#amwriting,  The Answer is 42

Surviving 2023

I hate to start the year in review with a trope, but it happened, and it rocked my world for a good little bit.

My dog died. It was quick, it was sudden, and I was definitely not ready. He was 14, best as we could tell (a shelter rescue), and the best good old boi a girl could ever hope for. We had 10 wonderful, adventure-filled years with him, and his absence leaves a giant hole in my heart.

The year didn’t get much better from there. In mid-2021, I returned to working a full-time corporate day job, which put a definite cramp on my writing capacity (which was, admittedly, not great to begin with. I am a slow production writer, at best, and envy those prolific wordsmiths who can crush their inner critic and crank out story after story as religiously as daily prayers. I’ve gotten better at producing and even sometimes silencing that inner critic, but I still have a long ways to go.) I managed to produce a couple of new works in 2022, but 2023 has so far been a bust, for personal reasons I won’t share here in a public space.

Writing, for me, has always been a cathartic kind of experience. Whether I’m writing stories or journaling, as long as I could get words down, I could keep soldiering on. When our dog died, my husband waited for me to write about what he meant to me, because he knew that it was a marker of my healing and grieving process. But I couldn’t get the words down.

Then I had writing deadlines this year, both external (set by others) and internal (set by me). I didn’t meet any of them. So I set word count and progress goals, and fell far short anyway. I even dabbled in poetry—a literary form that isn’t my favorite—in April, when I scribbled 30 poems in 30 days for National Poetry Month. But that didn’t jumpstart my creative brain again either. Not for anything lasting.

I finally got pissed enough to pay attention to mental health and self-care when I started but couldn’t finish writing a story earlier this month because my creative brain laid down and refused to get up. It wasn’t writer’s block; every writer has stared down writer’s block and figured out how to get over it, eventually. As I say often, I may be slow, but I usually get there in the end. I can tell when it’s a block because even though I’m not slinging new words, I’m thinking about the story, turning it over and over in my mind and figuring out how to get to the ending, or get around the block, until I either figure it out or sit back down at the keyboard to let the discovery process take back over (the latter is usually what happens, more often than not. As I keep telling myself, trust the process. A plotter I am not.)

No, this time, it was my creative brain telling me, “This ain’t happenin’. Not until you refill your well.” Because not only did I not put words down, but I quit thinking about the story. I quit thinking I was capable of writing stories. Worse, I quit wanting to sit down at the keyboard and write at all.

That doesn’t happen often. I can maybe think of one or two other times in my life (and, no surprise, both were pretty rocky periods.) But when it does, it’s the one thing that pisses me off enough to take stock of where I am, and reorient. I pulled my head out of my ass and realized that while I had been wallowing, I had another couple of stories published. And if I wanted to keep calling myself a writer, then I needed to bloody well write.

So last night I pulled up an old story, added to it and revised it (a task I had been putting off for a while with that particular story), and sent it back off into the submission trenches. And here I am, getting more words down. Even if it is a pissy f-u to the universe. 😂

As 2023 winds down to a close, I’ve seen variations of this image/meme come across my social media feeds several times in the last week or so, and all I’ve got to say is: A-f’n-men.

[Source: “Unbreakable and Uplifting” page on Facebook.]

Not to jinx anything, but here’s to 2024 becoming more than just surviving. 🥂 There are a lot more stories to write.

C.H. Hung grew up among the musty book stacks of public libraries, where she found a lifelong love for good stories and lost 20/20 vision for good. Her stories have appeared in Analog SF&F, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and khōréō magazines, as well as anthologies edited by Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, among others. She was a third-place winner of the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award in 2023.