The day after Half Mystic Journal's Issue IV launch, I woke up, rolled over in bed, & began crying uncontrollably. I have to be honest with you - it's been a long time since that has happened to me. The sting of depression never quite leaves, but most days I at least have something of control over it. Most days it is less a noose & more a choke chain. It's always lurking in hollow of my chest, always ready to rear its dark & misshapen head, but most days, at least, I've learned how to focus on the light that remains despite & through & around it.
But on that day, everything hit me, all at once, & all I knew was ache & ache & ache.
(To my dismay, this wild furious paralysing sadness, ears flaring, obsessive & anxious, continued for the rest of the day. & the day after that. & the day after that. It did not stop. It still has not stopped. Something between a blip & a flatline, between a puddle & a hurricane, something in a language I've never learned & am still trying in vain to translate.)
I still can't tell you what exactly happened that made me tailspin so badly. There wasn't a single cause, one project that was dragging me down, there was never one particular thing I could put a finger on. When my therapist said the words, though, something in me heaved a very soft cacophonous sigh: burnt out.
It was never one thing, really. It was everything, all at once. 2016 & 2017 were unspeakably gorgeous years for me professionally - I co-wrote a collaborative novel, I designed & contributed to one anthology & had my work published in another, I released three books of my own, I wrote & starred in a short film, I edited & curated & published four issues of Half Mystic Journal, I converted Half Mystic into a publishing house alongside my team, I broke a record or two, I attended National YoungArts week, I submitted my work to a great many journals & awards & was lucky enough to be published in more of those places than I'd ever have imagined. & yet, they were also years when my mental health was volatile, careening up & down, never quite on steady ground. I think perhaps I hit my limit during the launch of the poems for the sound of the sky before thunder - which, though an utterly beautiful experience, took so much out of me - & then, as I am wont to do, kept pushing & pushing & pushing, kept asking for more & more. Final exams & college applications & the release of Issue IV & the HM launch. It was only a matter of time before my body begged me to stop.
& so, with 2018 settling into its skin, I've been trying to recover from the onslaught of hurting that has marked the start of this year. I've been thinking a lot about that ugly, chest-empty feeling of burning out, screeching to a halt. That sudden unwelcome stop. It's an experience I don't think I have ever had before - or least, never to this extent - & to be honest, I don't know what to make of it. I have always yearned to work, to create, to put art into the world. I don't know who I am when, suddenly, I don't want to anymore.
But I have been thinking a lot - & discussing a lot with my Patreon fireflies - over these past weeks, & I believe I may have hit upon something of a solution. In essence, I've decided that 2018 will be a year of inhale instead of exhale. Of consuming art instead of creating it.
This is not to say I am halting creation entirely! (Really, who am I without that peculiar soft-lit spinning dream-state? Don't answer that.) It simply means that, this year, I'm dialling back on creation. It means I'm taking the time to still. To experience the things that remind me why I make, why I'm so grateful to be part of this community. 2018 will be a year of glances & autumn & tenderness. A year of sparks & lingering. A year of remembering why I started.
I want to watch many films (currently on my list: La La Land, The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, Eyes Wide Shut, The Birds, Spirited Away, The Breakfast Club, The Grand Budapest Hotel, etc.) & listen to much music (currently on my list: Oh Wonder, Sundial, Vampire Weekend, Harry Styles, Cigarettes After Sex, Troye Sivan, Billie Eilish, Amy Winehouse, etc.). &, of course, read books. So many books. 2018 will be a year of surrounding myself with art that makes me glad to be alive. I'm still unsure of it at this point - it still scares me a little, the part of me that doesn't know how to stop pushing forward, that's never been still in her life. But my body deserves a time of rest, & this feels like a true thing. I do not know what more I could ask for.
Friends, please let me know if there's any art you've been loving that I must not miss this year. Also, a reminder, if you have not already, to join our small bright community over on Patreon. An earlier version of this essay first appeared there, & my Patreon fireflies are always the first to know about the lovely projects I'm spinning - not to mention, they provide the financial support to ensure that I am able to fully commit myself to the projects I do undertake this year. (They are few, but worthwhile still. I can't wait to share them with you.) xx