I was thinking about my blog post yesterday and talked about some of it via FaceTime with my friend Holly while on my daily walk this afternoon. During that conversation, I realized I have been partaking in one of the thought distortions my psychologist often points out to me which is disqualifying the positive.
Having a day job while being an author is hard. But despite that, I’ve published seven books, and most importantly, I wrote the books I wanted to write. I wrote for myself and have found a small audience. It would be a huge mistake to discount that.
Work at my day job has been inordinately stressful lately. The work from home status due to Covid-19 isn’t it making it any easier either. For the first time in a long time, I had a panic attack over the weekend that took me over three hours to recover from.
It hasn’t been all bad though. I continue to write in the mornings, before working, and that does improve my mood. Because of this commitment, I finally finished writing Chapter Three. It took four months, over a span of seven months, to write. (I began writing it in October but didn’t write in November, December, or January, because of depression.) It felt great to finish it as I think it’s been the most challenging chapter for me to write in the series. I’ve begun Chapter Four, and hope it won’t take nearly as long to finish. I’ve had two beta readers ask when they can expect new chapters and I plan to send them something after Chapter Four is complete.
I began this post talking about my day job because it’s really been wearing me down, and if something doesn’t change, I think there’s the likelihood of burnout. I talked with my psychologist about it today. She thinks I should consider leaving. I really wish I could; it’s my dream to be able to write for a living, but right now I don’t sell enough books to do that, and I need a paycheck. I could potentially find a job that would be less stressful, but it’s hard to leave what I have because I’ve been there for fifteen years and have a pension and health benefits to consider, including behavioral health benefits that I especially rely on.
The best answer would be to sell more books. I need to reach more readers to do that. There is so much advice out there on how to grow your readership, with social networking and advertising strategies being at the top of the list. I’ve yet to be successful at either. It’s so hard to make your books stand apart from all the other books out there, because there are so many good writers trying to accomplish the same thing I am. And then of course, with a writer’s natural instinct to be hypercritical of one’s own work, I have to wonder if maybe my books just aren’t good enough.
This post probably comes across as negative, but that’s not what I’m trying to express. My psychologist also suggested I consider changing my goal to be able to write for a living. But I will never do that. I will never give up chasing my dream. I have hopes that someday I’ll be able to look back at this post and see that it was about struggles I overcame.
I’ve mentioned that I try to stay off social media as it is generally not good for my self-esteem, and so staying off is something I actually work on with my psychologist. Social media can also take up a lot of time, time that I should spend writing. Anyhow, I had been doing well with staying off, having deleted multiple apps on my phone, but I consciously decided to come back on recently in order to promote an eBook giveaway. I’ve had to come back on social media for reasons like this before, and it’s always been easy for me to get back off once my purpose is complete. But this time it wasn’t, and I think that’s because of the current quarantine situation we are living under.
I regularly text with many friends, but now I make an effort to text with even more, just to stay connected and feel that people are there and to let them know I’m there for them as well. But I realized I need to see faces, and in quarantine this just doesn’t happen. So I think that’s why it was harder to walk away from Facebook and Instagram this time. I need to see my friends beyond just their text messages.
My psychologist suggested video chatting, but that’s not easy for me, being shy and self-conscious (even though I have to do it during my day job and my therapy sessions are now via video chat). I don’t know why it’s so much harder for me to video chat when it’s personal, but it is. But I promised my psychologist that I would video call someone after our session, and I did, and that day I saw the faces of three friends while talking to them. It was a very good thing to do, and I’m going to try to do it more.
But even with embracing video chat, I’m still on social media and am not ready to leave it. And now that I’m there, I realize how poorly I use it to promote my books and myself as an author. A lot of that is due to shyness and not wanting everything I post to feel like an advertisement. But I took a step forward and made a video post on my Instagram where I’m actually talking and showing my face. (I did use a filter though.)
I have an author Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but now that doesn’t feel like enough. So I reinstalled Snapchat today and finally got on Tiktok. And dammit, now I feel overwhelmed. I want to promote my books, but honestly, I just don’t know how to do it well. I’ve read that I should focus on just one platform, but I don’t know which. Twitter is the easiest for me to post to, but I get the most interaction from readers on Instagram, despite not having any sexy pics.
I wish writing books was enough, but it’s so hard to make the books you’ve written stand out amongst all the other books out there and compete against all the other authors who are trying to do the same thing you’re doing. But beside social media and paid advertising, I don’t know what else authors can do besides hope someone famous will love their book and post about it.
I’ve been back on social media for sixteen days now. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay. I should leave already as I’ve already felt some effects on my self-esteem, but right now, I still need to see faces. I guess that means I need to do more video chats in order to escape the social networks.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve transitioned to working my day job remotely like so many others. In recent months, with the help of my psychologist, I have been trying to change my workaholic ways and no longer work after leaving the office. Most importantly, this means not checking work emails after I’ve headed home. I’ve been successful 82% of the time. But now that I’m working from home, I’ve found that I’m working longer days. Some of that is because of increased workload caused by the pandemic, but it is also because I am finding it difficult to separate work time from personal time now that I am no longer physically leaving an office. I’m working on it though.
Work stress along with the anxiety and depression that I’ve been trying to keep at bay during the unfolding of this crisis has made it difficult for me to write. It feels like I’m actively avoiding it and that just makes me more depressed. Until yesterday, I hadn’t written for nine days, and all I netted were nineteen new words. But that was something, and today I’ve netted 150, bringing this month’s total to 1,396. It’s far cry from the 6,000 I aim to write a month, but I just have to keep trying. Chapter Three continues to be a struggle, but I think the end is finally in sight.
A reader described a dream she had about Orly. With some slight embellishments, I’ve worked it into the new book as a surprise for her. I hope she likes it.
I’ve gone 90 days without checking reviews. Not checking regularly is something else I work on with my psychologist, as checking regularly hasn’t been good for my self-esteem. That’s not because of potential bad reviews inasmuch as it is when there are no new reviews. I might check soon though. I’d really like to know what people are saying about Scribbling the Eternal. Excluding friends, family, and a couple emails from readers, I really have no idea.
I hope you are all staying healthy and afloat and know that this strange world we are currently living in won’t last forever.
Though sessions with my psychologist have been helpful, I continue to slip deeper into my depression. When it gets bad like this, I just don’t want to do anything but stay in bed, so I’ve been struggling to push myself to do things—to go to work, to exercise, even to read.
For a long time, my daily writing goal had been thirty minutes. I find it effective to set easy goals so that it is more likely that I will complete them. With having a day job that often leaves me mentally exhausted, it’s more palatable to contend with a goal of thirty minutes than one of three hours. The aim is just to get myself to sit down and start writing, because once writing I usually lose track of time and, consequently, I exceed the goal.
But in this depression, even thirty minutes felt daunting, and as such I hadn’t written any new words since August 25th. So today I decided to reduce my daily writing goal to just ten minutes. It worked, at least for today. I put on music, sat down, and wrote for hours. I finally had to stop as I was running late to have dinner with my friend Brie. (Again, I’m pushing myself to do things, and seeing friends helps.)
I’m still very early in the new book and the sentences are not coming easily. I’m trying to content myself with how the passages are building—one upon the next—but already I can see they’re made mostly of sentences I will later rewrite.
Orly feels more mature though. And that was I wanted.
But the point is, I’ve responded to my depression in a way that worked, in a way that allowed me to write—at least for today.