It’s been a while.
I’ve thought about writing this a few times in the recent months, but I never really knew what to say. How to say it. Maybe I still don’t.
Have you ever fallen apart? My doctor described it as hearing your car make a strange sound, and turning up the music so you don’t hear it any more. You can set that 90’s bass as heavy as you like, and you can crank the volume as high as it will go, but eventually, whether you like it or not, the wheels will fall off and you… well, you’ll crash.
Let’s say, for the joy of metaphor, that I’ve been turning the music up for a long, long, long time. Decades. I have very few super powers; one of them is hyper-mobile elbow joints, another is putting things that I’d rather not deal with into a box and slamming the lid shut. I’m not just good at it, I’m great at it. Someone says something hurtful? Box. Aching joints? Box. Feeling isolated? Box. Box, box, boxity box.
At some point last year, I ran out of boxes. The iron fist of my will was no longer enough to keep them shut. The music couldn’t go any louder.
The wheels fell off.
It wasn’t even particularly spectacular; not like you’d expect a wheelectomy should be. There was no roar, no fireball, no flying of debris. It was a pathetic, wibbly-wobbly, near-silent kind of thing. I’d like to call it a flop, or a slump, but it wasn’t even impressive enough for that.
There are particulars, of course. Details, reasons, and the like – but unless you’ve got a jug of cocktails and a few thousand years, you’ll be grateful that I’m not about to unpack all of that here. Assuming, that is, that I even knew where to start.
What is relevant is that I was no longer able to do the thing around which my innermost self revolves: write. The creative well which has overflowed for the entirety of my conscious memory was suddenly dry, and with no way to eke moisture from stone, I was left adrift in a way I have never been before. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write; I couldn’t. That furious, wild voice inside of me, the only thing that has ever truly been mine, was silent – and I didn’t know if it was ever coming back.
This, it seems, was my penance. The price I had to pay for ignoring the many sounds my metaphorical car had been making for so many years.
Does it sound dramatic? I suppose it might, to some, but to me it was a very real and very visceral loss – and along with the many other contributing factors, I shut down.
It wasn’t a choice. I didn’t wake up one morning and actively decide to just… not. It simply happened, between one moment and the next, when the house of cards upon which I balanced dissolved and I was left gawping like a waterless fish.
So. Here we are, some months later, with an enormous amount of spent tissues the only thing I have to show for my time. I wish it was books – but alas, unless we are concocting the Universal Almanac of Snot and Despair, it is not.
I am not one for a pity party.
I am not the kind to give up, even when I have given everything I have left to give.
I am not one to quit, to surrender, to allow myself to languish forever, a fragile glass unicorn smashed upon the cliffs of eternity.
My grandmother taught me to be practical. Where others would mourn losses and share pain with me, she would say, ‘and now what will you do?’
The first thing I did was start the long, painful journey to accepting myself as I am; chronic conditions, sparkly brain, lonely heart, spoons… the lot. (If you are unfamiliar with spoon theory, google it. You’re welcome.) It’s still a work in progress, and for all the days I win, I also lose, but I am still doing it. Who is Samantha Marshall? I don’t know, but I’m sure as all the hells doing my damndest to find out.
The next thing I did, and am still doing, is forgive myself. For not being the same as everyone else, for not being who I thought I should have been, for not doing the dishes, for not trying hard enough, for forgetting to defrost the meat for dinner, for not earning a solid and reliable income, for not baking a cake this week, for not being fit and healthy, for not resting, for feeling guilty about resting, for not doing all the authorly things other authors are doing, for hating myself, for loving others too much that I cannot say no, for trying to love myself enough that I can say no, for actually saying no, for not working so I can spend the day playing video games with my kids, for working instead of spending time with my kids, for not being a better wife, for burning the dinner, for wanting more than I may be capable of, for not being able to ignore the physical demands and make it happen anyway, for being too little, for being too much, for saying sorry whilst simultaneously being unable to fix the issue, for not saying sorry enough, for being someone who has given so much of herself over her life that she never really learnt to be herself. For everything, I forgave myself, and continue to do so every day. Everything.
Grudgingly, I have also taken my doctor’s advice and am trying to view the requirements of my body/self not as shackles to hold me down, but as an understanding of my own limitations so that I can be the best possible version of myself at all times. Sometimes, this means ticking every item off my to-do list and kicking the day in the arse. Other times, this means horrid migraines, complete exhaustion, burnt dinner and an oodie. The key is accepting it (no matter how unimpressed I am) and refusing to see it as a flaw.
