This was going to be a much different post.
I trashed the first draft because it felt too harsh against one of my only vocal critics. It was completely unfair to them. I love critics, and they’re an integral part of being a writer. And it was inaccurate to blame a critic for my own bad feelings.
The second draft was a list of what I had come to dislike about this story. Pacing, handling characters, lore, and Joanna’s role. Paragraphs of it. It was not coming together well.
I wanted to post this on April 1st. Surprise, surprise, no new chapter at all. I couldn’t finish my second draft at all by the time I wanted this to post. So instead of working hard, I followed the buzz behind Missing Richard Simmons and listened to all six episodes. It’s a podcast/documentary about fitness celeb Richard Simmons’ retreat from the public eye and trying to piece together the story.
First off: I highly recommend Missing Richard Simmons. It is a combined three hours across all six episodes and it is a marvelous piece of investigation and learning how to accept someone in your life peacing out on their own terms.
The final conclusion was that Simmons’ disappearance was him being burnt out from being someone who exuded so much energy and empathy. He wanted to leave and retire, maybe was forced to out of tragedy, but it would break his heart to face his fans and say good-bye. All the evidence points to him still being well and fit in his older age, but being the Richard Simmons the public knew was too much. And he’s been gone. And by the most reliable of accounts, happy.
I’m not about to compare myself to Richard Simmons.
But it turned out to be the best soundtrack to writing about burnout.
If someone does the math, I finished Annette’s generation in less than a year, averaging over a chapter a week. In the same period of time, I’ve gotten 21 chapters into Franco and barely scratched the surface. It’s been marked by hiatus after hiatus and lots of excuses.
But it’s burnout. And it got to the point where writing even one chapter was too difficult. Where I would have TS3 open for hours and get zero screenshots because I wanted to avoid it. I felt sick, distressed, and disgusted with my own work. I got hypercritical, and that hasn’t stopped. I almost wanted to frame this is a cry for help. I can discuss those reasons at length, but they’re only part of the issue.
I haven’t worked on Eight Cicadas in two months. And writing-wise, those are the happiest two months I can remember from the past year.
When it comes to discussing story-driven SimLit, I always rely on CitizenErased14, of Ashes to Ashes fame. We have been talking daily since late last year, I think. We’re close in age, live a mere couple hours of driving away from each other, and appreciate a few common alt. rock bands. We also have similar goals we want to achieve with SimLit, at least in a broad sense. For that reason, I think she’s the only one I ever elaborated on this issue to.
Cicadas has become too big and difficult for me to handle as it is right now.
The thing is, I know people enjoy Eight Cicadas for its long chapters and abundant, detailed screenshots. I felt wrong with the thought of changing that. But it is beyond difficult to keep up for a length, especially as I got more ambitious. I’ve been dreading chapters ever since some time in Annette’s arc, but it took a while for it to become absolutely unbearable.
I told some other people, on vague terms, that I wanted to end this story. I got a near-unanimous “don’t”. I told them that I’d make a decision by April 19th, this story’s second birthday (and my 23rd), I guess with some vague hope that I’d change my mind.
But what have I learned taking an extended break from Eight Cicadas? I confirmed that, if nothing else, I still enjoy writing. No Stars over Uptown, my unrelated TS4 mystery/romance, is an absolute joy to write. It has been my savior for this bleak hiatus. And it’s comforting to know that the only thing I hate about writing is writing Eight Cicadas.
I learned how good it feels not to think about this.
And tonight, I learned that Richard Simmons might have the right idea. Learn when to step away.
I might be giving myself until April 19th, but I’m pretty sure I know what my answer will be.