Objectively speaking, 2018 was the worst year of my life. For all the positives that have cropped up during my creative endeavors, the bad far outweighs it all.
I’m not going to go into every little detail here. Truth be told, I don’t like going through things like this publicly. On top of that, this involves a number of other people whom I feel should have a choice as to whether they talk in depth about it. However, I feel like I need to let people know why I was the way I was in 2018. Why I was slow to respond to e-mails, why I didn’t always do more than leave a like on a post, and why I messed up a few times.
I am a parent to three children. Raising kids is a wonderful thing in my eyes, and I love doing it, but it isn’t always easy. 2018 was a perfect example of that.
This all started with an escalation of various events, leading ultimately to us removing one of the children from mainstream education. They’re suffering from mental health issues, and despite multiple attempts to keep them on the standard educational path, in the end, this was the best option for them. Now, homeschooling isn’t actually as difficult as I thought. There are a lot of resources out there to help, lots of support from the local council, and it’s not like they want to remain outside the mainstream system forever. In fact, from an educational standpoint, they’ve been progressing better than before. With how they’re doing in that regard, this shift has actually been good for them.
But the mental health issues remain. Those who either have or know people who have suffered from depression know how up and down it can be emotionally. We had good days and bad days. For the most part, things did seem to be looking up, but it wasn’t without difficulties. I’ve spoken a little before about my own suffering in my younger years, and my children are aware of that. So, when asked about said period of my life, I was, of course, willing to answer questions. If it helps them make sense of what they’re feeling and experiencing, I would do so every day if necessary. But those are wounds that aren’t particularly pleasant to pick at, and talking at length about it all again was something that I hadn’t done for a long time. Oddly, writing about it is easier to an extent. I guess it creates a relative distance from the events if I’m not saying it out loud. Talking though was tough, not just because revisiting it all hurt, but because I could see the parallels for my child.
Eventually, things seemed to improve a bit. But, just as things were looking up more often than not, we discovered that another of my children had been suffering. The reasons were different, and how it manifested for them was different, but it still meant facing up to the fact that two of our kids had problems with mental health. Now, for that child, the cause was easier to pinpoint and deal with, and while they’re still working through a lot of things, they are getting a lot better. I don’t want to devalue their experiences here; I’m just saying that, while it’s difficult, we’re getting there. There’s a clear light at the end of the tunnel.
As the year marched on, we had seen a lot of ups and downs, especially for the first child. In the end, something happened, and we were thrown back to square one. Up until then, I had been working part-time in a school. By part-time, I mean an hour a day. That time coincided with my child’s lunch break during homeschool, so it worked out quite well. This particular incident though meant that we needed to take the step of ensuring that someone was there all day. Given how small my income was, it made sense for it to be me that steps back from work for a time.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. My children come first, so whatever is needed, I’ll be there to do it. It is a strange feeling though. I left my previous job due to a combination of being severely mucked around by my immediate upper management and office closures making it impossible to remain in place. Since then, the part-time school job was the only one I could find, and now I don’t have that either. Until the last few years, I have not been anything other than full time employed since leaving high school. As necessary as it is, it feels odd. I’m a creature of habit. My routine has changed multiple times over the last few years, and I’ve not had the time to let a new one embed itself. That has been more of a struggle than I’d like.
Then, to top things off, my partner’s father died. He was a good man, and to see him how he was at the end was heartbreaking. We took over arranging the funeral and, along with the expected stresses of doing that, we had to deal with a few mess-ups in the process too. That was a huge knock for everyone, especially as close as it was to Christmas.
In short, it’s been a tough time for all of us.
So, what does this all mean? Well, as we start 2019, we’re all hurting. Emotionally, I’ve been struggling more than I like to show. With everyone else hurting so much, I’ve been trying to remain strong for them. It’s not like I’m not doing any self-care, and it’s not like my partner doesn’t help me too, but it’s been hard. Really hard. And it’s had a knock-on effect.
My only personal income now comes from creative stuff. Book sales, short story sales, sponsored content, ad revenue, that sort of thing. The problem is, I’ve not been in the right frame of mind to deal with it all for a very long time. I miss deadlines that I set for myself. I get behind with book reviews. I’m slow to respond to people. I even missed a press pass for a convention that had somehow landed in my spam folder and I just didn’t notice. When it comes to running the site, I haven’t felt like leaving long replies to people. It really isn’t personal, it’s just that I haven’t been up to doing it. The whole moving to self-hosted thing? That was actually really good for me because it gave me something to focus on. Distractions are good, and that was something that needed focus, so I was able to throw myself at it.
As far as the books go, I’ve been burning bridges without meaning to. You see, one of the most important things to do when selling books is to seek reviews. With how I’ve been though, I’ve gone through a run of messing up the initial correspondence. Often, this has meant crafting e-mails that match the reviewers’ criteria, sending them to the right people, but placing the wrong name at the top of the message.
If you’ve not worked with reviewers before, you may not be aware of how big a faux pas that can be. For some, it’s not been a big deal, especially if I’ve either worked with them before or caught the error shortly after sending and managed to get a follow-up apology in. For others though, it’s not so easy to fix. Some don’t respond. Others do, aggressively and at length.
And here’s the thing. I don’t blame them for reacting the way they do. It’s not an issue that’s bothered me so much when people have reached out to me, but the general consensus is very much that it’s disrespectful to the reviewer. I mean, if their name is on their site, how could you not take the time to check that, right? They are more than within their rights to be upset by someone messing that up. Unfortunately, check as I might, I’ve just not been in a place where I can be as careful as I want to be.
But, in my current situation, if I want to have an income, I have no choice. So instead of stepping back, I get to build a list of reviewers that likely won’t touch me again. I get to miss deadlines. And I get to fall behind with enjoying everyone else’s work. I’m really hoping to get it all under control this year, but it may take a while. I do still think that forcing myself to focus on projects is good in the long-run, but making sure I maintain that focus is not so easy.
So, that was 2018 for me. I’m grateful for the good things that happened, I really am. But I’m also happy that it’s done. I need 2019 to be better.
Anyway, thanks for reading. Here’s to a better year. And please, be patient with me.