For personal reasons I can’t yet divulge entirely, I’ve been forced to cut back on my production this summer.
At first, I was angry. I had so much to do. So many plans that had to be put on the back burner. This was going to set me back months, maybe longer. Would hot trends even be hot in 3 months? 6? A year?
If you’ve been in publishing long, you know the answer to that.
I told myself it didn’t matter. I could still write ahead and have a whole bunch of stories ready to go. But the reality of all the stress I was (and still am) under slapped me in the face so hard it took my breath away, as well as my words. It was hard to be productive when I knew I couldn’t do anything with it. It was hard to focus when I was under so much stress. It was hard to be motivated when my personal life was in complete upheaval.
I need stability. But I also need deadlines. These are elements of my personality that I have been trying to embrace.
I had neither.
So I stewed for awhile. I cursed. I tried to come up with a plan and motivate myself. I created a new bujo and used a bunch of Washi tape to make it pretty. It was better than nothing — but I still wasn’t getting a lot of words. If I was lucky, I could get about 250-500 words — if I succeeded in even opening the file! — on the Princess Takes Unicorns prequel I’ve been working on for like a year. It’s only a short story. Why couldn’t I finish it?
I didn’t want to give myself a heart attack or stroke from the stress — or even cancer or other illnesses. (I watched Heal on Netflix.) So I was forced to slowly begin to work on ME not a story. My first efforts were to begin meditation again. Not everyday, but more frequently. I ordered an “I AM” journal and worked on my gratitude and affirmations. I came up with a mantra that I repeated when I was stressed or upset. Over and over and over, because yeah, it’s been a rough few months. I started writing down affirmations in a spare journal as often as I could remember to do it. Just free-writing a whole page as often as possible.
I started listening to that still voice inside me. I started trusting in my gut. I went through a forgiveness process and actually burned the paper where I’d written my hurt down. Not once but several times lol.
I took more long baths with candles and bath bombs. I read more. I indulged in Netflix horror movies. I bought some incense and started a little ritual when I went to my computer to help me relax, even if I didn’t manage any words.
And I started doing the things I *knew* I should do to help with productivity. I just had resistance to them. Mainly, low-key sprints and setting a timer.
A lot of writers use sprints and are very successful with them – but I have to be careful. I have just enough achiever in my strengths that I want to be the best. I want to do well. I want to be the fastest. And if I’m not, I avoid it. I put immense pressure on myself to type like a mad person when that timer goes off – and if I’m mentally not in the place to achieve a lot of words, I don’t want to do it. I avoid it. Because I know I’ll be disappointed in myself.
This took a mind shift, but I think I’m finally in a better place. I don’t use the timer so much to “sprint” but to focus. The word count doesn’t matter. It only matters that I’m working on ONLY my story during that time. If I’m reading and editing, that’s okay. If I’m just adding a few lines, that’s okay. If I’m writing slowly and relaxed… THAT’S OKAY! I just need to dedicate the TIME to do the work.
The words started to come. Slowly, yes, but the words are flowing again. It’s more of a gentle trickle than the rushing Amazon River, but I’ll take it. I’m learning to embrace that ebb and flow better.
In all of this, I finally realized exactly how close to burnout I probably was. Forcing myself to write while under this major stress would have probably pushed me over the brink. I don’t know how long my muse would have been incapacitated if I’d kept pushing and forcing the words over the summer. I had all the classic signs of burnout:
- difficulty focusing
- tired all the time
- no motivation
- no creativity
- wanting to veg and binge Netflix
Granted, the Homelife stress has been extremely high for years and was certainly contributing to the approach of burnout. But I also wasn’t taking good care of my muse. That’s why Checkmate and Triune took me soooooo long. I struggled to focus. I had a lot of “I don’t wanna” and I didn’t know why or how to get over it.
Usually for me, the more pressure I apply and the tighter the deadlines, the better I perform. Usually. So it was hard for me to admit that I was probably not in a good place. My mind kept insisting that I should just push harder. My “feelings” were just feelings and I should be able to write just as much even with my Homelife exploding around me.
So while it has been a frustrating summer… I can also look back and admit that I was exactly where I needed to be. I needed to spend these months forming some new self-care habits. I needed the down time. While the Homelife stress isn’t any better yet (though things are in progress and I hope it can resolve in the next few months), I have found my stride with writing. Yes, it’s slower. But that’s okay. The flow is there. I’ve almost finished the short prequel and I plan to spend the first 3 weeks of October expanding Queen Takes Camelot.
Yes, I know. After all my talk above about stress, I set a fairly tight pre-order date! But I need the pressure to make sure I actually focus and work, and I have other pressing reasons for that deadline.
It’ll be a good test to see if my new habits will continue to help me keep moving forward, manage the stress, and still find space in my head to be creative. I’ve got a checklist I’m trying to do every single day, both for sprints and for self care. I may post more often in Oct just as an accountability.
Let the words FLOW!