Finding my way out of writer’s block.

 

The past year and a bit has been a hard slog. I was diagnosed with diabetes and there have been life-changing health issues impacting me and those I love who are closest to me. And there has been transition from my old day job to a new day job. There has simply been a lot of stuff happening in my life and for the past sixteen months or so, I have felt the weight of it all. I’ve been, at times, somewhat automaton-like; going through the motions of day-to-day life without finding the joy in anything,

I’m serious. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a motivated individual.  I take great pleasure in helping motivate others like those good people who are members of Saskatoon Writer’s Meetup.  I’ve acted as a mentor to other writers. I’ve been cheering people on as they complete their projects and try to seek representation or a book deal.

But for the last year, it just hasn’t been there. My writing as suffered because I have neglected it. I simply didn’t have the juice or creative energy or whatever magic elixir kept me at it through eight published works.

My literary agent Lane Heymont has been great. He’s done a fantastic job for me and has been a huge support through whatever the hell this was. Thanks, man. You are the best. 🙂

I used to think that if one can create a light at the end of the tunnel for oneself, then you could overcome anything. What I’ve learned is that only works when life isn’t dumping new and painful ways of creating stress. There have been many days over the past year when I’ve wondered what I’ve done? Did I cause this? (Probably with the diabetes as I like pizza and beer too much.) I’ve also wondered if the crap that was bearing down on me was spilling over into other people’s lives.

I’ve had what I call a “stress ball” in the pit of my stomach now for many long months. It’s always there, patiently waiting for the next ordeal. And I’ve had panic attacks. Crippling, crawl under the sheets and want to hide out from the universe kind of panic attacks.  I can’t think of any worse feeling than to be in the throes of one. I’ve seen a counselor, I’m going back. There is much to do. I need to figure out how to manage them because I am literally a shaking, incapacitated gelatinous mass of nerves when the panic attacks come.

This month has been particularly difficult. Both my wife and I are praying that July is going to be better than June. I am so thankful for my wife’s support. She is my anchor. She helps me see things clearer. She is the source of strength that I lack and I love her very much.

All of this has come at a cost in my relationships, my health, my happiness and my ability to make others happy. It has also created the perfect storm of writer’s block and I will confess that I have contemplated walking away from writing entirely.

It’s important to understand, as well, that my writing is a way for me to manage how I feel about myself. It has helped me deal with post traumatic stress disorder because I was in a very bad way about fifteen years ago and my life collapsed entirely. I don’t want to go back there. I can’t. I barely survived it.

Writing helped me through it all. It was a barometer for my mental health. If I wasn’t writing, something wasn’t good inside my head. When I was writing, I felt I could do anything.

I have been blessed over the past ten years as an author. I’ve had a book deal or two. I went to London with my wife … twice. I’ve met fans of my books and I’ve formed friendships with people outside of Canada.

But the last sixteen months have been hell. I’m fighting through it. I’m doing the best I can and I am writing again. Not a lot, not anywhere near my previous output. Right now I am doing about 1000 words a day. I am interested in the projects I am working on. I feel invested in the plot and the characters again.

My agent has managed to get some major interest in one of my projects. We both have our fingers crossed on that one.

I am hoping, still, to get THE GIRL ON VICTORIA ROAD out to readers this summer. End-September at the latest. Thank you to everyone who has fallen for Tim Reaper and who have emailed me to say they loved the book and can’t wait for the next one.

In the meantime, I think I am coming out of writer’s block. Those health issues are still there, but I can’t be held hostage to fear of what may come because in my nearly 50 years on the planet, I’ve learned that personal shit storms seem to be cyclic. I am hoping this one is near its end.

Bear with me folks. I’m still here fighting the good fight and trying to write the good write.  Nobody said life would be easy the older you get. I’m not sure why I thought that it would be.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last year. Chief among the things I’ve learned is that I have to manage my stress better. I can’t let fear of the unknown consume me. I need to be better so I can take care of those closest to me.

Peace. I’m still here. I’m writing again.

Things have to get better.

Share
Category: Blog | LEAVE A COMMENT

Calling All Saskatchewan Authors! Red Alert! Save Our Libraries!

 

On March 22, 2017, the Sask Party government led by Premier Brad Wall presented a brutal provincial budget to the legislature and to the people of the province. There are far too many problems with this budget than my blog post can list, however, local pundit Tammy Robert ( who had a Sask Party sign on her lawn during last year’s election) has eviscerated the entire thing in this exceptional blog post.

