Being a professionally amateur author

Professionally amateurI’m happy to report that I made a significant improvement last week.

Suddenly, in a process that’s taken only twenty-five years overall and five or six months in this particular relapse so far. 😉

I’m still post viral, but the flu-like symptoms have finally gone and my condition is now simply severe ME pain and the exhaustion that brings.

So I’m still in bed for about twenty hours of every day and still limited to a maximum of one hour of good concentration each day, but this is a positive step that I recognise from previous post-flu/chest infection/whatever relapses and I’m sufficiently confident in that analysis to say: yes, I’m on the right road.

Happy David. 🙂

Frauke sent me two advanced cover art lessons last week and I nailed them in a single evening each. In the previous week I wouldn’t have understood what she was telling me, nevermind been capable of tackling the tasks.

On Friday I got the date for my next eye surgery. 17th May. I’ll be in for only one day, but I’ll be blind for a day or two after the operation and probably out of action for the rest of that week, so Frauke and I agreed to get some more lessons in before I go.

And that was when one of my wheels fell off. I always say these recovery periods are precarious, don’t I?

There I was at 4.30am Saturday morning. Been downstairs at the computer for half an hour, after checking my phone while taking my 4am tablets and finding my third advanced lesson from Frauke in my email.

It was removing background from an image and adding drop shadow to a non-text layer. I read through it, and looked forward to tackling it later in the day. After two sleeps, probably. Possibly three. Wasn’t going to going to attempt it right then because I couldn’t keep my working eye open any longer.

But the day didn’t go the way I thought it would. By mid-morning I was in arthritis hell. Shoulders and hips as usual, plus hands and feet. Out of nowhere.

I crawled downstairs in the evening, determined to at least make a start on the lesson, but an hour later I surrendered on it. The arthritis was still hellish and the ME response was an avalanche. My brain was burning and I’d made a horrible mess of the lesson, so I sent an SOS screenshot to Frauke and crawled away to bed with my tail between my legs.

Spent Saturday night thinking I should probably stick with simple tasks in GIMP. My roller coaster and multi-faceted health condition makes my ability to deal with more complicated stuff unreliable. One day I can deal easily, the next it’s completely beyond me.

Maybe that’s more suited to my artistic style anyway. A straightforward beautiful photo with text added. Not a cop-out, which my frustrated mind was accusing me of in its feverish state, but that actually is my style. I’m a fan of simplicity in many things.

It’s also in keeping with my sensible need to adapt my activities to my health-governed abilities, rather than butting my head up against unbeatable obstacles all the time.

I need to keep reminding myself to hone my tasks down to a zen-like simplicity: write; edit; cover; publish.

You know what? It feels like, as bad as this health episode has been (and still is being), it’s helped me find a place of peace and contentment in my writing and publishing at this time of my life.

Happily, on Sunday morning, Frauke saw in an instant what I’d done wrong in my lesson the previous night and showed me how to fix it easily. She’s a wonder, and a lovely teacher. I’m blessed to have her for my mentor.

And I’m completely comfortable with the big picture stuff now.

I have three SFF books ready to publish and a fourth started. I’m learning how to make my own covers, and enjoying it, and I’ve decided to use D2D for formatting all my books.

My New Releases mailing list is tiny but it doesn’t matter. Not going to fret about anything, and definitely not marketing.

I’m just going to release my books, and ask friends to spread the word a bit, and whatever happens after that will be fine.

If I write any more novels after these three or four, I’ll simply enjoy writing them and release them the same way as I’m doing these.

I’m content to think of myself as an amateur. Not in the sense of someone who is unprofessional, but rather as someone who does what he does because he loves it. I’ll still strive for excellence in my craft. Couldn’t scrub that from my personality, and wouldn’t want to if I could.

This is me: a writer. It’s what I am. I write books because I love writing books.

An advanced lesson in cover art

Pablo Picasso, 1909, Brick Factory at Tortosa.I’m enjoying my art lessons. That’s hardly surprising, as my mentor and teacher is Frauke Spanuth. She’s brilliant, and patient, and in this past two weeks has taken me from basic getting-around-GIMP stuff to guiding me through my first advanced lesson, in which I sized and positioned and blended photographs to made a single image. Which I like very much. I’m getting there.

Health is still the same. Managing only an hour at a time before my brain burns. Still in bed for about 20 hours of every day. My pain is too big to sleep, but the exhaustion from it is too heavy to lift.

It is what it is.


crashCrashed today. My mentor and I have had a good week. I’m managing an hour a day max, with my brain burning after 30 to 45 minutes and getting dull and stupid after an hour. Frauke’s a patient teacher and we’ve adapted our pace to my limitations.

But this morning I crashed. Like someone picked up a rusty old ship and dropped it on me. Crawled back to bed after breakfast. Just got up now for my afternoon tablets and a cup of blackberry tea, then crawling back to bed again.

This stage of a recovery from relapse is always precarious.

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