I have dwelt upon this Earth for four decades now, and if there’s anything I can say that applies to the entire span, it’s this: it certainly hasn’t been boring. There’s always something.
2014 was a difficult year for me in many respects, a rewarding one in others. On a personal level, many of my relationships with friends and family were strengthened this year, and I made some high-quality new friends. My level of fulfillment from church activity increased. I lost 10 pounds. I went on the record as being a faithful LDS Mormon who is also a gay homosexual, an openness (on both counts) that has brought blessings of its own.* In general, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, things are trending upward for Eric D. Snider.
But mentally, things have been tough. My depression has mostly been kept at bay, but I’ve been going through prolonged stretches of brain uselessness, where I can’t concentrate enough to get any work done, at least not anything requiring creativity. You know, like writing.
I used to be prolific and fast. It was sort of my “thing.” Here’s how many movie reviews I wrote in previous years and this year:
And other movie-related columns — the sort of thing I generally do for a living:
Remember Snide Remarks? I only wrote 14 of them in 2013 and felt bad about it. In 2014, I wrote zero. That’s even fewer than 14!
During these bad phases, which can last weeks at a time, a piece that I ought to be able to write in a couple hours will take an entire day, even two, and is always exhausting. Nothing comes easily. Everything is like pulling teeth. I’ll have a few good days here and there, and I managed to write several things this year that I was proud of, but in general, this state of befuddled low output is how it’s been for more than a year now.
It’s terribly frustrating and demoralizing. You can’t work, but there’s no apparent reason for it, so you feel worthless, and feeling worthless makes you depressed, and being depressed makes it hard to work. Also, not working (when you’re a freelancer) means not making money, which means being stressed about finances, and stress makes it hard to work. And so on. It gets so bad that you start writing in the second person instead of the first.
This is why I’ve hardly written anything all year. What I’ve put out (here’s the whole list) is all I’ve been able to muster, and it’s an embarrassingly small amount — embarrassing, in my mind, because I can’t point to a logical reason for it. True, it didn’t help that two of my regular outlets — Film.com and the world/independent section of About.com — went out of business this year, but I can’t blame it all on that.
It’s not as simple as “I’ve been depressed,” although I do think it’s connected to that, and my doctor and I have tinkered with my medications to try to fix it, but with no lasting success. On the days when I’m productive, I look back on these phases and think: Bah, you’re just lazy! But when I’m IN the phase … believe me, it’s something else entirely. I WANT to write. I just can’t focus my thoughts for more than a few moments at a time.
I’m confident there’s a solution to this problem. I’m not worried it will last forever. I’m continuing to talk to my doctor and to try new ideas. Maybe ADHD meds! Maybe sleep apnea is to blame for at least some of the mental fogginess! Maybe there’s a “Flowers for Algernon” situation happening! The possibilities are endless.
Anyway, I just wanted to tell you what’s been going on. I probably should have said something sooner, but I kept thinking I was juuuust about to snap out of it. I’ve hardly even discussed it with my friends and colleagues for that same reason, not to mention it’s a little embarrassing, professionally. I can’t shake the idea that it’s somehow my own fault, or that people will think it is. But now it’s the end of the year, and that seems like a good time to reflect and to settle one’s accounts. You faithful readers deserve an explanation for why I’ve been M.I.A. My editors deserve thanks for working with me even though I haven’t been at the top of my game.
I feel so bad about not having written Snide Remarks all year. I still owe you 26 of them from the last Kickstarter, and you will get them, I promise. You have my word, and I am a man of my word. They will be hilarious. I’m wetting my pants just thinking about how hard you’ll laugh.
I also have plans for a couple other projects that I’m excited about. These projects are heavily structured — very helpful to someone who’s having trouble concentrating — and I think you will love them.
Like I said, personally, I’m doing great. Better than ever, in fact. My brain has always been an interesting place — a gleaming, futuristic rollercoaster that also happens to be a deathtrap. This is just the latest adventure. And who knows, maybe it’s leading me toward some new path. In the meantime, while we’re sortin’ stuff out, I appreciate your patience and understanding and continued fervent devotion. Happy new year, and God bless us, every one.
*No, there wasn’t, like, a big announcement. This was it, and you only saw it if you were my Facebook friend. But now that post is viewable to anyone on FB, friend or not, and so there you go. Anyway.