8 May 2010 - 3:01 pm

Change of plan

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. Things have not been going well for me, and if I’m honest, I’m struggling.

There are a lot of reasons for it. Work is stressful and I’m constantly fighting to keep all the balls in the air there. I’m managing more people, more projects, and tighter deadlines than we’ve had before. I’m still learning what the hell I’m supposed to be doing half the time, and every time I turn around, the goalposts have shifted six inches to the left. We’re doing all right, we’re still on-track, but that’s only because I’m busting my ass trying to make sure that’s where we are. I like clear goals. I like to know what I’m aiming for. I do not like playing catchup, especially not when it’s someone else’s fault.

There are also family-related factors at play that I don’t particularly want to get into. Let’s just say that it’s another source of concern, but not one I can do anything about (which is probably worse) except be there for them. It’s frustrating.

And then, once I’ve dealt with all of that, there’s my writing. I’m falling behind with everything. Organising my writing groups is simple – a couple of emails a month each (I have two groups), turn up and pretend to be competent, and enjoy the company and conversation. Easy, right? At the moment, it’s one more thing that I have to worry about, and the other week I started to seriously consider stopping them. Or at least one of them. But then I go to a meeting and I love it. It’s so worth it. It’s the bits in between, sending out the emails and having it niggling at the back of my head, all ‘don’t forget about this!’ Those are the parts that wear on me.

Starwalker is going really well. I keep meaning to post updates on this blog, but it’s yet another thing that I just don’t get to these days. Last month, SW had over 1,000 visitors. As in, different people, all coming to the site to read it. One thousand. And the feedback I get is amazing. People are talking about it. They’re getting excited about the storylines, and attached to the characters. I feel so lucky when I see that! I look at the stats and the comments and I’m all: “Wow. People like my stuff.” It’s a lot to get my head around!

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m going to all these new places with it, juggling and adjusting things as I go to make sure it hangs together, trying to get the physics right enough to be convincing. So far, it’s all working great! I have all of these plans for it, so many avenues still to travel down. It’s exciting, but it’s hard.

I think the difficult parts aren’t entirely down to SW itself. It’s everything else that gets in the way. It’s shifting mental gears whenever I sit down to write, trying to put all the job-related and other stuff aside for long enough to focus. It’s sitting down on the train for twenty minutes at a time and trying to get part of a post down. It’s giving up three evenings a week to pull a post together, edit it into something coherent, and get it posted. And more than anything else, it’s the exhaustion.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – it is the bane of my life, once again. All of that stuff I’m juggling makes me stressed, and stress makes the CFS worse, and then I get exhausted and that makes it more difficult to deal with the stressful stuff. Fun, huh? It has been bad (and getting worse) for the last couple of months. I keep trying to take some time off, take a break, catch my breath, and that works in tiny portions. Unless it puts me behind with everything (which it usually does), in which case I have to bust my ass to catch up again, and I wind up exactly where I started – exhausted and struggling to keep up.

Last year, I set my sights high. I didn’t do everything I aimed to do, but I did most of it and I came out of it all feeling really good about how it went. This year, I didn’t set myself targets that were anything near as ambitious, I’m not doing everything I aimed to, and I’m still failing. A week ago, I had that thought, the one that says ‘something has to give’. I’ve been here before, looking at myself in a downwards spiral, and unless I change things, I’m not going to get out of it until I hit bottom and have to stop doing everything. That was five years ago, and it was a lot worse than it is now before I realised how close and inevitable that bottom really was. Funnily enough, the key stress- and frustration-factor then was my job, too.

That, sadly, isn’t something I can change. It’ll get better eventually and now is not the time to change jobs. I am in a really good position; the best one I’ve ever been in, professionally. I’m doing well, despite all the crap I’m handling. And more than anything else, I need the stability of that place right now.

And, dammit, I don’t give up on shit easily. It’s probably part of what’s made me so sick – I should have done this a while ago – but having dealt with chronic conditions of one kind or other my whole life, I’m stubborn when it comes to this kind of thing getting in my way. There’s a part of me that suspects I should take a proper break from all the extra things in my life – the writing groups, the blogfic, the novel that’s waiting for me to edit it, the Apocalypse Blog stuff that I promised to do this year. But even as badly as I’m doing right now, I’m not ready to go quite that far. Like I said, I’m stubborn about this kind of thing.

