A Mental Health Issue

After I wrote my previous blog post, I decided to cut myself off from social media – cold turkey. The theory was that it was a distraction holding me back from writing. Not a crazy theory, really. But in the few days that I’ve been offline, have I managed any more time for writing? No. No, I have not. Pretty much the first thing I did was have a major energy crash. Then I was hit with some stressful personal stuff, and then I had to pick myself up and get back on with life – housework, business stuff, wedding stuff.

I’ve said before that I do a lot, and that I’m really hard on myself, but I think I’ve come to realize just how bad that is. I am getting married in a week, I should not be stressing about my novel. The last thing I need is more pressure.

I mean, yes, it has been frustrating me for a very long time how long it’s taking me to get this novel down and out into the world, but novels take time. It’s a fact of life.

For some people they take more time, and for some people they take less time, but for everyone they take time. Why should I expect myself to be one of the people who can power through a first draft in a week? It’s nuts, and it’s not helpful. I think, actually, it’s the opposite of helpful.

That’s a thing that has been more clear to others than myself, it seems, as I’ve been told to consider coaching, counseling, and – y’know – taking an actual break.

I’ve just had so much going on in my head, and my life (did I mention I’m sick on top of all this?), I was too busy to stop and really take in what I was hearing. Maybe being away from Facebook and Twitter has helped me with that if nothing else. But I’m listening now. I’m breathing.

I still want to focus on my writing, but mostly I am breathing.

I’m going to enjoy my wedding and my honeymoon. I have it on good authority that the world will not end if I do. My book will be waiting for me when I get back.

Over the past month I’ve gone from up to down to round and round and back up down and round again. Maybe it’s winter getting to me again. I realized in Autumn 2016 that the lack of sunlight affects me a lot more than I’d previously realized. And, outside of that, I’ve always been very… ‘moody’ isn’t the best way to describe it. It’s more like a minor case of bi-polar disorder, truth be told. There are highs where I think I can do everything, but there are mostly lows in which I beat myself up about not meeting the ridiculous standards I set for myself while I was on top of the world.

I’m sorry if documenting that journey here and across Facebook and Twitter has made anyone else’s head spin and/or made you worried about me. My partner has been very good at talking me through so much of this. And I’d like to say I have it all figured out and am all better now, but no one is ever all better for good.

I’m okay for now, though, and that’s enough.

Still writing, still breathing. Also taking breaks.

On having difficulty relaxing

“A poem is never finished only abandoned.” – Paul Valéry

I’ve really enjoyed yesterday and today, spending Christmas with my partner’s parents, and tomorrow we’re off to see my parents. I already announced that in my last blog post, when I said I was logging off. The thing is, I’m not sure I really know how to have down time. Not properly, and definitely not for an extended period of time.

Now, I’m quite hard on myself. I know that logically, but it still doesn’t stop me doing it. I can spend whole days being busy – doing lots of really small things, spanning client work, housework, taking care of myself, and/or my partner – but when it comes to the end of those days, I feel like I’ve achieved nothing.

Productivity very much ties into my self-worth (again, this is despite knowing logically that there’s no point). If I don’t feel like I’ve done enough, I feel bad. Simple as that.

But where does relaxing come into this? Continue reading

The Run-Up to Reading

Before I take part in an event – big or small – my nerves are on edge. I feel sick, and flighty, and weepy.

…so, that’s me, pretty much now-ish. My reading at Women Aloud NI is happening TOMORROW!

Situation clearly dire, I just had to run out for a stack of emergency chocolate (don’t eat your feelings, kids!). And I made myself so flustered that I almost said thank you to the cashier, completely forgetting that I’d just used a self-serve till :-/

Now, seeing as it took me six attempts and three Google searches to spell the word dire correctly, I’m gonna go eat said chocolate and have a little cry to myself.

How are you this evening?

Life as a Full-Time Writer

I thought some people might be interested to hear about what a full-time writer/author does all day, so I thought I’d share a little insight into my work.

It must be pointed out, however, that the following just applies to me, and that other writers can and will have different schedules. What I love about writing is the flexibility it has, and I’m really interested to find out about what other authors get up to (if you are an author and you’re reading this, please leave a comment to compare and contrast your experience).

