Writing from the Bottom of a Black Hole

mental health, Writing

numendil-664154-unsplashI’ve never been here before. Usually, I lay awake at night thinking of a million things I need to do until my brain finally exhausts itself enough to fall asleep. Lately, I’ve been laying awake at night thinking of a millions things I need to do until this little voice cuts through and whispers: why?

I know what doubt feels like. It’s awful but it’s not this. This deep dark thing that feels cold and endless. But it isn’t endless. It comes in waves, knocking the breath from my lungs, and for twenty, thirty, forty minutes I tread water when all I want to do is sink.

I know what it feels like to worry, to be anxious and on edge. I know what it feels like to second guess and not be sure. To be afraid.

I don’t know what it’s like to wrestle with this hopelessness that comes and goes and doesn’t listen to me when I demand that it leave, when I intellectualize it and contextualize it and call it a liar. It doesn’t listen. It stays.

So even though I’ve never been here before I have to figure out how to navigate this new territory. I have to figure out how to create in a space that is constricting and so incredibly cruel. While also battling all of my other fears and anxieties.

I think the first step is coming to terms with the fact that I will never be able to separate my work from my mental illness. There will never be a day when I can just sit down and crank out ten thousand words. There will never be a time when I’m staring at that blank page and won’t hear those vicious voices in my head. I will never approach a project anxiety-free. I will never have that ideal creative experience that is painted for us in media and online.

After coming to terms with my “normal” I have to get honest about the specifics too. If I can’t write 10,000 words a day, how many is reasonable for me? What goals can I set for myself that will be realistic enough and accessible enough for me to feel successful? What kind of creative process can I cultivate to help me build confidence?

When you suffer from mental illness your creative process needs to be as much about building yourself up as building a book or a song or a painting. You cannot pour out more than you put in. Some people can run on empty but not me. And I have to stop pretending that I can…that I could if I just did this or tried that. That is not my brain. That is not my life.

My life, my creative process looks different and that’s okay. But it takes work to be okay with that. Work that I must be as devoted to as my creative work. Work that is just as worth it. Because my health is worth it.

And because when you’re at the bottom of a black hole, trying to summon a flame, to bring a spark to life, that light has to come from somewhere. The more I nurture that place, the more I learn to accept all those bright specks and (especially) all that darkness in between, the more fuel I’ll have to burn. The brighter everything will be.

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New Year, New Goals

Motivation & Inspiration, self publishing, Writing

book-2017nyr

I am a planner. Always have been, always will be. But that doesn’t mean my plans always pan out. I had planned to blog more this past year and reconnect with the blogging community. This did not happen. I’d planned to release TDOTN in June. That did not happen. Filling in my writing/revision calendar used to be a compulsory obsession and I haven’t touched it in months. I haven’t touched this blog in months. But now that I’ve finished my master’s degree and successfully survived my first semester of teaching, it’s time to find my way back to these important touchstones–the places where I first began to dream. The places that held me accountable and connected me with other dreamers in pursuit of the same dreams.

So, on that note, here is my new list of dreams.

*P.S. I live 90% of my life in the future, which means that my 2017 new years resolutions were actually planned years ago and now it is simply time for them to manifest*

1. Buy a home

I have lived in apartments for 8 years. That’s 8 years of listening to couples scream at each other on the other side of the wall; 8 years of possessed toilets and ice makers and broken dishwashers and bugs so big they were almost alien; 8 years of confined quarters and a pile of dirty dishes being the “heart” of the home; 8 years of wishing for a window, for a porch, a place to play our music loud, and a yard for our dog to run in. But this year, no more wishing. It’s time to put down roots.

2. Finish my next book

I wrote the rough draft of this novel years ago. But then TGIB series got so big that I never had time to go back and finish it. It will be my return to contemporary fiction and I can’t wait to start writing in the real world again. I’ve already locked my schedule in and will be writing/revising on Sundays until it’s finished. Not when I want it to be finished and not when some pre-order deadline says it’s finished (did I mention I’m never doing pre-orders again?) but when it is finished.

3. Start writing THE BOOK

I’ve blogged about THE BOOK in the context of when is it okay to follow a plot bunny even though you have other books to finish. I have been fantasizing about the plot of this story, reworking it, and falling in and out of love with it for about 2 years now. But I still haven’t written a single word. In 2017 all of that will change. I’ll be writing the 1st draft of the novel over the summer and then, based on CP feedback, I might consider subbing it. I’m still not sure how I feel about that yet. There’s a lot to consider before making that decision. But the possibility keeps nagging at me and I just feel like it’s something I need to explore.

