Do you know how long it has been since I used the "writing" tag? Nine months. Not that I haven't been writing in that time, but because a lot of the writing I've been done has been journalistic or bloggy, I haven't had the need to write about writing. Writing about writing has always been a sort of self-motivational tool. It helps me clarify and reaffirm, get through the lousy creative days, and even procrastinate my way through writing blocks and/or crippling fear. These obstacles only come about when I write fiction, and my last real, honest stab at solid short fiction was in 2010, and man, I abandoned that story on the 4th draft because that shit was poison.

But I'm trying again, mostly out of the need to do something that affords me some dignity in my continuing bout with unemployment. Writing is every bit as frustrating and depressing as I remember, even with the fire of several meaty ideas. It's also about validation -- I'm often thinking about what type of career path to struggle in, and my mind always looks back at when I was so sure I should be a literary fiction novelist. I'm still not sure that that's where I want to die, but I want to at least get published in something more substantial than No Readers Quarterly. I would be happy with that kind of validation, even though it's not something I should necessarily seek. I think I can do it; I think I have so much more knowledge than ever. It's just a matter of execution, discipline, and editing.

I'm in a weird downward funk. It's a funk that is necessary to coming up with the right emotionally resonant words, but it's draining as fuck, especially when it's a mode you inhabit for weeks. What a weird self-flagellating act that writers of sad stuff have to go through. Grant Morrison once described writing Darkseid, the cosmic god of all evil, as a dark and depressing place to be working in, something he couldn't keep up for very long without jeopardizing his mental health. Sometimes I wish I never come up with an idea that is as dark and in the ground, but then again, maybe that's just what I need to make something good.

So I've been working on this fiction thing during my unemployment to fight that creeping sense of waste and decay. It is a small bit of dignity that I normally would get from, you know, earning an income. The thing with job applications in this economy is that as jobs become scarce, experienced professionals are trying for jobs a below their pay grade, and that puts us at the entry level even lower -- underground. So no matter how many applications I've sent in the past few months, no matter how diligent my cover letters are, no matter if I do one application a day or ten, it can still amount to the same zero. It's more frustrating than the lottery because it's competition more than chance.

But at least with writing, when I devote time to it (in between applications of course) I know that something is happening. As difficult as it is, as draining as it can be, at least it's more substantial than sending out letters into the darkness to never be heard from again. Even if the work doesn't get better, it's a little bit of knowledge gained, right? It's a brick in the wall.

I rely a lot on mantras, pep talks and books about writing during the most difficult of times. One that I recently rediscovered is an old Neil Gaiman pep talk, and the line I keep going to is: "You write on the good days, you write on the lousy days."

I needed a job a month ago. As time goes on, it feels like there are more lousy days than good ones. But I get to write. I get to write, and that can't be all bad, can it?