Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Where Have I Been?

 It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything of substance. When I stepped away in April of 2019 I honestly believed that my hiatus would be pretty much like others I’d taken previously, that I’d be back in a month or so. Instead, it spun on and on and on, so where have I been?

 To be truthful, I’ve been right here all along, doing the same things you have been doing. The question isn’t so much where I have been, but why: why did I disappear? By way of explanation, let me tell you a story. That’s what we do, right?

 When my father died (13 years ago, holy crap) it kicked off about a five month period where I was seemingly in constant contact with people. My brother, sister, and I (and my ex-brother-in-law, have to give him credit) spent long periods of time at the house. There was funeral week, of course, and then lots of time sorting through 40+ years of life in that house. There were repairs and renovation and meetings with lawyers and realtors. We also saw a lot of neighborhood folks, friends, and aunts, uncles and cousins. I was very grateful to spend so much time with all of them, it not only eased the work, it eased the heartache, but when the house was sold and everything was settled I was like a deep sea diver coming to the surface: I needed to decompress. After all that time around so many people I pulled back, withdrew from just about everyone except my wife and my kids. I needed that time to process things and come to grips with new reality. It was an important time for me, and we’ll just ignore that it stretched on far too long for now.

 That need for time away, for decompression is very much what hit me three years ago. If you recall, 2018 started with me losing my agent of four years, which was rough. At the time, however, I was immersed in what I really, really thought would be The One, the manuscript that would be a book, and never mind that I’ve thought that about every project since PARALLEL LIVES all those years ago. I was able to kind of put my head down and keep working and revising and blogging. When the calendar turned to 2019 I was just about ready to start querying, and that’s what I did.

 And nothing happened.

 Now let’s be clear, I did not query properly. I did do the research: I dutifully searched far and wide to see who was new, who had left the business, who might accept what I was peddling. But I did not send out hundreds of queries to hundreds of agents. I did not finely tune my query letter or adjust my opening pages with each set of rejections and that is because I pretty much heard NOTHING. No requests for pages, no personalized rejections, not even form rejections. It weighed on me, dragged me down, and it did not help at all that I had no new project to work on, that nothing had kicked open the door to the Back Room shouting, “HERE I AM!” After writing constantly for almost ten years and blogging pretty consistently for about eight I had nothing to write, nothing to say. I think, just as I needed to get away from it all after the frenetic period after my father’s death, I just needed to decompress. So out I went. And the longer I was away, the easier it became to stay away.

 Am I back? Time will tell. I’m sorry to say that I still don’t have a new project, though I have tried resurrecting something that just never took off but seemed timely at the beginning of Obama’s second term and seems even more so in a post-January 6 world. Time is circular, after all. But I do have some news and as this post is already too long, I’ll just leave that for next time.

2 Responses

  1. I hope you're back. I always enjoyed your posts. But I understand the decompress thing. Probably what I'm going through right now. I have tooooooo many health issues and it's really affected my writing. And my reading to some extent. It's gotten where I don't want to do much of anything. But I'm still blogging because I am still reading and I like to make a record of what I read. I'm lucky to get one commenter each post (which is usually on Wednesdays), and it's usually the same person each time. Don't know if people gave up on me or they just don't want to comment. But I still blog. Guess I'm stubborn that way!

  2. Thanks, Stacy. I obviously have not been keeping up on my blog reading either, sorry to hear about your health issues, and I certainly understand how that can impact you. Coming back a bit, I feel like Blogger has changed the interfaces a bit so that it's not quite as easy to keep up as it used to be.

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