Friday, October 21, 2016

Stress Takes Its Toll

By Art Taylor

This week's question—"How does moderate stress affect your desire/ability to write? Not minor stress like burnt toast, or major stress like your house just fell down a sinkhole, but a fight with a loved one, a fender-bender at the mall, financial woes?"—arrives on my desktop right at the center of the semester, so I'd add a few other examples of "moderate stress," including grading essays and mid-term exams (20 a day til they're done!), calculating and posting mid-term grades, trying to figure out the reading lists for next semester's classes (book orders due soon!), and then a small horde of other academic responsibilities nagging at me from various directions. Even fun opportunities like the talk on short stories I'm delivering this weekend for the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the North Carolina Writers' Network Fall Conference session on a similar topic require advance preparation to be figured into an often busy schedule—prep work resulting in its own stress, even with the knowledge that the end result will be tremendous fun. 

So where does one find the time and energy and peace of mind (I started to type "piece" of mind, which might be true too!) to write in the midst of all that? 

Well, in many cases, I don't. 

Despite the "Write First!!!" reminder on my to-do list, during the academic year best intentions don't regularly (or maybe it's more accurate to say "best intentions rarely") get carried through into action. Writing is catch-as-catch-can some weeks and frequently rough sketches or even just notes instead of finely honed prose—with the promise to myself that it will get finely honed after I've finished grading this stack of exams and that group of papers and reading the next book for the next class and finishing the blog post here and.....

Tomorrow, right? And tomorrow and tomorrow and....

I finished the list in that last big paragraph with "blog post" for a specific reason. I've been contributing to Criminal Minds every other Friday for nearly three years now (my first post was January 24, 2014), and for just over a year now, I've also been contributing on the other Friday to the blog SleuthSayers (my first post there, a guest post, was September 5, 2015), and while both these communities have been wonderful and these blogs have been nearly unmatched as opportunities for connecting with fellow writers and readers, I also know that every Thursday lately, I've been finding myself struggling to fit in time to write my post—and writing the post (the deadline looms!) has seemed to join the list of things regularly supplanting writing my own fiction. 

When an opportunity begins to look like just another item on the to-do list... well maybe it's time to pass along that opportunity to someone else. 

Danny Gardner
On that note, I'm pleased to introduce Danny Gardner, a fine writer and fine friend who's going to be stepping into my Friday slot here at Criminal Minds beginning November 4. 

Danny is the author of A Negro and an Ofay, a debut novel coming out next May from Down and Out Books, and his work has also appeared in Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, and Literary Orphans Journal, with another story forthcoming in Just to Watch Him Die, a Johnny Cash-inspired anthology to be published this winter by Gutter Books.

In addition to writing fiction and nonfiction, Danny has also had success as an actor and comedian, and as a director and screenwriter—which makes a good fit for the first question he'll be tackling here at Criminal Minds a couple of weeks from today: "If you got to write, direct, cast your own film, what would be the style/mood/atmosphere of your finished product?" I'll personally be interested to hear his answer to this, both in the context of the work he's already done in film and television and with an eye toward the fiction he's producing now. 

Needless to say, I'd suggest you check out his response too.

In the meantime, as I'm thanking Danny for taking over my half of the Friday posts here, I also want to give tremendous thanks to my blogmates here, who've always offered—both on the blog and off— thoughtful conversation and new perspectives, support and enthusiasm, and most importantly of all friendship. Meredith, Susan, R.J., Rae, Tracy, Cathy, Catriona, Alan and Paul—and further back, Clare and Robin—it's been a pleasure to spend time in your company... and I'll be coming back regularly to add to the conversation in the comments section, so you're not done with me yet! 

And of course greatest thanks to everyone who's followed me here and read and commented themselves. Thank you for spending time with me, and with all of us, each week. :-) 


Paul D. Marks said...

Art, truly sorry to see you go, but I understand what you're saying.

And welcome aboard, Danny!

Alan Orloff said...

Goodbye, Art! The door is always open if/when you want to guest blog!

Welcome, Danny!

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, y'all! And I'll indeed be glad to step in for guest posts whenever you need. Once a Criminal Mind, always a Criminal Mind, right? (And I'm not giving up my access codes... Bwaahahahahahaha!)

RJ Harlick said...

I'll add my goodbyes too. We're going to miss your thoughtful blogs, Art. But I wish you all the best with your writing, wherever it takes you.

Hello Danny! And welcome.

David Dean said...

I will miss your insights, Art, and envy your students.

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, RJ and David! Will still be around and seeing you—but glad to welcome a great new voice here too!

RM Greenaway said...

Yes, it all adds up. I'm struggling too, and don't have nearly as much on my plate as you do! Sad to see you go, Art. I'm happy we met and will see you here again I'm sure.

And welcome to Danny!

Holly West said...

It sounds like you made the right decision, Art. I struggle with my blog responsibilities as well (and recently brought in some new blood to share my spot with--Tom Pluck, who is fabulous). You made a good choice bringing Danny on.

Susan C Shea said...

If you have to sign off, it's a great parting gift to bring Danny into the Minds scrum. You're terrific, he's terrific, and you'd better come back to comment and guest. Meanwhile, good luck with those mid term exam grades!

Cathy Ace said...

We're going to miss you, Art...thanks for sharing as much of your time, wit and insight with us as you have over the years. Welcome, Danny - looking forward to getting to know you through your posts :-)

Art Taylor said...

Hi, Rae, Holly, Susan, and Cathy — Thanks for the kind words here and your enthusiasm for Danny too!

Holly: Yep, I feel like we're kindred spirits in many ways—and Thomas Pluck is a great addition, been enjoying his posts already!

Susan: Mid-term exams are grades, and the mid-term averages have been posted. Whew! And I think my presentation is ready for tomorrow's SinC meeting too--though hope it works in reality as well as I'm imagining it! (I've overloaded my powerpoint....)

Thanks again, y'all!