Short version: Comics will be posted in the last week of February (2/23 and 2/25), then there will be a break, and comics will resume on April 6th.
(I briefly debated making the return on April 1st, but didn’t want there to be any confusion or concern that somehow this was a really long-game Liar’s D- I mean, April Fool’s Prank. Blugh. Liar’s Day.)
The Long Version is I’ve had three major challenges tackle me all at once, and I need time to sort things out. They are as follows:
1. Kickstarter Books have arrived!
That means I now have roughly 100 orders to fill. All of which have custom drawings, many of which have extra goodies. I am also working with a local book store, The Tattered Cover, to have a book launch party in March. This is something I’ve never done before and I’m very nervous about it, but also excited! I will post more about that event next week.
2. Script Scrap
The script for chapter 11 has held up remarkably well, but I just stumbled over a major mistake that went overlooked in the previous several revisions. One that can’t be fixed with a small dialog tweak, or the insertion of a small scene bridge. An empty suit character — a personality that isn’t fully formed, and thus only serves the needs of whatever the plot requires at the moment — managed to sneak in undetected. And while I COULD just keep churning out pages along the original script, it would be a far, far weaker story. And I don’t want to do that to this chapter or these characters.
Unfortunately, choosing quality means scrapping a lot of existing work. I have started overhauling the empty suit into a real character with personality, motive, and opinions. Then I’ll need to go through and rework any bit of script he’s touched, which is a significant part of the remainder of this chapter. I don’t know how significant the impact will be yet. It may turn out that most events are relatively unchanged, just the mannerisms and responses vary. Or, these small changes could have a trickle-down impact, steering the events of the chapter in drastically different directions. I won’t know until I start applying the personality to the interactions.
Above all, I want to bring you a quality story. The best story I am capable of producing. As much as it pains me, right now that means taking a break to the comic to focus on fixing its future story.
3. Extended Depression Low
The past several months I’ve also had to contend with an extended depressive low. This means, in order to do anything, it requires twice as much energy as it normally would, if not more. Energy to observe my own behavior. Energy to correct erroneous thoughts. Energy to attempt a new way of thinking or viewing a situation. Energy to take care of myself so I am getting the sufficient rest, food, hydration, and basic hygiene needed to support any other activities beyond that. By the time I get to work, there is no more energy to enjoy it. It’s just a plodding, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other enterprise.
I have described it to my therapist as, “being an anchored buoy.” There is just enough slack on the rope that, if I swim as hard as I can all the time, I can just get my face out of the water enough to breathe. That’s a good day. Getting to see the sun a little and breathe. Most days…it’s a few gasps and then I’m back down in the water, tangled up in sea weed and wrangling with kraken. On the worst days, I just feel so tired, and I wonder if it would be so bad to slip into the sea.
In the past, I would power through. Grit my teeth and crawl, one task at a time, out of the feeling. Slap a smile on my face, hide the experience, pretend it wasn’t how I felt. I am very convincing and practiced at this. However, as I’ve been through this cycle many times now, I’ve realized that this only perpetuates the problem. Certainly, I get things done, and that gives me a brief thrill of accomplishment and a false sense of value, because I have trouble separating my value as a person from the value of my work. However, it also leaves me emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. Which makes me an easy target for the depression to sneak back in and drag me under the waves, far deeper than before.
So I know the old method isn’t a whole or healthy one, but I don’t have a new method developed yet. It leaves me in a strange limbo of doubt. I question every thought. Second-guess every instinct. Is this the way out, or just another trap? Just another way my mind can spiral down?
The dominant flavor of this particular lull (they have changed as I’ve worked with a therapist for the past several years) is one of pointlessness. A heavy blanket of feeling that nothing I do, or have done, or ever will do, has any real meaning or value. On the one hand, intellectually I know value itself is a relative thing. Value to whom? To myself? To others? In what context? Yes, I am but a speck of dust in the face of the infinite void of space, but is there such shame in that, when all of us are but dust? Should I accept the feeling of pointlessness as a fact of the human condition? Yet, isn’t it also a paradoxical reality, depending on how we live our lives, that we can choose to live them with purpose? That our actions can have ripples upon ripples, many of which we will never see or understand, that could be valuable elsewhere? Or is that acceptance of pointlessness is, in fact, a trap? Should I fight for a point of view where I can have hope for my own dreams, rather than an abstract, disconnected perspective of my worth as a stone tossed in a pond, the ripples remaining, but the stone itself lost?
…It goes round and round like that, this dialog in my mind. I don’t have any answers. I’m not even sure it’s as important or as impenetrably complex as it seems.
On the bad days, it makes it hard to move. Hard to think. Hard to act. Because I feel nothing I do or try has any point. No matter how much effort and will I attempt to exert, it will be a hopeless effort. I am Sisyphus, hauling his rock to the top of the mountain, with the certainty that when I reach the summit, the rock will fall because the gods willed it so. And down, down, down I will have to go to retrieve it, and haul it back up again.
It occurred to me yesterday that I have never actually reached the top of the mountain. I have never had the rock fall. I only have the belief that it will. It is not the task itself that is crushing. It is the certainty that it WILL be fruitless in the end.
How do I reconcile that certainty with a complete lack of proof?
I tell you this, not as a request for comfort or advice, but because these kinds of feelings and these kinds of battles are rarely talked about. Because depression grows and breeds and thrives in silence. Because some of you reading this may have yourself felt an echo of these feelings, and thought yourselves abnormal for it. You’re not. We’re not. This is a part of life with chronic depression. Facing it is not an escape, but it is a means of learning how to live with it. To incorporate and accept it.
So I have decided to do what I’ve never done, and give myself some time. Time to be with these feelings for a while, instead of charging on past them. I still have the concrete, clear tasks of shipping books and revising scripts. I still have a return date. However, I will also have time, which is not something I’ve ever allowed myself much liberty for.
Maybe I will find a better way in that time. Maybe I will find a better means of living with that ocean.
I hope that you’ll look forward to my return, and the completion of this chapter. My therapist reminded me that not all stories are written in the same, regular, unabated pace. Many novelists spend years and years beyond their expected schedules, working to get the final product what it needs to be. In the end, LeyLines is a long, involved story. Not a quick, easily consumed joke each day. I have to give it the time it needs, and the time I need, to be the best I am capable of creating.