So, did you all hear that the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’? It’s not quite a medical condition, but it’s totally a real thing. This news was strangely serendipitous – just a few days earlier I’d been in a session with my therapist, and my therapist used the phrase ‘burnout’ for characterizing some of the things we’d been talking about previously.
I mentioned feeling a sense of not feeling much forgiveness for myself, especially when it comes to my writing career not being in the place I want it to be when it comes to skills and passion and motivation? I think I’m coming to terms with the fact it’s not just a lack of forgiveness – I am actually angry at myself and resent what happened. I think it’s because while I’ve managed to come to terms with a lot of my mental health battles being the result of what amounts to an injury or illness, I haven’t given myself the same sympathy when it comes to my writing. When it comes to my writing I consistently hold myself to this high, perfectionist standard – and doing so has meant that I stopped writing for myself, that whenever I look at writing something I’ve had one eye on ‘will this help build up and support my mental image of myself as a writer?’ Settling down and re-learning how to write in a way that expresses what I want to express? That’s not very good for the self image. Nor is knowing that I’m working on a writing project to get my hand back in. These are not things a ‘writer’ needs to do, these are the things injured people do. and maybe I need to forgive myself for having been injured and dropping the ball on things that are so very important to me, rather than continuing to chafe against it in a way that leaves me unable to make the progress I want.
It’s a challenge. And it’s kind of tied to a lot of my mental health challenges, just in the new and sadly neglected sphere of my writing career and identity as a writer. On the bright side, it does mean that I’ve poured enough oil on the turbulent waters of my inner life that a journey to somewhere I aspire to be with my writing career becomes something reasonable to consider. And, well. It’s natural that after being away from those shores for so long, I’m going to hit a few sandbars. Getting mad at myself for it – resenting myself for failing to navigate these waters that used to be so familiar – isn’t going to do me a lick of good. Finding that self-forgiveness is terribly important.
With that in mind? I wrote the following piece about very much these sorts of issues (albeit through a fantastical lens), and… I did not achieve what I wanted to with it. And I need to forgive myself for that. To recognise that I did something pretty neat, anyway. The cycle for recovering, or building, skill starts with evaluating where you are, then working at the point where things are difficult, but not overwhelmingly so. Part of that means forgiving yourself for not quite attaining what you wanted to, and recognising that you have struggled with something difficult all the same, and that doing so is good and worthy and valuable. Hopefully I will learn this lesson.
(And, for now, we’re still paused.)
“I fear I’ll never be a good shot, Sir. I simply haven’t the talent of Dennings.”
The antique piece of munitions armour – an old breastplate – at the far end of the field hadn’t had a single black mark put on its dented, freshly white-washed metal. Drenali pulled up his pantlegs, then settled to his knees – and was still a handsbreadth above Scape’s eyeline. He regarded the far end of the gunfield thoughtfully.
“Perhaps,” Scapes said, nervously, “it’s something intrinsic to my frame. Because I’m small…”
Drenali narrowed his eyes. “How long have you even carried a gun, Scapes?”
“… a few months?”
Drenali lay his hand over Scapes’ paw, pulled his grip on the musket elsewhere. Reached in over Scapes’ shoulder, and hauled the butt of the musket about until finally nestling it in position. He shuffled behind Scapes, narrowly gazed at the target past him.
“Set your left foot forward another inch.”
“Yes, sir.” Scapes shifted, fractionally.
Drenali punched at the musket, Scapes stumbled a fraction. “Come up again.”
“Yes, sir.” Scapes dutifully lifted the musket back up. Again, Commander Drenali shifted his paws on the weapon. Set the butt against his shoulder. A sharp slap. “Pull it in here, tight. As if there’s a beetle on the musket’s butt and you wish to crush it dead. Yes, like that. Tighter. Straighten that elbow… Turn your forward foot’s toes outward.”
Another punch at the musket’s wood. This time, Scapes did not stumble – the barrel wavered little. Drenali peered in over Scapes’ shoulder again.
“Bend your head to the right.”
Scapes did so.
“Look directly at the target.”
Scapes did this, as well.
“Hold your breath. Lift the far end a fraction. Tilt it left. Left a bit. Right a bit. Left a hair… a hair more. Steady… steady… when you pull the trigger, the pan will flash. It’ll be loud. You tend to flinch. Keep staring at the target, do your damndest not to blink. And… left a hair again… Fire!”
Scapes pulled the trigger, and despite himself, flinched as the pan flashed. But he kept his eyes open. Heard Drenali begin to shout ‘left’, and corrected for it.
The musket blasted, kicking his shoulder brutally, his eyes watered from the sting of smoke, but a moment after the blast Scapes heard a sharp metal ‘ding!’ and looked up to see a black mark upon the old cuirass’s right breast.
“Good man. Had it been to the left rather than the right, Mister Scapes, that should’ve torn the fellow’s heart out.”
“Sir, I… that was only because you helped me. I don’t think I could ever do that—”
“Nonsense, Mister Scapes.” Drenali got to his feet, and dusted off his knees. “Did I hold your hand as you fired?”
“So you are eminently capable of becoming a crack shot, should you wish. All I provided you with was the expertise I have gained with firearms since boyhood. Dennings’ talent? Lad probably shot ducks with his father from the time he was weaned.” Drenali regarded the knees of his uniform pants skeptically. “You may innately be as good a shot if you so choose to practice. Practice, mind you. Blasting away without a care will simply be a way to waste powder and a bit of lead.”
“Sir, I. Folkish aren’t supposed to be good at such things.”
“Aye? At a hundred yards with a munitions grade musket a Folkish suitably informed as to how to aim is capable of killing anyone he so chooses – be he peasant, lord or King. The only thing holding you back, Mister Scapes, is a prejudice against the Folkish and a misguided belief that talent cannot be fostered through diligent effort.”
Scapes wiped tears from his eye. It was the powder smoke, of course. Not that a Folkish might one day be as good, or better, than any man.