Anxiety, burnout and leaping towards a new life

Regular readers of my blog (all five of you :D) may have noticed that I’ve been a little silent lately. Let me assure you that I’m still writing as you may have noticed in my little word count ticker over there in the right column. This past weekend I passed 42,000 words and kept right on going!

One of the most difficult things that I’ve read about from other authors and am now beginning to experience is the sort of lonely road that writing takes you on. In retrospect, the first 30k words felt like a breeze, I was still ‘in the zone’ and riding high off the experience of one great idea after another coming together nearly effortlessly.

And then… something happened. I’m not exactly sure what, maybe this is a common experience but I think I’ll just call it the mid-book slump. It’s not exactly burnout because I’m not sick of writing but I’m having trouble keeping my goal in sight. This is where the lonely road starts to kick in, maybe I need to spend some time catching up with other author’s blogs or even trying to write them for advice. The biggest dilemma that I’m having is the lack of feedback as I plod along. I probably shouldn’t reach out for feedback before it’s done, but I have the sensation that I started running a race and now I’m out in the middle of nowhere, wondering where everyone else went. It’s partly a product of writing more than I’ve ever written in my life and not knowing what to expect next from the experience. It’s also partly from setting up some fairly reasonable goals for myself, but now I’m coming up on 2 months into the project with about 2 months left. I keep feeling like, if only I could take a month off of my job to focus on this project the way that I want to and finish this up!

That possibility is not in the cards for right now though. So what should I do in the meantime to keep the fires going in the midst of winter? My partner, Juliette, suggested that I make a list of some goals. When she’s feeling overwhelmed or out of control this is how she manages things. As far as the writing goes, I think I’m fine. The being a writer part probably needs some retooling and reassessment though. So what needs to happen?

First, I need to feel that in spite of the fact that my precious time is limited when it comes to writing, that it’s still my primary focus. Even if I can only write for an hour a night, I want to feel like the eight plus hours a day I bust my ass for someone else are paying for that one. Until I get to the point where I can reduce (or eliminate) my work hours to focus on writing in the way I think it deserves, I’m going to have to approach that hour in the way a priest (I imagine) approaches their altar.

The other thing is, in spite of having an hour of allotted time, it doesn’t feel like enough. I need to have an hour to write and maybe even an hour to just reread and reassess. I’m not even talking about getting into the editing process at this point, I think rereading the story would promote a more immersive feel and keep the flow both alive and consistent. And just as I’m struggling to put my feelings to words, I find a blog written less than a day ago by Jeff Vandermeer here that captures exactly what I’m trying to say.

Another goal that I had set for myself before and that still needs to be addressed is getting involved in more of a writing-oriented community. When done well, the support one pulls from any community is outstanding. Florida, in my experience, doesn’t do community anything very well for whatever reason. There are a couple of groups in the area that I’ve looked at but haven’t been very impressed with so far. Ideally, a fantasy or science fiction themed group would be my target but that’s asking a lot for this area. Anyways, that one is still hanging, and hopefully will meet some unforeseen resolution soon.

By the way, I’ve given myself some reading assignments for the next couple of days that are both excellent reminders that I’m not alone in my writing ambitions and accomplished authors struggled just as much when they started out. Also, to remind myself to stay grateful for the amazing opportunities and experiences that I’ve had already.