On Writer’s Idleness, Exhaustion and Recognition

ff2019banner_lowresThese last few weeks have been pretty hectic for me, but I’m finally able to tell you about it. As a writer, I have gotten used to analyze and review my personal strategies along the way. An important factor is to take care of my physical, mental, economic and psychological health. I’m one of those people who often take on more than I can chew, and that has got me into some disagreeable situations in the past. I’ve been near a couple of mental breakdowns before (or have even been through them, diagnosed or not) and they have knocked me out in moments where it could really make a difference. I am also aware that creativity itself depends on our psychological conditions and that it is crucial that I take care of mine (it’s my livelihood, in the end) – there’s nothing so frustrating as wanting or needing to write and to issue original ideas and thoughts and being completely unable to do so. That’s why, at one time or another, I promote my own idleness, even though I do it in a way that I never completely stop. So what happened in these past few weeks and why am I talking about this? Let me tell you about it.

A Saga de Alex 9So, last weekend started on Friday the 11th. I took a day off to attend this year’s Fórum Fantástico, my favorite Sci-fi/F event in Portugal. I thought that Friday would be the boring day of this three-day event, but it wasn’t! Not only did I reconnect with some friends and contacts, with ad-hoc important business meetings on the spot, but I got to meet one of my absolute favorite Portuguese illustrator/designer: the talented Tiago da Silva. He once created the cover for one of my novels, but I hadn’t yet met him in person. It was great and maybe we will have a chance to work with each other soon. Then, Saturday, the 12th, was another full day, with the likes of Ian Watson speaking, plus a handful of very talented Portuguese and international speakers. It strikes me, looking back, how incredibly developed are the new generations of designers, illustrators, comic book artists, game creators and other little geniuses in the Portuguese SF/F scene. On Sunday, though, the focus was a lot on me. It started with playing a demo of the HOT TARGETS: THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES, the game by Sérgio Mascarenhas based on the universe of my books. Then after lunch, there was a speaking event with the ubiquitous Rogério Ribeiro at the Auditorium: about my writings! And then, at the end of the day they delivered the Grand Prize Adamastor for the Fantastic for SF/F novels in Portugal, and… I WON! I won the award! For the Portuguese version of THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES. What do you know!


The thing is, on Monday, when I had to go back to work I was… exhausted. I was starting the work week so tired I didn’t know how I was going to manage it. So I indulged myself, I stopped everything but the absolutely necessary. I know I have a deadline, I have a novel to deliver by the end of the year and I’m late already. But I stopped writing.  I thought about all those people in this kind of life: how they manage jobs and five kids and still be able to find time to write. Many times it’s not the time to write that’s missing: it’s the time to think, the time to stop and get ideas, the time to create. Because creativity needs breathing air. It needs to grow organically and be given space. And one of the hardest things we have in this life is to be able to create when we’re exhausted. Indulging in idleness from time to time, allowing yourself to do nothing and worry about nothing, is incredibly important to pursue a creative career.

The problem is, of course, that it is a vicious cycle: you want to create so to overcome the status quo that makes you exhausted and you get too exhausted to create. And idleness can become an endless dark pit in an instant. You stop writing for a week to get yourself together, and suddenly that week becomes a month, then three months, then six months. The longer you go without writing the more you ‘lose your hand’ and it seems to become harder and harder to get back writing. So you have to be careful with that. You need to watch yourself.


Many times I see my career as a writer equivalent to that of a top athlete: I need to think about everything in balance. I need to take care of what I eat, of my body, of the hours of sleep, of the amount of effort I put into my work, of the hours I need to write, of the money coming in and going out, of the marketing efforts, of my creativity, of what is demanded of me by others, etc. I always keep in mind that everything must be at a balance. Idleness included. The focus is in keep going. In sustainability. In my ability to keep everything in balance. That’s not always easy. Maybe it’s never easy. But it’s The Path. It’s what I have to do. It actually helps a lot when I have a weekend like the last. It has been a few exhausting weeks, but it is so good to be recognized by my peers and the public. It makes it all worth it, in my view. Thanks for being there, my fellow knights. I appreciate you more than you know.

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