But enough pre-amble, here are the basics: I work full time (which is to say, a minimum of thirty hours a week), I work from home (translation: my bed), and I write in a number of areas (fiction, non-fiction, fan fiction, poetry, etc.) and my daily tasks often don’t involve writing at all.

That last point might surprise you the most but, you see, I am currently my own agent, editor, publisher, and social media manager and this leads me to doing a range of tasks that a lot of other writers will never think about let alone encounter.

In this past month I have… Continue reading

Writing as a Business

Laptop and PrinterWhen I decided to go full time self-employed, I completed the Exploring Enterprise Program run by Prince’s Trust, and following that I attended various business seminars and meetings. A lot of the things talked about at these events applied to me, but a lot didn’t, as well.

Setting myself up as a freelance writer has not followed the standard business model (if there even is such a thing) and because of that there’s a lot I’ve had to find out for myself, by simply going out there and doing it.

Many mentors I’ve come across did not have advice directly applicable to my field, and there’s a wealth of guidance all over the internet to do with the actual writing process (not all good, mind you), but I found very little information to do with the background work to having your writing as a business, and even less about the balance between that background work and the actual writing. In light of that, I’m filling that ‘gap in the market’ and writing this post about it.

Being a writer, or artist, photographer, or designer, is different from running a warehouse, or a restaurant. You’re not only emotionally attached to your work but, in a very real sense, you are your work, and that complicates things.

Often I find that what’s best for my writing career in the long run is not what’s best for me business wise, and I have to find a way to reconcile those two things.

Continue reading

The Addiction of Instant Affirmation

I would rather write one-hundred thousand words of fan fiction than ten-thousand words of “original” fiction. Is it because I have fewer ideas for original stories? Is it because I prefer the writing process with fan fiction, or that writing fan fiction is in someway easier? Nope, nope, and not at all. The key is motivation – let me explain:

Ten-thousand words of a novel is ten-thousand words of a novel. It’s not a complete novel. Unfinished as it is, no one wants to read it*. And, generally speaking, you shouldn’t want to show it to people before it’s ready anyway. Posting it online severely lowers your chance of getting it accepted by a traditional publishing house. While giving friends and family a sneak peak can be a blessing or a curse, and there’s no way to tell until it’s too late.

So, basically, you’re left with ten-thousand words to worry over. Is it good enough? Will people like it? Even if you’re certain you’re penning a best seller (which you absolutely can not be sure of) you have to slog on and go through the long process to publication. It can take years, and it can be demoralizing.

Fan fiction, on the other hand? Because it’s not for profit you can share it online to your hearts content and, when you do, your heart is indeed content. You get reviews, and compliments, and people boast about you on Tumblr**. To me that kind of affirmation is like a drug***, and that’s why I do it. The fans. The community. People placing value on my work.

 

…I would rather write one-hundred thousand words of fan fiction than ten-thousand words of “original” fiction. This is a problem, because I have a novel to write. Can someone start paying me for Spike and Buffy stories?


Recommended Video: A TED Talk on Self Control (It’s vaguely related, and very interesting.)


*I’m throwing generalizations around, here.

**Okay, so you’re not guaranteed to get showered in praise but I’ve found that – excluding a few haters here and there – fan fiction readers are lovely, and if you come up with anything half decent you will no doubt get fans/followers.

***Disclaimer: drugs are bad. The high doesn’t last forever, and the following slump can be crippling. Same goes for writer’s block, though obviously to a lesser degree. Haters do hate, and they will kill you slowly if you let them.

Priorities

Recently I read ‘Finish Your Damn Book’ and ‘Are You Finished Yet?’ – both great blog posts which I really recommend everyone else check out. Even for those who haven’t clicked the links, it should be pretty obvious from the titles what they’re about, namely: actually achieving your big goals instead of just thinking about it.

Trying to do everything and failing to get anything done is a pretty big hole to fall into. So, I’m aware it’s February and no longer New Year, but my writing goals for twenty fifteen are these:

  1. Toss out the tiny ideas that don’t matter, and clear the recesses of my mind of projects that are lurking back there that I know are nothing more than a fanciful waste of time.
  2. Actually sit down and force myself to finish the big projects.

Sounds simple, right? Well, simplicity is what I’m aiming for. We’ll see how it goes.