But I have to change something. I need some way to get back on my feet. Right now, I feel like I’m failing at everything, even though it probably doesn’t look like I am. I’m told that it doesn’t show in SW yet – but it will. A post was due up yesterday and I haven’t even started it yet. I’m so exhausted that it’s difficult to think straight enough to write this, let alone slide my brain into Starry and try to step forward with her story.

I’m not going to do yesterday’s post. I’m not going to force it and have it come out half-assed. It’s time to be realistic and cut back. I thought three posts a week would be easy, but when the CFS is this bad, it’s too much. I’ve been tossing around the idea of dropping down to two posts, but I have to be honest with myself – that’s not enough. I’m not going to stop Starwalker – mostly because it will be incredibly difficult to start again if I do that – but I am going to bring it down to one post a week. Take a proper breather in it. Not permanently, but long enough for me to sort the rest of my life out. I’m not sure how long that will be yet.

I don’t know how this will affect the real-time aspect of Starwalker, but I’ll deal with it if and when it becomes a problem. I still love the story and its characters. I’m still excited about sharing it with everyone. Hell, the other day, I was pondering an old storyline I created a few years ago and realised that it would fit into the SW world perfectly. My original planned plot just got extended by another story arc. I am still committed to making this story work and won’t let this CFS screw it up completely.

So there you have it. I’m not giving up, not stopping. But I do need to step back for a while. I’ll aim to post on Wednesdays, I think, because by the end of the week I’m usually so tired I can hardly see straight. I still have to look at the other things in my life and see what I can do about them. I need to fix some non-writing-related factors as well, like the exercise I’m not doing and how often I can’t be bothered to cook. They’re next on my list.  I have some time booked off work coming up, too, and hopefully that will help me get on top of things a bit.

Wish me luck – I think I’m gonna need it – and watch this space!

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  1. Tweets that mention Starwalker posting schedule changed. -- Topsy.com says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melanie Edmonds, Manuela Durson. Manuela Durson said: Change of plan : : Adventures in Text: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – it is the bane of my life, once again. All of th… http://bit.ly/bdFbbg […]

    May 8th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

  2. Derrick says:

    Good Luck 🙂

    Take your time, relax some, and get to feeling better.

    We’ll be here when it’s done.

    I love the story, but it won’t get finished if the author is working herself to death 🙂

    May 9th, 2010 at 2:18 am

  3. Mel says:

    I really appreciate the support. Thanks, Derrick! 🙂

    May 9th, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  4. Mary says:

    I can’t even imagine the pressure you are under, but completely understand the need to take a break. I hope everything sorts out well for you and you achieve some peace. I know I will be here with lots of patience, and tons and tons of well wishes!!


    May 11th, 2010 at 12:14 am

  5. Scootergirl says:

    Hi Mel – sorry to hear that you are getting snowed under – but it’s fantastic that you’ve recognised it and taken action before things get worse. Sometimes it’s harder to slow down than to just keep going…until you burn out totally!

    As far as affecting the ‘realtime’ aspect of Starwalker, have you thought of still just posting once a week, but dividing it into 3 days of posts – so you can ‘pretend’ it’s real time? It would be a bit more work….but would help keep that real time flow going

    May 17th, 2010 at 11:54 am

  6. Mel says:

    Mary – thanks so much. I really appreciate the thought! 🙂

    Scootergirl – you’re right, it’s really hard to slow down! It hasn’t been too hard for me, but I think that just means that I really needed to do it.

    I could do as you’ve suggested, with breaking things into multiple posts. I think the problem would be the amount of writing involved – if I can keep the post lengths down, that will work, or I’ll just have three times the work to do on one day. 😉 I’ll keep it in mind, though! It’s definitely worth some consideration. Thank you!

    May 20th, 2010 at 6:20 pm

  7. Godard Baerg says:

    I could do as you’ve suggested, with breaking things into multiple posts. I think the problem would be the amount of writing involved – if I can keep the post lengths down, that will work, or I’ll just have three times the work to do on one day. 😉 I’ll keep it in mind, though! It’s definitely worth some consideration. Thank you!

    May 23rd, 2010 at 11:31 pm