I had big plans for what would become this post. Multiple different big plans, in fact. And I didn’t even feel like I’d gone looking for them or digging to think of them! They simply came to me when I was idly thinking, or trying to make sense of something about my writing inside my own head. I had things I wanted to say and I was looking forward to talking about!
. . .and then March came through in earnest, and I wound up juggling far too many things that needed doing right now and – along with everything else I wanted to work on creatively – I simply didn’t have time. Or energy. Or anything left.
So instead, today I’ll share a page from my ‘diary’, because I am simply too wrung out and worn through to be witty or wise (or to play at them, at least).
When my mind is weighed down and filled with ‘junk’, I must create to save myself.
As I’ve talked about before, writing is a component of mental health for me – a deeply important one. Not only do I seem to process everything I go through or feel by way of my writing (whether as near-direct inspiration or so twisted even I don’t know how the one connects to the other) but I honestly feel horrendous when I don’t ‘have time to write’.
I do write every day (even when I don’t quite feel like it to begin with), which works beautifully for me although I don’t think it is universally applicable advice to do so. (I sometimes suggest other writers give it a try, because you never know, but no one method suits everyone; even more true of creative pursuits.) That terrible feeling I get, however, is not guilt for not making time to fulfil a goal.
I rarely feel that kind of bad, honestly, and when I do it tends to fade as I write. Writing makes me feel better, not worse, even when I’m very busy, and it is something I want to find time for – sometimes to the extent that I resent distractions that pull me from my keyboard. Even if they are very important ‘distractions’. (Plus on bad days, or days when I’ve been so busy I literally have not the energy, I hold my dedication to write every day satisfied by a sentence or three. The idea is not to force myself or make writing into a detestable duty.)
No, I have been feeling horrendous because I feel as though I can barely pry out any time to write, and when I do I am still so overwhelmed and plagued by stress that I then feel like there’s just nothing in me to accomplish . . . anything any more. Be it writing, conversation, or even fulfilling the next steps of any of the (unfortunately deadline-restricted) many tasks that have been weighing upon me.
I love writing, and I love that it fills up much of my time. I can’t think of an instance I’ve resented the time and mental space that writing takes over without so much as a by your leave to my other pursuits. I think I have a talent for it, though I always strive to improve (and there is much room to do so). It makes me happy. It even makes other people happy sometimes!
So feeling as though I have nothing left in me to give to writing is deeply distressing to me, and leaves me feeling even worse off than the overwhelmed stress of whatever I was dealing with before did alone. It compounds the already bad emotional state I find myself in and makes that hole many times deeper.
As I headed into the second week of March I tried to tell myself that I had all these important Real Life things to attend to, and so if I was managing far less productivity in my writing, that was okay. It happens. I would tackle these pressing things (regrettably too important to shove aside) and then get back to my writing.
All true, but perhaps also more geared towards the ‘guilt’ feeling, rather than the ‘lack of coping mechanism’ thing.
I still would likely have been fine, if the rest of March hadn’t very unkindly followed the example of the first week and continued to heap things onto me. It left me drained and still repeating the soothing mantra aimed at guilt for half abandoning projects, which didn’t address a fact I rarely have to think about so baldly – that I really need to write.
It is a fact of my nature, one which only grows stronger when I am stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed. As I began to realise why – at least in part – the stresses I was dealing with were taking so very much out of me, I finally took a day (one on which I spent all morning and half the afternoon being Real Life Productive) and said for the rest of the day, I was going to pretend there was not a single thing other than writing (and a few dishes) I had to accomplish.
It wasn’t enough to magically make it better, but I had a few fewer stress-breakdowns that week. Benefit enough.
As I move into Camp NaNoWriMo (for which my goal is to write words – all the words – and also to specifically wrap up a few ongoing projects; I’d like to write 100k, but shhh, no jinxing the goal) I’ve actually managed to defeat several of those projects. A few more are still weighing over my head, but there’s nothing I can do until something outside of my control happens.
I’ve been doing much better with my writing (I finish this diary on the seventh night of Camp, and I’m close to breaking 25k) and much better with my stress, though I’m still dealing with it.
I’m also so grateful that over the past couple of years, occasions where I have to remember this lesson on how important writing is to me, and why, have been so rare that it took me weeks to remember it properly.
Even if I wish I’d learned it a little faster this time.