An update.

It’s been a long time, blog of mine.

Like, a few months. I know.

Ok, wow. I just went back and checked – it’s actually been six months. six months. Half a year. Ugh.

I had kind of like a meltdown, you see? I hit that year mark and just…well, it wasn’t great. Floundered for a few months, beat myself up emotionally, and then started to take the baby steps towards the Right Track and getting back on it.

So now I have a job. It’s a pretty good job, too, I think. And it’s only part time, so I’m hoping I can regain some discipline and create a schedule where I can actually finish a second draft, instead of just nervously circling my printed stack of a first draft and darting in for a quick edit and never making any real progress.

So yeah, that’s where I am. It’s a rainy day, it’s the second day of March, and I want to keep trying to do this. I want to try. So let’s try.

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An update.

Things haven’t been great, guys.

A little less than a month ago, I hit my year mark. A year since I decided to take time off from work and pursue writing seriously.

A year.

Things kind of imploded at that point. An entire year had passed, and what did I have to show for it? A tiny, wrinkled stack of a first draft, pages stained with wine and coffee, notes scribbled in margins and in between lines, pages curling from being carried around so many times. It’s so small, just a tiny pile of papers bound together with a couple alligator clips at the top. It doesn’t look like a year. It hardly looks like anything.

And what do I have ahead of me? A mountain of revisions. Feedback from critique readers. More revisions. Querying for an undertermined amount of time. The work yawns out ahead of me, a dark trail stretching out for who knows how long.

If it was easy, everyone would do it, right? But I know I could have done better, could have worked harder this past year. I feel like I failed. Like I failed myself, like I failed my husband, who’s been working hard to support the both of us; I feel embarrassed, knowing I’ve told people what I’ve been trying to do.

I thought I’d be farther along by now. But I didn’t try hard enough.

So now I’m looking for a part time job, but I’m scared, because it’s been a year. It’s going to be hard to get back into it. I think beginning to earn money again will ease some of my anxiety, but I don’t know where to apply, or what to do. I feel so lost.

I could sense depression sinking back in, a black trickle pooling up inside of me. I visited my therapist last week for the first time in a year in an effort to dig my fingers into it, to grip it and attempt to get it back under control. I’m exercising every day now, logging my food to make sure I eat enough and eat healthy. It’s easy to slip into depression, like sinking backwards into a bathtub, water slowly rising over your ears, your eyes, your face, until sound is muffled and sight is blurred and everything is coccooned in a sort of numbness.

It’s easy to sink into that. It’s harder, sometimes, to resist it. To fight back.

I’m trying, and I’m not trying. I want to work on my draft, and I’m not working on my draft. It sits undisturbed on the table where it’s sat for a week now. I stare at it. I hate myself. I look at job listings. I go to the therapist. I stare out the window and do nothing.

Today I plan on going back to Panera, where I haven’t been in weeks. I’ll bring my draft and my laptop and my notebook and my pens, and even if it’s only for an hour, I hope to get some work done. Moving an inch is better than not moving at all.

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.