Today’s Tell Me is from author Raven Oak. She talks about dealing with trauma, illness, emotions, and writing—how they all intermix—and one of the most important things a writer can do for themselves.
Seems simple, right? But for a neurodivergent, disabled author like me, not so much. The past three years have been a study in patience as I am immunocompromised aka high risk. Since 2020, I’ve carried this knot in my stomach that my career might be over.
Most authors sell more books when they’re visible, e.g. attending conventions/conferences, having in-person book signings, and teaching workshops. Without being “seen,” people forget you exist. They move on to other books and other authors. But being seen in person is something I can’t do, at least not until we have better vaccines and fewer variants. How does one continue in the face of something scary and new?
Many people aren’t honest or open enough about mental illness, let alone physical illness, but I am trying to be better about both. Getting COVID twice (from my doctors no less) kicked my ass. It physically changed me with its organ damage, not to mention the cognitive symptoms. Long COVID is not just long but brutal.
For years, I was lucky if I could work an hour without needing an hour nap in response. (Even today, I tend to take an afternoon nap, and my kitties help encourage that.) I used to type between 90-110 wpm (words per minute), but now, I’m lucky if I manage 50 wpm. My editors find simple grammatical mistakes now that I never used to make—and as a former English teacher, this galls me. I know, I mean, I knew better. Then there’s blanking on word choices and names. When did I get so forgetful?
Writing is harder. Editing is harder. Life is harder.
This past January, many of my colleagues and friends were posting articles about how much writing they’d accomplished in 2022. After the depressing look at my taxes, I said, “What the hell! Let’s see how little I wrote in the pandemic.” But I surprised myself. Looking at the number of short fiction I’d sold and written through the years helped me understand that progress isn’t the same for every writer, and I had made progress.
Piecing together the stories for not one but two collections helped me step back and find ways to accommodate this new me. To learn what I am still capable of accomplishing. While everything has changed, nothing that matters has changed at all.
I’m still an author, and I can still tell stories. How I present them to the world may look different. For example, my “book releases” will be virtual for a while, and the length of time it takes me to finish a novel may be longer, but I’m still a writer.
Now, I don’t mean to imply everything’s fine because it isn’t. There’s an anxiety and depression that comes with long COVID. A feeling that the world’s gladly leaving you behind. It’s the Great Wall of China, and I’m an ant at the base of it looking up in a wild panic. Being a realist, I’m not a fan of toxic positivity, but during three years of hell, I managed to write.
With these stories I’m sharing with the world, I’m giving myself permission to slow down when I need to do so, and in this acknowledgement, I forgive myself. Better than that, I realize that there is no need to forgive myself.
This is who I am now, and maybe that’s okay.
Multi-international award-winning speculative fiction author Raven Oak (she/they) is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 Ozma Fantasy Award Winner, Epic Awards Finalist, & Reader’s Choice Award Winner), Amaskan’s War (2018 UK Wishing Award YA Finalist), and Class-M Exile. She also has many published short stories in anthologies and magazines. She’s even published on the moon! Raven spent most of her K-12 education doodling and writing 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.
Besides being a writer and artist, she’s a geeky, disabled ENBY who enjoys getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography and art, or staring at the ocean. She lives in the Seattle area with her partner, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach. Her hair color changes as often as her bio does, and you can find her at www.ravenoak.net.
Dragons Springs releases 6/1 and Space Ships 7/1. Pre-Orders live now. Print & eBook
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