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You no longer sleep well. Your commute is a third-to-half-a-work-day. You put in long hours. You have responsibilities that matter more than anything else in your life. And illness and depression have returned to make everything harder.

There are two projects you are planning for the year. You’ve paid each one little attention.

What do you do?

The younger version of yourself would lose more sleep, friends, and happiness to reach the goal.

But he did not see the accidents on the highway, people who are also sleep deprived and doing their best. They don’t have a real relationship to come home to, a life to build beyond art.

You know how to sacrifice and get shit done. Checked that box for twenty years. And yet the dark slivers in your mind think that it all washes away once there’s a new project.

This is your process.

And it is dumb.

So you admit your mind is a wonderful friend and idiot at the same time. You sit down and plug away in fits and starts as you feel your way into the new project. Each one big. Each one will challenge what you can do. Each one is a book only you could write.

And then you give yourself some slack. Past is prologue. You’ve written close to twenty books. It will happen. It always does. To think a break will break you is the mythology of America, which would rather you work yourself to death in all directions.

Stop. Rest. Repeat. And take solace in the fact that the great Neal Barrett, Jr., gave you when you started, almost twenty years ago, words of agency and freedom where others saw hardship and suffering:

The only one who can make you write is you.

The only one who can make you stop writing is you.

Now go watch wrestling, heal up, and dream of what magic you will create next. Then you can breathe–and release the monsters within.

© Jason S. Ridler

Meet the Author

Jason S. Ridler

Jason S. Ridler

Jason S. Ridler is a writer, historian, and actor. He is the author of The Brimstone Files, and his latest historical work Mavericks of War was called a “visceral read that is also an important piece of scholarship” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Richard Rhodes. He is a Teaching Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and teaches creative writing at Google, Youtube, and for private clients.

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