Random Thoughts: Writerly Despair and Other Cold Treat Flavors

Oh my. It seems to be going around. I got hit with it this week. You know, that thing that happens when you wonder what the point of doing this work is. Despair. The only thing you can really do is wait until that giant wave of mutilation recedes back.

I was lucky this time. It only lasted a day. Sometime around the middle of a bout of writerly despair there’s this stage where I start to panic about how much time I wasted and what on earth am I going to do NOW?

Then you calm down, if you are lucky, and eventually the sense of despair (which comes in may forms, for many reasons) goes away. (In my case, the despair was brought on by how far behind I am on projects because of a week and half of computer issues. Holy crap, you guys, I am MONTHS behind. But you know, I’m the boss, so maybe I am being a bit of an asshole.) Of course you keep writing because really, if you are a writer (and I think this is true for other artists) what else IS there?

But I wonder if this cycle happens for non-fiction writers, too?

I wonder if this happens in other kinds of work, and maybe, we just don’t see it because it manifests differently, or for different reasons, or people in other careers just don’t talk as much about their Astrophysicisterly Despair. Is there an anhedonia particular to, for example, parking attendants? It sounds silly, but I’m being perfectly sincere about this.

I wonder about this because while it seems obvious to us that some careers would naturally have serious moments of darkness and despair, we don’t think about whether other types of jobs have those same moments.

I am fairly certain that those of us with day jobs in the service industry experience career-related cycles of despair daily. Probably once about every five minutes.

What do you guys think?

 

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The Love/Hate Blog Challenge: The Top Ten Things I Love/Hate About Balancing Day Job with Writing

I have been TAGGED! Lillian Csernica invited me to participate in the Love/Hate Blog Challenge. She wrote about what she loves/hates about being creative here. The challenge is to write a list of top ten things you love/hate about a thing. I HERETOFORE ISSUE THE CHALLENGE TO Emma Leigh and Devon Miller!

Love:

1) Even if I have a slow writing day, I can at least feel like I have done something productive.

2) Paychecks are good. They pay bills.

3) The day job provides structure, which forces focus and sticking to a writing schedule which, in my case, usually helps with productivity.

4) Retail enables you to witness all kinds of mundane and bizarre behavior and forces you into conversations with folks, both lovely and awful, you might not speak to otherwise. This can be great for the writer-brain.

5) You learn weird stuff. Writer-brain loves learning weird stuff.

6) Unlike the act of writing, in the day job you are not alone in terms of making stuff happen.

7) That feeling when you finally get to clock out for the day and you can’t wait to get back to the writing.

8) As an introverted writer-person, there is a very real possibility that without someplace I am obligated to be I would isolate a little too much. Human beings are wired for contact with other human beings no matter our level of introversion. It helps the brain stay relatively healthy.

9)  When you work for someone else there’s a certain amount of control about what you are going to do with your day that you, necessarily, give up. Sometimes (not often) that can be a relief.

10) It forces much needed distance between me and the work. When I come back to the writing project, sometimes I find that the forced distance was exactly what I needed to move forward.

 

Hate:

1) OMG! I’M HAVING ALL OF THE BEST IDEAS RIGHT NOW BUT ALL I CAN ACTUALLY DO IS STEAM THIS EFFING SHRIMP!

2) GAAAA!!! If I didn’t have to pay bills I could be writing instead!

3) Sometimes the schedule changes and writer-brain cannot always adapt quickly, which causes frustration.

4) Sometimes you’d just rather not interact with the public for the very same reasons that you like to interact with the public.

5) When a shift is busy/arduous enough that by the end of it, you don’t have the energy or focus to write, like you planned to do.

6) In the day job you are not alone in terms of making stuff happen. (Oh, where is my sweet, sweet solitude!)

7) When a shift is too slow and you feel like, except for the money, you are wasting time that could be more productively spent writing.

8) *grumble grumble* Obligations. *grumble grumble* People wanting things.

9) When you work for someone else there’s a certain amount of control about what you are going to do with your day that you, necessarily, give up.

10) It forces much needed distance between me and the work. When I come back to the writing project, sometimes I find that the forced distance makes it harder to recapture what I was trying to accomplish.

The Spotty Blog: Random Thoughts: On Being Overwhelmed

I recently had a conversation with another writer friend wherein we were talking about being overwhelmed in regards to writing. I don’t think we actually used those words, but it was the topic at hand. You know the feeling. You’re working on a first draft of a project that is large in scope and in the back of your head you might already be thinking about whether or not the work is good, will this do anything to advance ye olde writing career when it is done, should I self-publish if this one gets unilaterally rejected, and oh god if I do self-publish how the hell do I approach marketing and what if no publishing house or agent will touch me if it bombs and how will I support my coffee habit if I can’t make a go of this and will I ever be able to support myself doing this thing I am spending all of my time on and … and… and…

Dude. I’m exhausted just typing that out. I have had this feeling. It was a lot of years ago, though. (It could always happen again. You never know. I mean, I haven’t yet realized any of my wilder youthful ambitions on the fiction-writing front.) But because I had that conversation with someone who it happened to more recently I started trying to remember what I did to get out of the “What if everything’s awful?” spiral. It took a long time, and it was kind of painful but I had to remember to compartmentalize my own thoughts, separate each issue as if they were separate tasks. (It kinda turns out that they are, in fact, separate tasks.)

If I was going to have the fun of worrying about querying, publishing, marketing, distribution and  getting paid, I knew I had to start finishing things. And that once I finished that first thing, I would have to finish more things. Basically, I realized that worrying about everything that might come after finishing a draft was going to keep me from finishing a draft. By thinking about all of that other stuff before it was even close to being a real world concern I was throwing cinder blocks on my own toes as I was trying to hike uphill.

So, I did a fairly banal thing to break the cycle. I divided up my writing time in order to focus on doing the work and finishing that draft. I don’t remember the specifics, but let’s say, for example, that I had time scheduled for writing 5 days out of the week. The idea was that for four of those scheduled days, I had to work on the writing, and allow the fifth day to be spent on worrying about things that weren’t necessary yet, like queries and agents and publishers. I wrote out a list that broke down which elements concerned me, and devoted that fifth day to researching/thinking about those things. It took some time before I stopped having spillover on writing days, but it helped to retrain my brain to stop messing with me during creative time.

I don’t know if that is something that will work for anyone else, but it is the thing that worked for me. The bottom line is that it is really hard to get on with the business of creating when you are trying to hold all aspects of publishing in your head at the same time.

So I have a question for anyone else who might have gone through something similar. Any advice? How did you get yourself out of the spiral?