A Living Nightmare of a Decade?
There’s been a thing going round. One of those things. Posting a picture from ten years ago and one from this year, to illustrate the changes in a decade. Another thing has been to list your achievements in the last decade. Both have made me shudder. I couldn’t find a picture of me from 2009 that I wanted to share and when I have compared to now, it’s clear the decade has aged me. But ten years ages everyone, so no surprises there.
The title for this blog is a bit over dramatic, I’ll grant you that, but this morning in the shower, I was thinking about it quite hard, and this year feels like a living nightmare I can’t seem to wake up out of, and there’s been long periods of time during the whole decade where I’ve felt truly desperate.
So, I’ll start with some achievements for the decade. I’ve published 13 books. By that I mean (lest you think otherwise) I self-published 13 books. No publisher involved. A good friend pointed out to me that the emphasis on publishers (being the sole gatekeepers etc) is a relatively new thing, that the publishing industry as we now know it is recent. Jane Austen self-published, for example. Lots of authors who are household names did. Then somehow it all changed, and self-publishing became vanity publishing. Around ten years ago, that changed. First in a tentative trickle, then a gush and then a full-on flood. I began in the relatively early days. I have had some success. A number of my books have been in the best seller lists for the giant behemoth we will not name. But the gold rush is long over, and old glories are quickly forgotten and you’re only as good as your most recent book. My most recent book was published in July 2017. I might as well not exist any more, as an author, except I know that there are folks awaiting the next book and that somehow keeps me going.
I’ve completed a couple of novels this decade, one novella and a lot of short stories, some poetry and over a thousand blog posts. I’ve had poetry in the national press (The New European, for clarity). I’ve got about 6 novels in various states of disrepair on my hard drive, as well as 5 completed ones from my period of productivity between 2003 and 2006, still unpublished. Of the incomplete ones, there’s a sequel to Strangers and Pilgrims that’s around a third written, a sequel to Square Peg, around one quarter written, another strand of a related theme to Strangers and Pilgrims around one fifth written and then abandoned because I got hopelessly discouraged. There’s a novel about selkies and TEFL, abandoned at around 20k words. One semi-fantasy novel abandoned at the same point. And what started as a short story I’d intended to perhaps release for Halloween this year that has decided it’s a proper novel and is at almost 30k words. I am chipping away at that one and the sequel to Strangers, in dribs and drabs, but it’s hard work, because this year has been so extraordinarily atrocious, finding the energy to detach from the pain (both physical and mental) is hard. There’s a collection of fables within a few hours of concentrated work of being ready to publish.
My health this decade has taken a beating. I’ve had surgery three times. I’ve been diagnosed with a congenital issues that takes a lot of living with. This year I have had shingles TWICE, kidney stones and a kidney infection that had me in bed for a week and ill for a full month. My mental health has suffered terribly. I’ve woken up to investigate one aspect I’d never even looked at before as a probable factor: autism. I’m waiting for a formal assessment (been waiting 2.5 years now) but it seems likely that like many women my age, who have masked and passed as neurotypical, living as a neurodivergent person in an unfriendly world, has added to my burden of depression and anxiety. As has my connective tissue disorder. I am so very very tired. Autism accounts for a huge number of things that have meant life has been that bit harder.
It’s been a decade of loss, too. Friends lost, sometimes to death, and sometimes to disagreements and sometimes because they weren’t really friends to start with. Betrayal is a terrible loss. We’ve lost one beloved dog, two cats, and now four guinea pigs. This year, I lost my father to death and my mother to dementia. In June we lost a dear friend to cancer.
As I write, the UK is gearing up for a general election. I try to avoid politics in my online presence, though that’s been less so in the last three years since the Referendum split the country so divisively. I am seeing life the effects of the imposition of a policy of austerity, imposed solely for ideological reasons which are deeply troubling (evidence has shown the economic effects of the policies have not worked), and it is killing countless people by a process of attrition and neglect. The parallels to Orwell’s 1984, with the constant lies being paraded as truth, the hatred and the deliberate misinformation, are chilling. I do not understand how people can be like this, or vote for policies that cause such suffering. Child poverty in the UK is at shocking levels; the United Nations raised this very issue. My feeling is that greed from high levels, and “I’m all right Jack” attitudes further down are indicated as causes. Ten years ago, food banks hardly existed, now they’re so ubiquitous that they’re in new children’s books. It must change. It MUST.
I’m aware that this may read as a litany of misery, and I am sorry for that. Like Greta Thunberg, I believe we need to face things squarely, and not pretend things are hunky-dory, because they’re not. There are elements of hope and one of mine is for a change of government, to one that actually cares about the people it is meant to SERVE. Serve, not milk to destruction and then slaughter for further profit. I’ve not blogged since September and in all honesty, I’m not sure anyone will have read this far, because, understandably, many of us are trying to keep focusing on good things, on hope and kindness and so on, and negative articles are often hard to read when you are yourself bogged down with troubles (as I know many of my friends, on and offline are). But I cannot remain silent forever.
At the end of this blog, I would ask that if you wish to comment, or respond to other comments, please be respectful and gentle, for my sake and for that of others. We will only survive by supporting each other, not by tearing each other down. There’s only a little over 4 weeks left of this year and this decade and I for one would like to begin 2020 with a bit of hope and a shed-load of kindness and decency.