Man, 2016. What a cruddy year. The entire year was colored by death, some quite personal and others merely sentimental. I lost an uncle in January–the first of that generation of my family to pass. Two days after we buried him, my mother died. I was there for the entire 24 hours she took to let go, and those images still haunt me. The other day I caught a glimpse of her ’80s face in my mind’s eye, so that’s progress. “Time heals the wounds that no one can see” sayeth St. Todd of Rundgren.
David Bowie died in January, too. While his passing had nowhere near the impact on me that losing my mother did, it impacted me nonetheless. As a grade schooler I picked Bowie as a favorite artist the way other kids picked favorite football teams, and like them I stuck with my choice. But unlike a Yankees fan, I know my team won’t be taking the field next year, and that’s a bit depressing.
A rash of events occurred in the spring that dried up my paid writing work, none of which I care to go into. This seemed like a blessing: Losing my mother left me questioning the point of writing disposable essays that were no more than “content,” anyway. I’m proud of the work that I did for hire, but it’s disposable. All of that death made wasting time on disposable work seem really foolish.
On April 4, 2016, I finished up the last story in the arc that I intended for Why It Matters —
the story that I began writing in November 2010. I wasn’t ready to wrap it up, but that particular narrative was beginning to cause friction with some friends, and I simply didn’t have the energy to fight about it.
My original intention for the 251 numbered creative non-fiction pieces that comprise the original Why It Matters was to treat them as rough drafts that I’d later polish into a book. I reread a few of them recently, and I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I don’t know what you were thinking, either, hanging in there for five and a half years while I plodded through that nonsense.
Without paying clients or the WIM project, I scrambled for things to do. I wrote a couple of short stories, which was fun. Flipping the script on the Harambe story felt artistically successful, but I didn’t bother to shop it around. The same held true for my fictionalized presidential race. A few other pieces of short fiction never made it past the rough draft stage, but I still have them. Perhaps when my mind clears up I’ll finish them.
I submitted 15 or so pieces to literary magazines. All but one were rejected. Two anthologies that I was supposed to appear in haven’t materialized. Even a piece that I was working on gratis for a friend was turned down before I even got to a solid rough draft.
It’s as if I’ve forgotten how to write–how to tell a story. I haven’t been in a rut this deep and long since I started WIM six years ago. With all of the mortality crashing down around me it’s no wonder, but that doesn’t change the fact that running on empty for nearly a year has left me drained and frustrated. Whether my mojo will come back isn’t really the question. The question is whether I will have given up before then.
So that’s the year in WIM. Thanks to all of you who have hung in there. Regardless of whether you’ve ever made your presence known, you’re still very important to me and I truly appreciate you dropping in and spending a little time with me each week.