Oh, friends. We’re here with another super personal post, though it may not feel like it. Traditionally, when I say I’m writing a personal post, it’s dealing with one of a few things: mental health, depression and anxiety, or my eating disorder and the self-hatred that has resulted from it in relation to how I feel about myself physically. Yet today, my personal post is coming in a different form: me processing not writing. Not just recently, either. For the past…two years, I think? Perhaps longer?
It’s something I’ve been meaning to process for a while, yet haven’t. But, I need to, because not writing has started to hurt me, mentally and emotionally.
So, let’s get to it.
Where I’m At Now
I’ve struggled to accurately describe what I’m feeling or where I am now (that’s why the whole processing not writing hasn’t happen for a while). I couldn’t articulate it.
But then, Marie Brennan summed it up so perfectly in a short thread of tweets:
I feel like this is exactly what’s happened to me. I used to write often, almost constantly. Fuck, the most recent book I started is going to be my ninth novel. Yet, I was at a point where I was writing a new draft in three months. The excitement to sit down and write again was intoxicating. I wrote with this fearless abandon.
Now? Now I am struggling to sit down and write, let alone get excited about it. I’ve not written a new novel in almost two years. I’ve been editing the same novel for almost four.
But a writing routine? Never heard of her.
What’s Holding Me Back
There’s a lot holding me back, now that I’ve forced myself to sit down and think about it. Including:
Focusing on the wrong things
I’ve become so focused on publishing quality that I’ve lost the love to create, to dream, to play, as Brennan describes above. I’m so set on becoming a publishing author that I’m focusing on all the wrong things; questions like, is this marketable, can I get an agent with this, how will readers respond. Yet, these questions are being asked of first drafts and outlines.
Friends, that’s a classic case of pulling the horse ahead of the cart.
Why aren’t I asking questions like this: are you in love with this story, does it excite you, how do you want to challenge yourself now? Especially in such an early draft.
Lack of prioritizing
Then, there’s prioritizing–or, the lack thereof. Writing is always the last thing on my to-do list. Why is that? When I force myself to be real, there are two main reasons: because it doesn’t pay me and because I’m scared.
The latter is obvious. It’s hard for me to justify spending time writing when I have to be at my day job for 9 hours a day (which pays all of my bills) and then when I take freelance editing work, I always put that first (because that’s how I am paying debt). Then I have homework and class, which have consequences if I don’t go. Self care (like showering, eating, movement). Video games have become the only hobby that is still STRICTLY a hobby and I refuse to give it up.
But, everything combined makes it hard to fit writing in. Yet, I think I could do a better job prioritizing it if I wasn’t scared. Scared of being a shit writer, scared of writing books that fail, sacred of “not getting it right” (whatever the fuck that means). I used to be fearless, when I wrote. The books were quite trash and trope-laden, but the joy was there.
So, how do I bring back that joy, yet continue to grow as a writer and write quality books?
Where I Want to Be
To be honest? I’m not quite sure how to answer the question I just posed. I do know, processing not writing, where I want to be is not where I currently am. I experience a lot of guilt (in general, but in relation to writing, definitely) and I want that to go away. I miss telling stories and my mental health is generally better when I’m actively writing.
So, where do I want to be? Well:
- To write regularly again
- Write fearlessly, inclusively and passionately
- Experience the joy of writing again
Things to Change
So, what am I missing, in order to bridge the gap between where I am and where I want to be? Namely:
I need a routine. The pandemic disrupted whatever routine I had and I haven’t been able to recreate one. But, if I am able to map out time to write (as well as other commitments, hobbies and goals), I think I can prove to myself that I not only have the time for it, but that it deserves to be a priority.
Change in Mindset
Again, this ties into Brennan’s point about her shift in mindset. I have grown a lot from that writer who started writing short stories in grad school and novels in middle school. In that growth, I have learned a lot. So much of that is such valuable information. Yet, I also realized how subjective the industry is; how cutthroat, challenging and competitive publishing can be. I’ve let that knowledge taint my love for writing, putting on so much pressure on myself to perform and produce, instead of create.
I want to create.
This hasn’t been easy to process. I’m not sure I’ve truly processed it all or if I have the right answers. I have identified a problem: my brain and mindset are getting in the way of my writing, which is–or was–as much a source of joy and serotonin as few things are for me, these days. I need to get that joy back. Through making a routine, dedicating myself to making writing a priority and giving myself permission to create again, I hope I can find it.
Welcome any thoughts or advice you might have on the topic, too! 🖤