Down and Burnt Out in Unprecedented Times

Distanced scooters.

To whoever still follows, I hope this update finds you healthy, safe, and sane enough. I realize it’s been quiet here for months; the global pandemic has affected us all in different ways.

I must admit, as a professional artist, I smugly assumed I had a leg up on coping mechanisms suitable for the isolation and anxiety in store. Riding is still fairly low-risk, just carry hand sanitizer and some sassy custom masks, right? But as the months stretched on with no light at the end of the tunnel, stress is proving infinitely more creative than me. As they keep saying, “We’re in unprecedented times.”

Last big joyride of the season with friends. I took my R65.

I’ve had drafts about my rides through the Pyrenees sitting partially complete for months. At this point, those delicious, sweaty, sunny days happened over a year ago but I can’t quite bring myself to rekindle them. With current travel restrictions and repeat rounds of lockdowns and curfews kicking in around the world, it feels more like a lifetime ago. It may as well have been on a different planet, where borders were open and it was carefree and easy to meet new people.

I simply can’t find the inner stillness required to finish writing anything.

Maybe I just need more time in the saddle to find inner calm.
Thanks to friends who came along for a handful of sanity-saving moto-campouts before the sun starting setting at 4pm. And to Brett for this photo.

I’m fortunate that my occupation wasn’t as disrupted as others, and I threw myself at professional work*. I chose to wait out the pandemic with Fred in Cambridge, MA but most days I feel trapped here, stuck in a part of the world I never quite seemed able to feel settled but with a twist: now everyone gets a bonus layer of constant, indefinite low-level crisis. Just hopefully not in-your-face immediate crises.

In June, answering to my longtime dream of a place of my own again and—let’s be honest—grasping for some sense of security in otherwise uncertain times, I bought a used Sprinter van (thanks, Grandma). My intention is to convert it into a full-time live-work studio.

This is my first car face.

The virus seemed here to stay, but maybe I didn’t have to. If I was going to be stuck here for the foreseeable future, I may as well occupy myself with a project I couldn’t normally take on while traveling. Building a self-contained unit that could one day at least mitigate the risks of travel within the Plague States gave me something to look forward to.

Ride from work to…work. You can spy on the process @thebebopvan.

Since then, every spare moment that wasn’t spent at the Cintiq was dominated by research, how-to videos, manual labor, and hands-on problem-solving. I put furious and unrelenting pressure on myself to have the larger systems ready by winter despite COVID-related delays.

I still didn’t make it in time.

Now, the second book in the Katie the Catsitter series has been handed off to the talented Braden Lamb for colors and the weight of production is off my shoulders. I thought this meant I could finally unclench and return to blogging between van work…

But there is no chill. I can’t unwind and revel in my work accomplishments or relax into my break in obligations. I’m too fatigued to delight in construction challenges for my would-be getaway vehicle like I used to, let alone revisit tastier times to compose blog posts. I’m still waiting for building materials on backorder, and a backlog of other work is looming. The U.S. just underwent a truly exhausting national election, case numbers are soaring again, and daylight is dwindling. Those early days of hope that escape might be an option by the end of the year evaporated long ago, Serenity will continue to languish in Lisbon for yet another winter (I’m gonna owe Rui so much beer). Riding season is over, and there’s nowhere to go but head-on into New England winter. Nothing seems to inspire joy or purpose.

Inner quiet has not only eluded me, I am burnt out.

I’ll come back around, eventually. It may take some time and many, many shows streamed from under a heated blanket on the couch, preferably with tea or wine at hand. For these comforts, I’m grateful.

Nothing really seems to help. I think I’ll just focus on doing nothing for a bit longer. Please have patience and I’ll see you on the other side.

The outdoors is dead, long live the indoor life.

*Shameless plug for Katie the Catsitter

Coming January 5th, 2021.

Katie the Catsitter is my debut full-length graphic novel for middle-grade readers, written by Colleen AF Venable! It’s available for preorder and hits shelves on January 5th, 2021. You can find a sneak preview here. ?


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