We’re a week into August, and oh boy, July was quite a month. If only the Vigil for the Bulls had happened, it would have been quite a month, but the Vigil was not the only thing that happened. July was a month of one thing after another, and I leave the month being profoundly grateful (Corbie’s alive!) but also a bit more grounded than I’ve been in some time.
The thing about becoming distracted by life is, it happens gradually. We don’t realize right away what’s happening, and suddenly we’re down a path we never meant to be on, ignoring our truths, ignoring what we know of ourselves, setting ourselves up for failure when we’re trying to push ourselves maybe a bit more toward our goals.
I started this year with the idea that it was going to be the year of Writing All The Things. Despite the fact I cannot sustain a NaNoWriMo pace, I made a goal to have 150k words written by the end of July. And then I made sure to add to the pressure by adding more projects in. In February, instead of working on the novels I wanted to finish, I wrote 20k on the Sacred Marriage book. And then I dabbled at The Pagan Experience. And then, and then, and then!
It took the mounting dissatisfaction spreading through most areas of my life before I realized that i had a serious problem going on that was more than the general, constant mild depression that I live with. July lent clarity to my vision. While I can’t say I traced this dissatisfaction back to just one source, I did track its cause back to one critical factor: letting myself neglect to honor the things I know about myself. One of these things is: if I get overwhelmed, my response is to shut down.
I’m surrounded by Makers. Beth is forever working tirelessly on her store. She puts in long hours — often 16, never fewer than 10 — and she works 7 days a week. I have a number of friends who are also always making, who are always doing, something is always being created. Me? I flirt with things. Drawing. Sculpting. I want to have artistic skill sets, but never enough to want to put the time into developing them. Not because I don’t want to learn these things, but usually because I don’t want to take the time away from writing. In my mind, it’s always time that I could be spent writing or story building or researching.
Bear in mind, most of the year this year has been spent Not Writing. I set down the Sacred Marriage book in April. In May and June I hand wrote a few chapters for the novel a number of times, but I haven’t typed them up yet. I’d wanted to be done with book 3 of the series by the end of July (at roughly 50k words each) but I’m only just closing on the final few chapters of the first book.
2015 is clearly not the year of Writing All The Things. Why?
I can point to things — working for Beth, dealing with some serious injury recovery time and a whole world of pain that I did not expect, Grim’s illness and death and establishment as a dominant spirit in our household — and these contribute, to be sure. But, I set myself up for failure right out of the gate because I ignored one thing I know about myself: if I have too much on my plate, I shut down. A mental to-do list that stretches across the whole of the year is too claustrophobic-making, it’s too much pressure, too much expectations on me, too much demand on my time. Yes, it’s all things I want to do and accomplish but one of the things I need to remember is, that doesn’t matter. Pressure is pressure. Stress is stress. The mind may be able to differentiate between good and bad stress, but the body does not care.
If I have too many books in my immediate to be read pile, I get burned out and reading becomes a chore. I can’t decide which to choose first and so I go to Youtube or FB or any other distraction, because the pressure is too much. If I have too much yarn, it becomes impossible to decide what to knit next, and so I will never be one to have a stash, and I do not buy yarn without knowing what I’m making with it. What on earth made me decide that I could fill my entire year up with writing projects, complete with drawn out outlines (thus taking away much of the fun of discovery) and that I could work that way? Because it wasn’t just the novel project, no. It was the Saced Marriage book, and it was getting a few other stories released, and it was getting Poseidon: A Narrative finished up, and, and, and . . .
And it spiraled out of control, and spread, and I don’t know that this is the root of all of that, but I do know that when my writing is stoppered up, when I’m not okay on that front, everything else suffers.
So, a reminder to myself, and use it if it’s useful to you: it’s okay to have been distracted. It’s okay to forget the truths you know about yourself . . . but it’s important to check in and to see, from time to time. And it’s okay to decide to not push yourself in ways that will only make you miserable. I want to be a writing machine, I do. But not at the cost of stifling my heart and choking my soul. Not at the cost of the joy of writing.