Maybe some of you can relate.

I mean, some of the time my thoughts come out better in writing. But pretty much ALL of the time I talk, it comes out, like, I wish I could say English wasn’t my first language. Because then I could blame it on a language barrier, but really it’s just a brain-to-mouth barrier.

Shoot. Maybe my words don’t sound better coming from anywhere. THAT’S OKAY AT LEAST MY DOG LIKES ME.

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The connection between my productivity and mood.

A few years ago, I tried to do what I’m doing now.

I quit grad school (it wasn’t the right path for me at the time), and instead of going back to work right away, I decided to use the rest of the fall ‘semester’ to pursue writing instead of graduate work. It was September – I was giving myself until January to see what I could do.

It was a disaster.

I wasn’t productive; I floated through days, trying to figure out what to do writing-wise, avoiding writing and keeping myself busy with other things, feeling guilty constantly when I wasn’t writing, going to bed each evening hating myself when I hadn’t gotten anything done (which was most of the time).

By December, I had spiraled into a deep depression. I had headaches often, and I was always turned inward, focusing on what I hadn’t accomplished, but not making any steps to become more productive. I wasn’t eating enough. I was sleeping too much. Worst of all, I began to self injure again. Finally, after spending one evening lying at the foot of my bed sobbing for no reason, I talked to my husband and told him I needed to get help. He listened to me without judgment, and helped me take the steps I needed.

I went back to work, and began seeing a therapist and psychiatrist. I got back on antidepressants. I started taking anxiety classes. After several months of working on myself, I began feeling healthier.

 

I don’t know that I was ready to have that much time on my shoulders back then, to put that much pressure on myself to write and solely write and hope to make something out of it. But one thing I learned from the experience is that I needed to be careful treading back into the process this time around. I try to be aware of my mental state now, to notice when my outlook begins to darken so that I can immediately catch myself and work on it.

A big, big thing I’ve noticed through trying to be more emotionally aware this time around is that my levels of productivity are strongly linked to my moods and emotional state. When I’m being productive – when I’m outlining, revising, and writing – I’m light, my surroundings are beautiful, it’s easy to smile. When I’m procrastinating and avoiding work, things immediately get heavy. My state of mind is closed off, dimmed, and grey. I catch myself in negative thinking, making negative conclusions and frowning more often than not. I hate everything around me. I blame my unhappiness on my environment.

I caught myself today staring out my living room window, expressionless, yearning to be somewhere else, somewhere different, somewhere without palm trees and perpetual sunshine, where the air would smell rich and damp like earth and fog, where woods and trees lined the horizon. If only I could go elsewhere, I thought, like that would solve all my problems.

Ding ding ding.

Going somewhere else wouldn’t solve any of my problems. Sure, I live in suburbia, but I could live in Brooklyn and it wouldn’t matter. The problem was me. I didn’t write anything all weekend, and now here I was, Monday morning, feeling murky and weighed down, and thinking that if only I could get out of this town, things would get better. Big red flag that I need to plant my butt in the chair and get back to work. 

Here’s my deal with myself: if I work hard for a few days – I mean, actually work, not just type a line or two here and there throughout the afternoon, like a kid pushing their vegetables around the plate because they think mindless motion means progress – and I still feel blah, well then – time to reassess. Time to call the doc again, time to exercise, time to take a trip. But knowing myself, this is probably what I need.

So, reminder to self – if you’re feeling depressed/in a funk/heavy/blue, ask yourself: have you been productive enough lately in your writing? Sit down, and get back to work.

And commence panic.

So at the end of May last year I told my job I wasn’t returning after summer.

That means it’s been a year. It’s officially been a year.

AND I’M ONLY ON THE SECOND DRAFT.

As May came to a close this past week, the tension started to rise until it reached a humming, frenzied buzz ringing through the core of me, vibrating through every limb and shooting through my fingertips; June 1st came and I was raw and electric, a mess of anxiety and self-loathing. Why did I quit my job? Why did I think I could do this? Did I honestly think I could accomplish much in a year? Did I have a plan at all?

