Almost two decades ago, when I was new to the blogging scene, I used to follow the blog of a friend of a friend. She (the blogger) used to write poetry and snippets of her day-to-day life. In one of her posts, she said something on the lines of "Everyone dies a little on the inside on Monday mornings."
I don't remember the name of the blog or the blogger or even the exact words she used, but the gist of this message stayed with me in this format.
Everyone dies a little on the inside on Monday mornings.
I took those words to mean all those things culture likes to tell us about corporate jobs: that we sell our souls to the devil in exchange for security and comfort (as if there's something wrong with that!), that we ought to be doing more with our one wild and precious life, that we shouldn't be settling for less and miss out on all the adventures that a 9-to-5 would never offer us.
At the time, I was all of 27 years old, I had quit my second job and was trying my hand at freelance writing while penning a novel alongside.
I was hardly earning anything in those times, and even back then my biggest patron and supporter was KrA with his corporate job and the steady pay checks and perks it came with.
In the subsequent years, I found much success as a freelance writer — it landed me one of my most exciting jobs as a commodities journalist in Singapore — and a lot of fun exploring writing fiction alongside.
But the monotony of it all made me feel as though I was still dying a little on the inside every Monday morning, as though I should be doing something else, something different to make my life exciting.
So we gave up everything and moved to Canada — that was nine years ago — and much has happened in the interim, including the arrival of D, me writing and publishing several books and short stories.
And yet, some things have remained the same.
I find that even now I die a little on the inside on Monday mornings. Even now, when I'm supposedly living the life of my dreams, doing the job, i.e., writing, that nourishes my soul and not squandering my days in some soul-sucking corporate job, having all the freedom to spend time with KrA and D, even now I find that I die a little on the inside on Monday mornings.
And not just on Monday mornings. It's Wednesday morning now, and I've been feeling like this for the past two days. And I've had periods of feeling this way all along.
For you see, what I didn't realize in all these years is that much of what constitutes a good life is the willingness to trudge through periods of monotony and uncertainty, without any guarantee — unlike in feel-good movies and books — that success awaits us on the other side.
I've spent most of my life running away from that monotony and sameness, seeking thrill and adventure in new places and new experiences, only for that initial high to wear off and be usurped by the very monotony and sameness I had been trying to outrun in the first place.
It has taken me four decades of my life to realize that monotony and sameness are a considerable part of our lives no matter what we do.
I'd have a good day of writing, only for that to be followed by monotony or a low-energy day in which nothing gets done. I'd publish a book, only for that to end up with little sales momentum, at least in the short run. I'd send out a short story to a magazine, only for it to be rejected.
This is far more common than seeing a huge sale order or an acceptance, and so this is what stays in my mind. All this has added up to a feeling of never enough.
I've been thinking, Oh, I just need to get to a 100 subscribers on my newsletter (for it to really matter). Oh, I just need one pro magazine to accept my short story (for me to be validated as an SFF writer). Oh, I just need a particular book to show a spike in sales (for me to justify my existence as an author).
I've been working as though towards a deadline — that acceptance, or that income threshold — except there is no end to it. And it feels like a relentless grind. Just yesterday morning I was lying in bed wondering, "How long can I keep doing this for?"
Obviously, I don't have an answer to that question. Until I have a million bucks in my bank account? Until D grows up? Until I stop worrying about money? Until I'm finally happy with my life? Until I die?
Years of doing this, of questioning my desire to write in the face of so much uncertainty, has certainly eroded a lot of joy out of the process and replaced that with anxiety. Hence, the Monday morning blues have stuck with me for so long.
I'm writing all this down to tell myself that it's ok, it's ok for me to write the kind of stories I write even though it often feels as if I'm operating in some sort of vacuum.
This year, I've sent a bunch of my stories to various SFF magazines. I've mostly gotten rejections; I've also got a bunch of good and encouraging comments highlighting what the editors loved about my writing.
I do have one future acceptance, on the condition that I try to get the story published elsewhere first and offer it back to this one magazine for a reprint, or offer it as a new work if it's not sold anywhere else in six months.
But these successes, when they come, don't feel like much!
What's bugging me the most is that for the last several years, I've been functioning as though I'm waiting for something to happen. Waiting for that acceptance to happen, for that spike in sales, for that review to show up, for that additional subscriber to my newsletter to come.
And when I don't see the needle move in the ways I want it to, as fast as I'd like it to, the entire endeavour feels like one big, wasteful exercise.
Then that paves the way for all the anxieties to rush in. What if no magazine ever publishes my story? What if I don't see enough sales to justify all this time and effort spent in writing? What if my newsletter does not grow at all? How will I promote my writings when I'm not even on social media anymore?
I joined Threads a couple of months ago, posted a couple of things there and then gave up. I just end up scrolling through all those feel-good posts, all those pithy paragraphs that encourage you to do the work.
Oh, it feels so good to read all those self-help posts and words of wisdom. Oh, it feels so difficult to simply sit down and write the next word when I feel I've tied so many expectations to the manuscript or short story.
(Obviously, I deleted my account on Threads and the related Instagram account I had created to get into Threads in the first place!)
I get it now why DWS insists on keeping the writing fun. Because if it isn't, all these other dramas just get in the way and nothing gets done, not even the writing.
The biggest lesson for me here is to ask myself: What am I waiting for?
Really, what am I waiting for?
I don't even have a half-decent answer to that question.
So I rephrase it and ask myself: Is there anything I need to wait for?
The answer is a resounding NO.
I'm already living an awesome life, doing what I love with the people I love, growing in ways I never expected to.
Everything I need, I already have.
And I also don't need everything I currently have, including the Monday morning blues!