The State of Things: September 2017 in Review

Autumn is here and Halloween is coming! That’s my positive spin on the fact that the Long Dark is upon us and the days are rapidly getting shorter. Candles! Faerie lights! Warm sweaters and thick socks! Hammer Horror movies! Cozy times sitting in the kitchen under my desk lamp, writing away, drinking coffee with cinnamon or cardamom! This year I’m putting extra effort into staying positive and leaning into happy things of the season and not worrying about the inevitable onset of depression and anxiety.

Manifesto of the Moment

There are a few reasons why I don’t throw myself into blogging the way that I do long-form writing. The first is that the blog isn’t a revenue stream, and my creative attention needs to be centered on getting the bills paid. The second is that I don’t find it as creatively fulfilling as long-form writing.

To write a successful, monetized blog you need to focus tightly on one subject. You can’t write about, say, minimalism one day, tabletop roleplaying the next, and the adventures of being an immigrant the day after that. Most folks who come to the site looking for content on one topic won’t be interested in the others.

With long-form writing, I can write a book or a collection of essays as a stand-alone thing, say everything that I need to say, and move on. With a blog, I always felt that I’d hitched my wagon to only writing about one thing for the rest of my life. Back when I did run a highly successful blog, I did see readers leave when I tried to stray from the main topic, and even caught flak for having the audacity to want to talk about other things.

Risks

It has been over 5 months and we still haven’t heard anything from Migri. I’m being optimistic and figuring that if they wanted to kick us out the the country, they wouldn’t waste time doing it. That’s probably me thinking like an American, though. If you want to help the cause, go buy a book; the only thing that helps with this sort of thing is money, unfortunately.

I also have to be honest that no matter how prepared I am for the Long Dark, regardless of how much preparation I’ve made, depression could slam me hard over the next 3 months. The past three years have shown that I get better after Christmas when the days get longer, but this is the most dangerous stretch of the year for my mental health.

Writing and Publishing

Someone actually tried to shame me the other day because I talk a lot about my prolific output and the number of best-sellers that I’ve published. Yes, I am a restless hype machine. I have never claimed to be the J.D. Salinger or Harper Lee of Tabletop Roleplaying. What I cop to being is the Roger Corman of roleplaying — a workhorse who can deliver an entertaining product and turn a profit on it. I boldly proclaim that I am a hack and have a financial motive for creating things. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love the things that I make. While it would be wonderful to be able to take my time and craft a perfect object, releasing one new book every 3 to 5 years that is a stunning and flawless work of art, that doesn’t get the bills paid.

Dancing Lights Press has got 47 titles available right now, and 46 of them are best sellers. I’ve paid the bills for 17 straight months solely on what I earn as a writer, game designer, and publisher. There are 12 more books in the pipeline, and my plate is full through spring of 2018. While there are a lot of things that I want to do, and some things that haven’t come to fruition in the way I’d like them to, I have no complaints. I get to keep food on the table and a roof over my head while doing something that I enjoy the hell out of.

This month I didn’t break 100,000 words written, but got close. My average word count for the year is below my 3,500 words-per-day goal, but is up over last month. I’m still on track to break the million-words-written mark sometime during October.

Health and Self-Care

Last week I wrote a blog post about the coming of the Long Dark, but I’ll recap here. After surviving three previous autumns in Finland, I know what to expect and am as prepared as possible. My focus is turned toward the things that I love about the season, and there is a lot, rather than dwelling on the things I don’t particularly care for. Living in fear of my own depression and anxiety is the surest way to bring on those issues and exacerbate them. I am managing my health, monitoring my moods, and sticking to a schedule.

While I’m throwing myself wholeheartedly into my work, I love what I do. It brings me joy, makes me feel productive, and gives me a sense of purpose. Work makes me feel as if I’m in control of things, at least as much as I can be, which staves off the anxiety. It keeps my mind occupied, which helps keep the depression at bay. The schedule I’ve worked out allows plenty of time for exercise and rest to balance things out. But for me, work is the key. I don’t just want to survive the Long Dark this year. I want to thrive in it.

Looking Forward: October 2017 and Beyond

Between the Long Dark and the ongoing uncertainty with Migri, I’m taking things one day at a time. Katie’s current deadline for her thesis and doctoral proposal are at the end of November. I’m looking forward to her having the thesis done, and have high hopes that she’ll get accepted into the Ph.D. program. The latter may come with a stipend, which will help financially, but it will also help to secure our immigration status. As always, it just feel like I need to hold on a little bit longer.

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