The thoughts culminated and tumbled over, until they poured into other aspects of my life as well, my anxiety leaking into other areas of my daily life until I was snapping at my husband, sleeping in, hiding under the covers away from the world, away from my mess of a manuscript, not even close to being ready to send out to agents.

I didn’t go into this with a set deadline, wasn’t expecting to be done by such-and-such date. But officially hitting the one year mark made me realize that I had expected to be further along than this. And I think the reason why it’s affecting me so deeply is because I know I could have done better, I could be farther along. So many times now I’ve dilly-dallied. So much of my time has been wasted due to procrastination and a lack of self-discipline. Granted, I didn’t officially start writing until the end of August/early September, but still.

So here I am, a year along with a rough first draft and the beginnings of a second. I officially haven’t worked in a year, and I imagine people will look down on me for that, and I’m applying to jobs now, looking for ways to make money, and trying to stay on top of writing as well.

But I can’t beat myself up for where I’m at and what I haven’t accomplished, because that won’t help me make progress. I need to focus on now. I need to keep moving forward. So I’m going back to my draft, and I’m going to keep working. And keep working. And as long as I do that, I can keep moving forward, however slowly that takes.

Tick Tock

Oh hi, Wednesday! When did you get here? Can you come back later, please? I feel like time’s been moving too quickly lately, and somehow it’s already the end of April. So if Father Time could just stop breathing down my neck for a minute so I could work on my manuscript without worrying about how long it’s taking me, I would really appreciate it.

Hear that, Father Time?!

Yeah, I’m losing it.

Anyways, it’s been about a week since I posted last. I’m still reading through my first draft (crossing things out and making notes as I go along), but I’m almost done now. But when I finish reading it, that means I’ll have to start getting into the real nitty and gritty of revising it. Why does every step of the writing process freak me out? I think it’s because all of this really matters to me, and that’s…scary. I don’t even like talking about it. Half tempted to delete the past few sentences, in fact, because it’s scary to acknowledge the things that matter.

Well. Time to get back to reading the first draft. Hoping to finish it by today.

 

PS – it’s even worse than I imagined it would be. My first draft, I mean. I have a mountain of work ahead of me – lots of enormous changes and minor tweaks and major overhauls to be done.

Progress Update

So I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of hours this week at Panera, I’m about halfway through reading my first draft, and, you know, progress is being made.

Yay! Progress!

I’ve made an online writing buddy, and we’re both pretty much at the same stage with our writing, so we’ve been going back and forth talking about our manuscripts and our worries/troubles/etc.

And I’m working on trying to learn the whole social media thing, because I went to a literary agents panel at the Festival of Books and they said that if you can start building an audience, it looks good when you’re querying.

SO THANKS, GUYS. Because all like, ten of you who have subscribed to my blog? You’re helping me build an audience I could maybe put into a query letter to an agent saying, “Look, see? People read my stuff. I’m not invisible!” Not that I’m doing this blog for readers – I don’t want to fool myself into thinking what I have to say is interesting. I think what I’m trying to say is, thanks for the support you’ve shown me so far. I hope I can do the same for some of you, too.

Read the first page of my draft.

Stood up. Walked away from the desk.

Wandered back, stared at the manuscript from a distance.

Several days pass, somehow.

 

Okay, let’s try this again.

Here we go.

This is it, guys.

 

Do you see that stack of papers, seemingly innocuous, wrapped in a cord and sitting on my mess of a desk/dining room table?

That’s my first draft, and I’m untying the cord today and going to start reading. After a month of letting it sit, I’m diving in. And I am Freaking. Out.

My nerves are a trembling thing beneath my sternum, a tautly pulled thread just plucked and humming in the base of my throat. What if it’s awful, what if it makes no sense? What if it’s irreparable – or what if it is fixable, but it’s going to take months?

My draft stares back at me, waiting. You’re just a stack of papers, I won’t be scared of you.

Let’s get started.