I’ve been writing pretty consistently which I’m both proud of and amazed by because I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression and anxiety lately. On Monday I had an anxiety attack while writing. That’s very unusual. I had a video session with my psychologist later that day and we talked about it. At first I thought the anxiety stemmed from the feeling that the first four chapters were basically finished and that someday readers would be seeing them as they are. But the more we talked, I realized that beyond the stress of publicly sharing what I had written, a lot of my anxiety was actually about finishing the book because it’s the last in the trilogy. I realized I’m upset because I’m not ready to let go of Orly. And as Orly Bialek was inspired by Ashley Vargas, my illustrator who died at nineteen, I feel finishing this series is like letting go of her too. I feel like after I put this book out, I’ll have nothing left to give Ashley, and that hurts me because my distorted thinking interprets that as forgetting her. Therapy sessions are often not as long as they need to be, and I still haven’t worked this out. We’ll likely talk about it again on Monday. But I know the best thing I can do for myself is to keep going, to keep writing, even if it does mean eventually getting to the end. Hopefully by publication, I’ll be convinced either by my psychologist or by my friends that finishing doesn’t mean forgetting.
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.
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.
My depression persists. I believe it’s actually gotten worse. Down the spiral I go. Every day it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Yet somehow, with my new daily writing goal of just ten minutes, I’ve been able to make myself write every day this past week. My daily word count is minimal, but that’s not the point.
Yesterday I watched three videos posted on the Patreon page of an artist whose work I admire a lot—Elly Smallwood. She talked about doing your own thing as an artist and the importance of not comparing yourself to others. It helped to be reminded of those things, as I’ve been feeling like a failure as a writer. For some time I’ve been measuring my success by number of readers—something Elly would refer to as external validation. I need to relearn that the success is in the doing—in the writing and in the completion of work. Everything else comes second or not in any place at all. I think I often forget this because I spend too much time looking at social media, where it’s easy to compare myself to others and subsequently put myself down.
I need to stop looking around me and pay more attention to what I’m working on. Later this month I’m going to spend a week in a cabin I rented in Idyllwild for a writing retreat. I hope by then I have a better handle on my depression so that I make use of all that quiet time by writing my new book and not sleeping the days away.