Lastly, when I could not write, I loosed the noose I had tied so tightly around myself and allowed my creativity to express itself in other ways. Oh, I mourned, don’t think otherwise. I celebrated the success of other authors even while I sobbed at my own inability to be superhuman. But I also opened my journal for the first time in over a year. Learnt how to do winged eyeliner. Dusted off my paper crafting supplies. Taught myself to do my own nails. (Thank you, Morgan – you will never know how much your support and generosity helped rebuild my shattered spirit.)
I even baked a cake, for no other reason that I wanted to eat it. And in the spirit of the woman whose voice has been encouraging me from beyond the veil to just keep going, I baked a Grandma Cake. (Yes, it’s a thing. Those who know, know.)
A few days ago, the strangest thing happened. I was clawing my way out of a series of migraines (eight in ten days, but who’s counting? Me. I am counting. Screw you, brain) and looking for something light that I could do which would occupy my brain without being overly taxing. Without really considering it, I picked up my ipad, settled myself in a comfy spot, and wrote.
Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. It wasn’t a lot, but those words felt like coming home. (Or, you know, whatever other cliche you’d like to use.)
I was worried it’d be a one-off, but later that night, I sat and wrote some more. The next day, I got the urge to read a book. The day after that (yesterday) I woke up with ideas for stories, worlds and characters who’d been in hibernation so long I worried they’d abandoned me completely.
I have never been so happy to be wrong.
What now? What next? When will the next book be? Will I be brave enough to check my emails? Or, good grief, reply to them?
I don’t know.
What I do know is it’s still there, that precious spark I feared I’d extinguished through my own stubborn determination. It’s still there. It’s still there. It’s still there.
Not only do I plan to nurture it, but this time, I will be protecting it. There will be no pressure applied. No pushing through sleepless nights in some ridiculous effort to build an entire career by dawn. No carving off pieces of myself because I’m ‘too niche’, or ‘not marketable’, or ‘going about it all wrong’. For the gods’ sakes, I’m writing books, not performing neurosurgery. There is no right and wrong; only what works for me.
And what works for me is writing at my own pace, in my own way, for no other reason than because I love it – and with any luck, producing a piece of work which will not only make other people smile, but will also be quality rather than quantity.
Oh, yes. If you’re looking for a book-a-month author, you can forget it.
Did you know that I was once told, back before this all went horribly sideways, that to stand any chance of success I needed to release 4-6 books a year at a minimum? That’s one every three months just to hit the bottom end of that target. Now, anything over 40,000 words is considered ‘full length’, but my average seems to be between 100,000 and 150,000 words. So… no. I will no longer be slaughtering myself in an attempt to release a minimum of four books a year, each of which is two to three times longer than the other books I see being released by my contemporaries.
Likewise, I value quality. Whist no-one is perfect, I want my book to be the best it can be before I release it into the wild. I want growth every book. I want layers. I want depth. I want characters so full-bodied they could walk through your front door and you wouldn’t be surprised. I will not sacrifice that simply to get the book out faster. I won’t. I will re-draft at least twice, edit probably three or four times, re-structure whole sections if necessary. I will spend time formatting until it looks the way I want; professional and immersive. I will pour hours into making covers – until they’re not just book covers that catch your eye but works of art. I will release them when I’m ready, and not a moment before.
If you prefer the kind of book that’s quick and simple, that’s fine. I am not saying those books, or the authors who write them, are not worth anyone’s time.
I’m saying that I’m not one of those authors.
I am not here for the quick fix; I’m here for the long haul. I want to write books you will go back to for the rest of your life – the kind of thing you want in a special edition hard cover just so you can take it off your shelf, flip the pages, smell the richness inside, and smile.
I will not bow down. I will not apologise. I will not write what is popular or marketable simply because they are popular and marketable. I will not stop writing what I enjoy because I’d make more money if I ditched my science fiction and wrote contemporary romance. I like spaceships. I don’t like reading about trips to the supermarket; I do that enough in my every day life.
If this means I starve for my art, so be it. Because I can tell you now, I’ve starved my art in the name of practicality and so-called business, and all it got me was broken.
I’m not a businesswoman. I’m an artist.
I am fire, and dragons, and magic. I am too much, too loud, too different. Quirky. Eccentric. Unique.
I am the fucking Queen of a Publishing Empire.
So here I am, Grandma. I’ve got my dustpan and broom, and I’m sweeping those shattered pieces up off the ground. Piece by piece, I’m going to let them glue themselves back together however they see fit.
Not perfect. Scars on show. Smile crooked, hands shaking, not enough spoons – but here.
I am here.
A kaleidoscope of colour who prefers to wear black, believes in magic, and writes stories that are funny, happy, sad, lovey-dovey, brutal, gross, rude and above all, unapologetically good.
2 thoughts on “Where has the Spoonicorn gone?”
Trust me, you are so far from alone. Keep on keeping on the best way for you.
Thank you gorgeous ❤