My last blog post was posted back in April, and at the time I was celebrating an anniversary. It had been one year since my debut novel 27 Revelations had been released and I had a renewed sense of hope regarding my future as an indie author. I was diligently becoming more active on my social media pages and I was determined that I was going to finish my novella series, Sugar Lane by the end of May. My editor was lined up to start working on the project in July, which left me plenty of time to work on the next project and begin drafting my marketing plan. I had it all figured out until there was chaos.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but life’s chaos seems to suck all the creative energy out of me. I have always felt that writing during times of stress was the greatest therapy, but for me it only seems to work during times of minor stress, such as being late paying a bill. When the big stuff hits, I shut down and I must step away.
The first time I shut down I was on the second draft of 27 Revelations. My cousin had passed away unexpectedly due to complications with diabetes and I was heartbroken to say the least. It was then that I experienced my first anxiety attack and a prolonged period of severe anxiety. I didn’t write a word for a least three months because I couldn’t. The grieving process is different for everyone and at that time I just had to sit still until I could gather enough strength to crawl away from my sorrow. When I finally came back to writing it only took me one chapter to get back into a groove. It was like riding a bicycle. I instinctively remembered what I needed to do next to complete my story and bring balance back to my life. I picked up right where I left off and finished telling my story, analyzing pain and loss in the process, and learning what it means to renew one’s self.
The second and milder of the two droughts came in April. Like a lot of indie authors, I have a day job and someday I plan on being successful enough to quit my job and just write books, but now is not that time. I am very grateful for the job that I have, but like every job it has its own headaches. In April I was forced to decide to leave my company for another because of an acquisition. Initially, I was not happy. I was under a lot of stress and flooded with unsolicited opinions about the situation, so it made it hard for me to be objective. In the end I chose to leave and work for the new company, but I felt I was going kicking and screaming. The offer was good, but I wasn’t ready to leave my company. The vision that I had for my future was no long my vision and it angered me that it was becoming something else.
My duties would change, the direction of my career would change, and while all this was going on I could not write for weeks. I was in the middle of a crisis and I didn’t understand why or how. It was only a job, and why should I have cared if I was being compensated well? I had always thought of myself as being level headed, and this time thankfully no one had died, but I felt anxiety with each passing day until I made my decision. After tiring of my emotions, I had some serious inner dialogue and I realized instantly that the whole job situation wasn’t the problem, but the job situation had exposed the problem, which was fear.
The old was done, and had indeed passed away, which forced me onto a new road that I wasn’t so sure about. I was grieving my routine and unmet expectations and fear was hiding behind my chaotic emotions. I was afraid of uncertainty. I wanted things to remain the same, steady and constant, but the reality was uncertainty. My new reality was change, and uncertainty and change proved themselves to be the only real constant in my life. It took my ego a while to process that revelation because at 29 years old I thought I had developed better coping skills with regards to change, but I hadn’t. Today, I’m in a much better place emotionally. I enjoy my new job, and I carry no more shame about my writing droughts. I don’t care that I didn’t write for over a month and if the same thing happens to you, I support your decision to not care either. Initially, I did care but in a short amount of time I realized that stressing over the job and everything else was self-defeating. I believe in pushing yourself, but I was pushing too hard. I was obsessing over meeting a writing deadline, pleasing readers, and all of the other people in my life while trying to make a life altering decision about my career.
I thought that I could handle it all, and have it all, but at some point something had to give. Me losing my creative energy during my periods of stress was nothing more than my body telling me to take a step back and look at the situation with a new pair of eyes. When I did that I saw that I needed to stop searching for something outside of myself to distract me from what was going in inside myself.
In my time of being creatively drained I was able to turn my attention inward and use the opportunity to recognize deep seated problems within myself and address them. I could not use my fictional world and characters to escape them. I couldn’t hide behind happy social media posts and writing deadlines. I could renew myself and my love of writing in a deeper and meaningful way by dedicating a little bit of time to addressing negative emotions like fear and learning to move past them.
If you are struggling with life’s chaos know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you feel that you need help figuring it out, please get support from your family and/or seek professional help. If writing does give you solace even during times of great despair keep writing, but if you lose your creative drive try not to feel bad. It will come back eventually, but while it’s gone hopefully there is an opportunity for learning. If you can walk away from your experience having learned something and can use what you have learned to help others, then you have learned something that is more valuable than gold in my opinion. That is the lesson I learned.