Return of the Mc(Kinnon)

Yeah, we went there. Robin can’t help herself, okay? She’s the Queen of Puns, a title she wears proudly. And if you understand the reference, congrats! You’re officially old enough to sit with us.

I mean, we’ll let the kids sit with us too, but we’ve been told our skinny jeans and side parts open us up to ridicule. But really, we’re thinking of them. We’re not cool enough to be seen on their TikToks. We get it. It’s fine.

Anywho, we’ve been gone for a while. Did anything happen while we were out? No? Nothing big? Cool, cool, cool. We’ll just start right back where we left off then. Sounds good.

Obviously, we are kidding. Last March saw the beginning of a worldwide pandemic, and if you’re in the U.S., you know we’re still very much in the throes of it. As everything gets sorted out and people begin to contemplate what normal will look like in the future, we’re also figuring out how to get back on the best creative path for ourselves. Part of that process was making big decisions, like self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, screenwriting vs. novels, and a million other things, but we all know that the work doesn’t end with the big decisions. In fact, that’s often just the beginning.

This past year has caused many people, not just us, to reevaluate the work they’re pouring their lives into and how they get things done. We were lucky. We have always known we like staying at home, occasionally going to a quiet section of the beach for the day (or some other adventure), and we were set up for that. In a lot of ways, not much changed for us. We have a home office, the kids were already in online school before it became a ‘thing’, and we get pretty much everything we need (including groceries!) delivered to our front door.

And also everything changed.

We struggled with what it means to be productive while being forced, YET AGAIN, to live through an historical event. It wasn’t helped by some publishing drama we found ourselves in the middle of, but it wasn’t the entire cause. But seriously, as an Elder Millennial, I ask how many more of these unprecedented times are we going to have to live through? It’s exhausting, damnit! History can just chill for a second. Please.

And as nice as that would be, it’s not up to us. Then there’s the whole thing that comes with one of those pesky events lasting as long as this one has, and we have to find a way to work through it. Because we can’t stop living. Or making money, if we’re thinking practically.

While we certainly didn’t do nothing for the past year, we noticed a lot of times that writing was hard. It was frustrating. And some days, it was impossible. Some days saw not a single word being written. For us, that’s a big deal. Niki has been writing professionally for over a decade, almost two now, and she has a system. She writes something every single day that is considered ‘work writing’. Even when she had COVID, back in March 2020, she was curled up with her laptop powering through. But as soon as the drama llama reared its ugly head, a lot of things just… stopped.

The problem when you’re creative is that you tend to worry more. You’re smart. That’s just how your brain works. You have that vivid imagination that you use to make money, and sometimes it turns against you. Like when you see something as life-altering as COVID-19 taking over the world and an absence of valid, logical, and scientific information follows. Add a dash of that whole election nightmare (and being minutes away from a dictatorship, it turns out) and the whole thing just became crippling.

To top it off, when you’re creative, you must learn to go with the flow. For writers, that means giving your audience what they want while figuring out what you have the bandwidth and the expertise to write, and then something like a pandemic and heaping helpings of social change (totally needed and mandatory!) comes in and changes the game. People were suddenly looking for escapism, more fluff, and not a single thing in the doom and gloom category. Guess which one we write, mostly? Having to pivot like that, especially when your brain is trained to invent the bad for fiction, makes everything more difficult.

Now, we’re not saying we have a solid one size fits all answer for how to tackle this problem because we’re not even sure we have a Melissa-sized fit yet, but we do have something. Our response was to change the way we work. We still outline, we still plan, and we still write every single spare moment we have. But (and this is a big thing for us) we take breaks. We still do something necessary for our careers, like reading in our genre, or organizing the one million new ideas we came up with yesterday, but it requires less effort. It lets us rest. Then, on the days when we seem to be in writing mode, we drop 20K words out of nowhere. Sure, it feels lopsided, but it works for us and we’re still able to keep up without demanding we fit into the old pre-COVID model of ourselves.

This whole experience has reminded us that there are also many things we enjoy doing that aren’t writing. I know, BLASPHEMY! But hey, we’re allowed. The world’s on fire. And there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned pandemic to make you analyze what you want and need in life, right? So, no more guilt. No more writing constantly. No more exhausting ourselves for literally anything. Instead, we’re trading it all out for more teaching, more screenplays, and more geeking out over fandom. It’s a much more balanced life, it allows our minds the reset they both need now that we absolutely have post-COVID brain fog, and it makes the writing much less fraught with anxiety. Steady, easy work allows us to comfortably pace ourselves instead of racing to the finish line. Because, as the kids will tell you, we’re old. We’re not cut out for this anymore.

And that’s okay.

So, there it is. You tried to tell us we’d be back, and we guess you were right. But don’t tell Niki. She’s the stubborn one, and she won’t listen anyway. ;)