The Selfishness of My Self-Loathing

Eric Boyd
4 min readApr 16, 2020
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

The cycle continues. I, of course, am going to miss a— let’s be real — somewhat self-imposed deadline for submitting a novel draft. For the past four months I’ve been trying to work on a project that an agent I greatly respect wanted to see, and I’ll still try to finish it, but not anywhere near when I should have. I feel a great guilt over this, then I feel guilty for wallowing in any kind of personal disappointment in the face of a global pandemic.

I got more important things to be depressed about. My back has been messed up for a few weeks. It’s just now starting to get better as I get on weekly Zoom meetings with a physical therapist (as part of a medical research study because I knew I’d be cancelling my health market plan). I got laid off, and I’m navigating how that will pan out insofar as I know I should be laid off, but I’m nervous my state will reopen the economy far too soon. My girlfriend and I are both stuck at home. I haven’t seen any friends or family in about a month. Chel has seen her parents only briefly, from ten feet away and through a cracked window. The steps leading to our apartment are littered with mail and shoes which we run Lysol wipes over everything and let it sit for a day or more. It’s unending.

And yet it’s the novel I can’t stop thinking about. For me, all of those other problems are just too big to traverse. I allow and understand my helplessness in all of this; sense is such a distant brass ring today that I’ve given up on trying to reach for it. This shit will play out how it plays out. The only thing I can control is this. This one thing was in my hands and maybe, if I’d have been better, I’d have a draft ready. Neil Young recorded Harvest in a back brace. Plenty of people have overcome or ignored personal and global tragedy to create. I, apparently, am not made of the same stuff as them anymore. Was I once? I wrote in jail. Quite a lot, in fact. When I got out, even more. Unemployed, taking buses uptown to donate plasma. Well, you get it.

Maybe I got soft. Right now I’m getting my back better. I have a job waiting for me. A place to stay with an amazing girlfriend and, in the foreseeable future at least, enough money to get by. But I couldn’t do it. If you asked someone to rate a list of impossible tasks, writing couldn’t reasonably rank that high. But I failed that just…

Eric Boyd

Work in Joyland, Guernica, and The Offing. Winner of a PEN Prison Writing Award. Working on a novel. //