4. Hire a website designer

I finally created an official website this year but it’s pretty plain and doesn’t really speak to the content of my books or my personality. Because of the issues I had with Amazon this past year, as well as all of the changes they keep making that make it harder and harder for KDP authors to sell books on their platform, I need my website to be a source of reliability and consistency where readers feel safe shopping and I have more control over how issues are resolved and how quickly. I also want to be able to start offering exclusive content on my website, which means I need a design that’s more attractive and easier to navigate. If you have any recs for great website designers let me know in the comments!

5. Create paperbacks for all of my books

This is one example of the exclusive content I want to start offering on my website. So many readers have emailed me asking about paperbacks. Seeing my books in print has always been a dream of mine but I just haven’t had the time or the space to devote to doing it right. Now that I’m done with school and will *hopefully* have more space soon I am going to start looking at costs of illustrators and professional formatting. I recently read one of Ksenia Anske’s blog posts on paperbacks and how, in the digital age, they’re being considered more like collectibles or works of art. I absolutely agree with this and because of that I plan to be really intentional about the design, possibly incorporating illustrations and other design elements. I also want to be able to sign every single paperback, hence the need for more space to store them and more time so that I can ship them to readers myself.

Answers

mental health, Motivation & Inspiration, Writing

I used to think that answers always came in the form of a solution; that they brought clarity and finality and were always true. But answers are a kaleidoscope of emotions, sensations and opinions. Sometimes they’re loud and obvious and sometimes they’re a silent nudge. Sometimes they twist like a knife right in your gut and sometimes they shield you and make you safe. But the most mystifying of them all, the truest answers, never bring us to the end of something but thrust us toward a new beginning. “Real” answers don’t bind us, they set us free, releasing us into an even greater unknown that is sometimes scarier than asking the question in the first place.

It all depends on your perspective.

For the past few months my perspective has been cloudy and dark and I thought my destiny had abandoned me. As I walked through the world there were no signs or answers and I felt like every step I took was in the wrong direction. At first I wallowed in the fear of my own mistakes, living in that place until it started to feel like home. But somewhere along the way, that fear started to rise up and I rose with it. It didn’t engulf me and it didn’t break me. The moment I finally gave myself permission to give up…I didn’t want to anymore. I couldn’t.

Whatever dark current had me trapped, whatever wave had me pinned just below the surface, suddenly broke and all at once it let go of me. I wish I could say there was some dramatic moment of triumph involved, that it was a conscious choice on my part to overcome my fears. But all it took was waking up. All it took was realizing that every day is brand new and with that many fresh starts, with that many possibilities, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I’m doing my best. I’m doing what i love. That’s all that matters. Not who’s paying attention, not who’s listening, not how many mistakes I make along the way. There is no right way or wrong way to make art and there is no right way or wrong way to live life. As long as I’m doing and being and putting good out into the world I don’t need to know what’s coming. I don’t need to know anything at all. The truth is I already have all the answers I need. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? How are we all connected? How can I make a difference? What’s the meaning of life?

Love.

It’s the answer to everything. So give it, receive it, speak it over everyone you meet and soak it in when it’s shared with you. Remember that it’s the reason you create. Because you love yourself and because you love the world, it’s the reason that you write or paint or compose or draw or sing or laugh or cry. It’s the reason that you’re here.

When Enough Is Enough

Writing

*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

I had another good day today, on the verge of great, though I don’t want to jinx it. But for the first time in a long time I actually had to force myself to step away from the laptop. I reached 4,000 words in just five hours, something I don’t remember having ever done before and by the end of it I didn’t want to stop. Sure I was exhausted but in the midst of that mental strain was this strange euphoria. Almost like a runner’s high–which I would know absolutely nothing about because, well, screw that. But it was just the most encouraging fatigue, the kind that says, “I did something important.”

Maybe that was the real reason I didn’t want to stop writing, because every word that came out of me felt important. Not perfect and certainly not easy but important. I made some huge breakthroughs in the…

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The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Written

WIP, Writing

*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

Lately it feels like that’s what this current WIP is turning out to be. I wrote the other day about how I had my first good writing day in a while but something I didn’t quite clarify was that “good” wasn’t necessarily referring to the actual writing itself. Yes, I gained clarity and yes, the words were flowing but that didn’t mean they weren’t garbage. They were and they are and the more I write the more I dread revisions because this puppy is going to need a lot of work. But what I’ve come to realize in my quest to write a first draft without obsessing over every word is that it’s not the words that matter. What matters is the story. And not whether or not it’s good but whether or not it’s there.

Through five books I’ve been the type of writer who would rather sit and…

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