The purpose of this blog post is to reach out to Saskatchewan authors who are as disgusted as I am with the budget and notably with cuts to libraries province-wide.

I know there is very little that authors can do beyond a symbolic show of solidarity with our libraries (and maybe a Go Fund Me … still tinkering with that idea) but I believe we absolutely must make a strong statement against the cuts. Libraries = literacy. Libraries are community resources. They are access points to the Internet. They are places where we authors have the privilege of sharing our work with readers. What’s more, libraries are multi-generational – people of all ages use them. My perspective is there are things we taxpayers bankroll that should be untouchable: libraries are near the top of that list.

So I’m hoping I can enlist enough author support to, at the very least, deliver an open letter to the government, signed by all of us who hate these cuts and who fear for the future of libraries in the province.

If you’re an author and you want to get involved, I’d be grateful if you could fill in this short form. I would then add you to a mailing list and then perhaps get a properly worded letter that is agreeable to all written and supported by everyone who is interested. I am mindful that we cannot reverse the cuts, but I can’t help but feel we need to make some kind of statement. Authors cannot stand by silently while the government cuts funds to libraries and we see these important community resources close. If you would like to sign up to be contacted about an open letter, please fill in the form below. If you would like to comment on this blog post, please scroll down past the form and you will see the comments section.

Thank you for reading.

Sean Cummings

Share
Category: Blog | LEAVE A COMMENT

Bizarro Days

Comics GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I run the risk of getting angry emails with this blog post, but then again, when isn’t the Internet outraged about something? Fair warning: this blog post might upset you if you are:

A Trump Supporter
A Trump Hater
A Conservative
A Liberal
A Lefty

It seems to me that events are playing out so quickly, we are all gasping for breath by the sheer scale of what has been happening since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the USA. Each day my social media feeds (Facebook and Twitter, primarily) are filled with Trump’s latest gaffe (sometimes two or three in a day) the accompanying mockery of said gaffe by means of Internet memes, my favorite being the one that keeps appearing twice or three times a day in my feed where Trump is signing an Executive Order and showing it to journalists. Sometimes there is a picture of a cat drawn by a three-year-old, other times there is a pop culture reference. You know the one. You’re seeing it two or three times a day as well. Other things that fill my feed are screen grabs of Trump’s latest Twitter diatribe.

This blog post, however, isn’t about Donald Trump. He gets enough press as it is and he doesn’t read the observations from an obscure Canadian author. This blog post is about how we’re all doing in this new and scary Bizarro World.

And it is a Bizarro World because the President of the United States isn’t behaving like a president should. Nobody knows how to deal with that, quite frankly, so I think his bizarro behavior just fuels internet outrage, memes, etc. I think, as well, what’s troubling for me is the level of tribalism which has really ramped up online in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. It’s as if his very existence forces people to choose sides and, unfortunately, we seem to have lost the ability or desire to try and find the good middle ground. (If such a thing exists anymore).

I’m Canadian. We have our own problems in Canada. What I find amusing is how the universe seems to be looking to Canada and our handsome and highly huggable Prime Minister as some shining beacon of tolerance and understanding. (Which Canada is not. Not even close. Just Google the words “indigenous Canadians” and “clean drinking water” or “incarceration levels” or “suicide” and you will be greeted with a multitude of news stories showing you that Canada isn’t exactly that super-polite country that apologizes for everything and where our health care system is 100% free and everybody gets an MRI within 24 hours.

We aren’t a perfect country. No country is. Power is concentrated in the Prime Minister’s office and his ministers are largely yes-men/women for the Prime Minister’s Office. Our political climate has certainly lightened up since Justin Trudeau defeated Stephen Harper in the 2015 election, but the same old game still exists in our nation’s capital – it’s only the players who’ve changed.

But back to the issue at hand, namely, we are living in a bizarro world now where “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness!”. Social media has become the Grand Central Station of our new bizarro world and we are behaving toward one another precisely the way one might expect when living in a bizarro world. (I was recently called a f—ing c-nt by someone I’d been friends with on Facebook since the old Strange Chemistry Books days. Why? Because I defended free speech and basically didn’t take a liking to the fact that the individual who called me the offensive name advocated for the killing of people with opposing political views.

Think about that for a second. Let that sink in for a few moments.

Time GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Good.

I mention this because that ain’t normal thinking. That’s bizarro thinking. I get that with the inauguration of Donald Trump, the world no longer has a frame of reference for how to handle bizarro people. And Trump is 100% bizarro. But he won and this is what people need to understand: the guy won an election in the freest country on the face of the earth. Millions of people voted for him because he represented change. (Yes, go ahead and yell at me and tell me that everybody who voted for Trump is a racist, bigoted homophobic troglodyte who fell headfirst out of the back of a turnip truck.)

