During the years of my time spent in the NOC, I wrote feverishly. Part of it was isolation: I spent my time on night shift waiting for the pager to go off, which meant that the sometimes long, tense in-between times needed filling. As the only person awake watching twenty buildings for twelve hours at a time, I needed caffeine to keep me awake, and a habit to fill my time.
I've always been a prolific reader and writer: at twelve I was already online, chasing plotlines in play-by-email games and reading as much fanfiction as I could get my hands on. But on the night shift, I regularly consumed the equivalent of two twenty-four packs of Mountain Dew a night in Penguin Mints. Possessed by a twitchy, blinding need to do something I produced a whole lot of cut-rate fairy tales and fantasy.
When I went west, my writing slowly dropped off as I cut back on the caffeine dose. I stopped having as many anxiety attacks, and I stopped needing the outlet as much.
Some time after that, I picked up technical writing, which turns out to have been the nail in the coffin for any aspirations towards publishing short stories. While I've produced some fiction since I left that career, it's nowhere near the visceral level of satisfaction or output from before.
This is not uncommon. Steve Brust is said to have struggled coming back from heart surgery. Those undergoing treatment for mood disorders struggle when put on meds for the first time. Over Christmas, a fellow fanbrat told me about her father, who stopped smoking only to discover that he needed to light something on fire before he could even begin to tap out the merest introduction.
But I am a writer: a writer writes. And, as one of the editors in attendance at Christmas told me: "you can learn to write again".
So, having had a very sharp, very thin blade, and a way of writing that I used for 20-odd years, I find myself with a broad, ill-formed blade with notches knocked out of it and no handle.
This is not an excuse. This is instead a new year's commitment to myself: write what I can. Write what I like. Write what I see and think. Sharpen the blade until it's once more a usable thing.