Monday, July 2, 2018

Slothing, Deadlines and Retirement

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I've always been a writer. I went to work for my parents' advertising agency before I was out of elementary school. I sold my first novel in 1979. I'm even one of the 40 or so women who founded RWA in 1980. I have been Editor in Chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups. Last year I wrote five novels.

As I've probably told you, during the last quarter of last year I had three surgeries - the first ones I've ever had. The first two went very well and recovery was speedy. Oh, don't get me wrong - the third one went better than could be expected, but had unintended consequences.

I had been told that I would be on strict bed rest for at least 8 days after the surgery, which didn't upset me at all. No distractions! I thought. I can spend all day writing without feeling guilty for not doing any housework.

Wrong. Oh, I had The Husband bring my computer on a bed tray and put it in the bed beside me. In case writing palled, I had the remote to the DVD player across the room, loaded with a movie I had requested. There were a couple of sodas, a full ice bucket and some tasty snacks by the bed. None of it made any difference - I didn't utilize any of them. I slept. I slept like a dead thing, barely waking to go to the bathroom - the only excursion I was allowed. For all 8 days.

At the end of my incarceration I was released to semi-invalidism; I could get up and move around the house, as long as I kept my foot (it was foot surgery) elevated. Now The Husband set up my typing table in front of the TV, I had the remote in hand and sodas and snacks beside me. Now I am awake, I thought, I can really get some good writing done.

Wrong again. I indulged in an orgy of mindless daytime TV and somehow managed to escape total brain death... but no writing got done. I even coined a new word for this strange lassitude - slothing - and have taken the sloth as my spirit animal.

Now it is 6 months later and I still have done very little writing, and a dreary sales record isn't helping. I haven't finished a single book so far - and I'd better get a wiggle on, because I have a deadline in early August, and I've never missed a deadline in my life. This lackadasicalness is very untypical of me; I've always loved writing and indulged in it every moment I could. Writing was my escape from a world that all too often unappealing.

Now, for the first time in my life, writing has become work, and that alarms me. I am of an age where retirement is expected, and even though I had never thought to retire from writing the idea is beginning to have its appeal. I am drawn to increasing the time spent on my political and social activism. I would like to do more work with my women's clubs and my scholarly Egyptological organization. And there are some bits of housekeeping that simply must be done! (I fully admit to lacking the housekeeping gene...) There are five full novels, all complete and edited, ready for cover and formatting and release, sitting metaphorically on my desk. (Actually they're on the computer, but you know what I mean.)

Perhaps part of my lassitude is brought on by the sudden and unexpected death of my dear friend and long-time cover artist Dawn Charles. A friend can never be replaced, but a cover artist not only can but must be... eventually. I've shied away from seeking covers for the simple reason that Dawn spoiled me - she 'got' what I wanted. After 20-odd covers, I just don't have the heart to start auditioning new artists right now.

So for now I am still working at working. I have contracts that must be fulfilled, and fulfilled they will be. Maybe by the time this contract is completed and I have found a new cover artist (those five novels deserve a better fate than being imprisoned forever in my computer) this cloud will have lifted from my spirit and I will be back in the saddle again, writing like a fiend and loving it. I kind of hope so.


  1. I'm glad you're recovering well. I know from personal experience that recovering from surgery takes more time than expected. As for your writing, it sounds like you're doing very well with five new novels set for publication.

  2. Thanks for introducing me to a new word - slothing - a state I slip into at times.

  3. So glad to hear that you are almost back to normal. Don't give up on writing just because you are in the middle of a "sloth." As writers we all slip now and then, but I hope you find the enthusiasm to get back to what you love and do so well -- writing.

  4. I think many of us go through the dry spell you're talking about. You've been so prolific all these years that this "clothing" is taking you by surprise, but believe me, it too will pass!

  5. Bless your heart! I find so many excuses not to write and then I get sick again with some idiotic thing or other . . . surgery is so tough to "get over," even when you don't have pain. Your body is insulted by the invasion, I gather, and pouts for a while. Anyway, we BOTH need to get to work here!

  6. I've heard it can take a long time to fully recover from surgery and the older we get the longer it takes. Take care of yourself and you'll likely find your enthusiasm for writing return along with your health.