Here in Canada we have a race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada where at least one of the candidates is borrowing Trump-style populism to make her case. (Her name is Kellie Leitch. She supports immigrants being screened for Canadian values, whatever the hell those are. We like donuts, hockey and beer, mostly.) We have another guy who is a reality TV star and another still (from my own city) who wants to turn the clock back on same sex marriage and abortion, among other things.

I guess what I am saying is we have to somehow learn how to live in this new bizarro world for at least four years because that’s when Donald Trump has to manage to get re-elected. And I think he will be re-elected if those who oppose him can’t come up with anything better than posting angry internet memes or a clip of Jon Oliver flailing his arms around like Kermit the frog every Monday morning.

Here is what we know:

Trump is exactly what he appears to be. He ain’t going to change. Ever. So come up with another way to express your displeasure at living in bizarro world besides posting memes and general outrage on your social media feed. Want to fight Trump and those like him?

Organize. Protest. Join an opposing political party. Write letters to the editor (assuming we still have newspapers in four years).  Organize meetups. Run for office. That’s a big one … run for office. Become a change agent, even if it’s at your local level. Regulate your online behavior. Take a few moments to consider the reasons why someone is opposed to your point of view.

Fight oppression by becoming actively involved in fighting oppression. Fight sexism and homophobia and racism by becoming actively involved with those organizations who fight it. Volunteer. Send money. Do a fund raiser. Do something.

Listen to one another. Support free speech, even when the speaker is someone who makes your skin crawl. Why? Because without free speech we have nothing. Without the rule of law, we have nothing. Without each other, we have nothing.

Those people who voted for Trump (and who support those like him) are our neighbors.  We have to learn to get along. We gotta figure this out.

Because, baby, the guy has been in for only one month.

One.

Month.

And he’s making the entire online world lose its @#$% mind.

We have to learn how to manage all of this bizarro world anger and figure out how we’re going to survive four years with this guy. I’ll close off by stating that posting Internet memes is not activism. It’s chum. Social media is now a chum bucket for memes opposing Trump, religion, insert oppression category here. Posting memes makes us feel good for about two minutes. It makes us feel like we’re doing something about something without actually having to do any heavy lifting. It gives the appearance of work where no work exists.

I’m bewildered by what’s happening to us. I’m deeply troubled that we are now living in a bizarro world. I’m going to fight it by writing about it. I’m also going to start filtering out the garbage from all sides on my social media feed. It’s getting too … well … bizarro.

Share

Bummed out about President Trump? Here’s some free books to help you feel better!

Social media is melting down this weekend because Donald Trump was sworn in as America’s 45th President yesterday. Look at how happy Donald Trump is!

I know. It sucks. Lots of people are going to march today. Others still, will continue to flood social media with memes and news stories telling us what we already know about the pussy-grabbing, orange-skinned Sith Lord but we still need to remind ourselves until our collective eyes bleed. It’s sort of a global exercise in self-flagellation when you think about it because no amount of Internet memes or expressions of despair will make him disappear from the face of the earth. We are all of us, in this together.

I figured you know what? This whole thing sucks. I know a lot of you want to drink yourself into oblivion (or smoke legalized marijuana in some states). I get that. But for those who aren’t into wrecking their liver or binge-eating Doritos due to the munchies this weekend, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. That’s right; I’m giving away books as a distraction to the beginning of what most of you believe to be the end of days.

This weekend only, the following books are FREE for your Kobo, Nook or any other e-reader that reads EPUB format. Because I care, dammit. I care too much. (Seriously, look how sad that screamer is in the video.)

Turn that frown upside down with sweet, beautiful FREE escapism that can only be found between the pages of a good book. Here they are, just click on the links and download. (Feel free to offer a review if you like. That’s how we pay it forward, yo.)

 

 

 

 

So there you go. Some nice distraction for you that, I hope at least, will help fortify your soul against the sheer surreal nature of what has transpired in America and which, unfortunately, impacts everyone on the planet because a reality TV star who is threatened by Meryl Streep has the keys to the nuclear weapons cabinet.

Read! Enjoy! Distract yourself because the next four years are sure to be spectacular.

Share

Happy 2017! Thanks for your support in 2016!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Best wishes for 2017!

 

Share
Category: Blog | LEAVE A COMMENT