stressful everything is. Between the virus and everything surrounding it, that little election thing we had in November (can you imagine if that had gone the other way?!), the fact that a bunch of chucklefucks tried to overthrow the freaking government in January (and we still don’t really know the hows and whats of that…?!)…
And oh yeah–we’re still in the middle of a pandemic!
Your priority right now should be doing everything you can to make sure you don’t get COVID. That your loved ones don’t get COVID. We’re all living a historically traumatic experience right now, and have been since two Marches ago. Things are not normal, and haven’t been for a long time. Maybe what you’re interpreting as laziness or exhaustion is simply your body doing what it needs to do to just…survive.
Cut yourself some slack. Tell me to cut myself some slack.
Even when things are normal, free time does not need to be taken up with tasks. Even tasks we enjoy. Even our passions. Free time can just be…free time. That is especially true right now, when we’re all far more stressed and out of sorts than we’d care to admit (even to ourselves).
If you’ve got the mental and emotional fortitude to crank out everything your creative heart desires, then that’s great! Type, type, type away and bare your creative soul for the world to see! But if you find yourself too lethargic or uninspired or worn down to tackle that WIP right now, if you’d rather brew yourself a cup of hot tea, turn on the Game Show Network, and zone out for the rest of the night, that’s fine too!
Because the most important thing right now is staying alive. You can’t write if you’re bedridden in the ER, or if you’re on a ventilator, or if you’re dead. We’re still facing these issues right now, these fears, and if your biological response to that is malaise and vegging, that’s what you need to do.
Your WIPs can wait. They deserve your best, and if you can’t give your best right now, that’s okay.
Hang in there. We’ll get through this and you’ll be pecking at the keyboard thousands of words at a time before you know it.
About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.