It’s that time of year again – There is no doubt about it: I am in a genuine funk. I have absolutely no creative energy whatsoever. Or, at least, no creative energy left after I finish working for the day. Work, for that matter, has also been terribly inefficient. I feel like I’m slogging through the day, just waiting for it to be over. Then, when the appointed “work time” ends, I feel completely drained, rather than charged up to do something creative. It is extremely frustrating.
Part of it, I think, is a sort of post-NaNo depression. Having giving birth to that ungainly thing I call a novel (or at least a novella), I have fallen into a slump. I told myself that I wanted to work on content for Liminality, but what I have done? The sorting-through-photographs part is proceeding at a snail’s pace, and it has taken me nearly a week to write, rewrite, and agonize over this pitiful entry.
Then there is the fact that the end of the year is always crazy. It’s not crazy for the reasons that may first come to mind for many of my Western readers—the holidays (or lack thereof) play little part in this craziness. Instead, I seem to get overloaded with work at the end of the year. For starters, the current semester is ending, and I’ve got a paper to write. The quarterly magazine I translate for also comes knocking at the end of the year. On top of all that, you have the fact that most government projects have end of the year deadlines. The reason? The budget, of course. Projects need to be completed before the end of the year to use up the allotted budget monies, since these things don’t get carried over.
Behind door number three, we have the cold weather. It gets pretty cold in northern Korea (northern South Korea, not North Korea—actually, it gets a lot colder there, poor buggers), especially where we are. I have to go out every morning and start up the car, then scrape the frost off the windshield and windows. And it hasn’t even started snowing yet. As a rule, snow is usually not a major problem in Seoul, but out here in our little mountain village, snow sucks big time. It’s great if you’re just going to stay at home, drink hot chocolate, make snowmen, go sledding, throw snowballs at your wife and then run like all the demons of hell are at your heels, etc. God forbid you should actually want to go anywhere, though.
I don’t think I’ve seen a snow plow in the nine years I’ve been here. Koreans in Seoul use brooms to sweep snow off the walk. Only with the advent of large warehouse stores like Costco have Koreans (at least Seoulites) learned that some people actually use shovels to remove snow. Then again, most of the snow that falls here amounts to a few centimeters at best, and is usually handled easily with a broom. But once you get out of the city and into the colder areas, even those few centimeters of snow on the road can be treacherous. There is no snow removal infrastructure here, so the snow just sits on the road until it gets compacted into ice, which is always wonderful. The fun continues when it snows again, and you have a nice layer of ice under that snow.
OK, I need to stop. I’m getting myself worked up over something that hasn’t even happened yet. Suffice it to say that a wide variety of factors make December possibly my least favorite month of the year. I’d take January over December any day. Sure, it’s colder, and we get more snow, but at least I don’t have to deal with most of the other crap. Three more weeks and I’ll be free of this misery, one way or another.
I suppose I should try to focus on the positive. Maybe that will make me feel better. Let’s see... I did get my presentation for class over with. That went pretty well. It took me forever to prepare, though, because I put together a five-minute video clip and two dozen photos to go along with the actual text of the presentation. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, we had some good discussion, and my prof didn’t have anything negative to say. Then again, maybe she was just relieved at the change of pace after the three presentations by first-year M.A. students the previous week. Don’t they teach undergrads to think for themselves anymore? Or maybe they never did—I wouldn’t know, having never been an undergrad in Korea myself.
So anyway, that’s a bright spot on the calendar. Of course, now I have to take what I got from that presentation and write a paper by next Friday, which should be an adventure, but that’s the way these things go. At least I only have one paper to write. That’s another good thing, I suppose. I think that about taps me out, though. I feel like there must be something else good that has happened to me, but I can’t think of what it is.
Hmm. All this talk of good things is reminding me of an entry I wrote a while back. It’s a while back in terms of time, but only six entries ago: “Always look on the bright side of life.” I had actually thought that it was much further back than that, and as a result spent the past half hour reading through old entries. I probably shouldn’t admit this, as I’m pretty sure it’s a bad sign (of what I’m not sure), but I crack myself up sometimes. Just reading through some of the stuff I’ve written in the past made me feel a little better (although I did avoid some of the more depressing or aggravating entries). Then I finally got back up to the entry I mentioned above and read through it. When this entry came to mind I remembered that I had, at the time, had a revelation that made me feel a lot better, but now I couldn’t remember what it was. I guess it’s a good thing I write this stuff down.
Anyway, my revelation, in a nutshell, was this: in my slumps, I tend to confuse mood swings with a lack of real “happiness.” Mood swings are temporary and happen in response to the immediate environment. Happiness, on the other hand, should exist in a different place that isn’t buffeted by whims and mood swings. I go on at lengths about this, of course, but that’s really the important part. The funniest part of the whole entry is this line in the last paragraph: “I realize that a week from now this entry may strike me as so trite and maudlin I will be tempted to purge it from the archives.” Au contraire. I never would have thought that I would ever look back at it and actually feel better.
Well, I now feel a lot better than when I started writing today. I mentioned that I have been trying to write this entry for the past week. Actually, I wrote what you read here in one sitting, today. What I spent the previous days attempting to write was an entry on Christmas, how I celebrate it here, and what it means to me. It was going absolutely horribly, though, and I loaded it up today with the attention of slapping on a short preface about how difficult it was to write and then just finishing it off willy-nilly. The preface grew, though, and once I got past five hundred words I realized that I was going to have myself a new entry. So I cut out the material I had written on Christmas and opened the floodgates. I’ve got to admit that it’s much easier to spend a thousand words complaining about life than it is to turn a thousand words into a well-crafted, intelligent essay on anything.
Now, though, I have apparently purged myself of my demons for the time being. I feel much better, even though the thought of all the work I have to do this month is still rather unpleasant. I think I will end this entry here and go work on some other content while I have some creative energy. I doubt I will be able to get to everything I wanted to do this month, but hopefully I can get to some of it. The rest will have to wait until the storm of December passes. Bear with me. With any luck, I will actually get to the Christmas entry before Christmas.