#IWSG for August – Dark Times

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Getting back into writing seems a lot harder for me now.

Last time I was putting up one of these IWSG posts, I had a crowdfunding effort relating to my writing. I ended that campaign and contest with all of 16 backers total. I simply didn’t have enough of the right kind of contacts and friends to see it through, or the knowhow to reach out to people who might have helped. I couldn’t go on with the promotion – it was taking away all my time to write.

I am thankful for those 16, and the many more who read the work I was displaying for the contest. I wish I could have done better for them. If I ever decide to crowdfund for writing again, it will be an even harder uphill battle, since everyone I know saw me fall flat on my face. But I will get the story done, along with the others I am working on.

Home life is not going well, and I don’t have a way out other than to keep working my main job I have to make a living. My wife and I are making progress on our debt, but at the cost of making any progress on our stalled relationship.

Yet here I am, still at the writing game. I’m still teaching a writing course in September – a course for ESL learners that I have adapted from my own influences and writing guidebooks. I must still have a set of materials to teach from, and that is exactly what I was preparing with my series of blog posts on writing short fiction.  I will return to the series of posts next Tuesday.

I must keep writing, even with feelings of darkness.

I don’t know how I will spread the word and get the support of friends, family, and more when I have a major project ready. All I know for now is that I must have a very good project well and truly ready. I must work out some way to get to my writing group regularly despite the hard work I must do with my family. While online critique groups are great, in-person meetings have by and far the strongest motivational power for me.

For other members of the Insecure Writers Support Group – what gets you writing through feelings of being overwhelmed, through feelings that even your best writing will not be enough?

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Writing Past Apathy, Part 2

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Just a quick post today to reaffirm that I am addressing this apathy problem of mine.

Heh, I see the irony in that – one could say I don’t care enough to make a full post…

Here are some of the avenues my questioning mind has taken over the last week:

Are Writers More Likely to Get Burned Out?

You see, I think some writers may be especially prone to anxiety, apathy, or depression because of some basic contradictions that plague our work.

I have to write about other people facing problems and living their lives, but I’m shy and awkward around real people.

I have to get exercise and eat healthy food, both of which are imposing tasks to someone who needs to sit down and write, dammit.

I have to travel, explore new places and see new things to fuel my fiction, but I have a family and a tight budget.

I wonder if some writers give up on their dreams because these contradictions just seem too much.

How Much Does Diet Affect Writing?

This has come into my mind as an important question. I’m pretty sure a writer must be profoundly affected by diet and exercise – there’s a lot of research out there that shows how diet affects cognition. I love junk food (is this a thing with authors?), and the research says fast food and junk food are every bit as bad for the brain as they are for the body. In my case, I’m pretty sure now that junk food makes me more irritable and withdrawn (even on top of my usual introversion), so I’m thinking that my current frustration and burnout has a lot to do with the “fuel” I provide myself with for long writing sessions.

How Does One Keep Writing in a Bad Relationship?

I won’t blame my lack of writing recently on my bad relationship – that makes it sound like I’m not at fault. I’ve fallen into a trap – one I think is the most common trap of all. I like to blame things on my ‘bad relationship’ when there has been so much I’ve done or neglected to do that made this relationship bad. I also won’t blame myself as the sole reason for everything being bad. The growing distance between my wife and I came from things we both did and didn’t do.

While my wife and I work through this, I still need ways to write. There’s a good post here about how to keep blogging when things go to shit, and it looks like a good place to start. I also find myself writing about the problems I have with my wife in a private notebook, and I have to say, just taking constant measure of the problems seems to help a lot.

 

My next post will be the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post for Wednesday, September 7. I think I’ll choose one of the three avenues I’m thinking about here and expand on it. Maybe the IWSG folks will have some thoughts to add, too.

Writing Past Apathy, Part 1

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Apathy, Part 1 – My Attempt to Assess and Understand

It’s a dangerous, comfortable thing. Its danger is in the relief it provides. You weather a storm of emotions, swirling in subconscious corridors, pulling apart the delicate fabric of synapses. Finally, your mind just cannot handle it. Some sort of overload, like a fuse that finally blows in the electrochemical circuitry of the brain and suddenly, the emotions no longer bother you.

Oh, they don’t go away. You should never think an apathetic person doesn’t have feelings; quite the opposite. The feelings simply stop registering. The brain withdraws, refusing to let the emotions cause more pain or stress. But with the stress, willpower, motivation, and the urge to improve can also get washed away in the numbing mental bleach of apathy.

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I find myself at my writer’s desk. The story is within, yet so are many other thoughts, a tangle of threads that seems impossible to unravel. I know what will happen next; I know what I have planned for my characters. Yet I cannot remember why.  My reasons for writing, my motivations, they can’t break through the mess of feelings or the apathy that stands between those feelings and my full awareness of them. A coffee seems good right about now. Maybe a chocolate bar. I wonder what’s happening on Reddit and Twitter now? How about a session of Skyrim or No Man’s Sky? Anything would be better than trying to pry the story out from under the layers of feelings and negative thoughts covering it.

My personal life is a wreck. My schedule has left me little time for a social life. Even when I do meet people, they aren’t my people. The writer’s club I was with now meets on a night I simply can’t get out. Those people were my support, my backup, my reason for writing. It was easy to write when I could meet them every week.

I’ve lost the in-person meetings with that group. With my kids and my wife’s full-time-plus job, it doesn’t seem like I’ll get back together with them regularly anytime soon.

My relationship with my wife is at an all-time-low. We barely talk, and when we do, it’s so that she can complain or lecture me. I know so much is my fault, and that I probably deserve the bad feelings, but it’s so hard to improve when I know exactly what our next conversation will be.

This first post about my apathy problem is my attempt to size it up, look at why I’m burnt out. I think I can sum it up like this: my apathy manifested once my mind couldn’t handle all of the feelings. My writing has suffered because I can’t meet my friends, yes, but there’s another reason I can’t write. Writing requires me to process feelings and experiences, weave them into a narrative. My desire to write is down, because my willingness to confront my feelings is way, way down.

Over the next few Sundays, I will post updates on this apathy. I will look for ways to meet people, ways to boost my writing morale, and ways to confront the relationship problems that are behind the writing problems.

For my readers, I’d appreciate if you share experiences of burnout or apathy, especially as they relate to writing. I’ll read your replies, and work them into the next post.

I appreciate any and all insights. Thank you so much in advance.


Images:

Apathy, sculpture at Canary Warf, photo by Monika Bota, https://www.flickr.com/photos/monikabota/4768246617

The Passion of Creation, painting by Leonid Pasternak – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation.jpg

#IWSG – Delaying one project for another

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I really wanted to get work done on Far Flung in May! That was the plan!

But then a juicy opportunity to write something for a project called Bound came along. I’ve been in talks with two of the people behind Bound, and I’ve been working on a potential story that could use the mobile fiction platform they are developing. The story I’ve been planning out is entirely different from Far Flung, but something that’s been in my head for far longer.

I learned something interesting about myself as a writer – I handle the news that somebody is interested in my writing and wants more almost as poorly as I handle rejection!

After I learned that Bound was interested, I went through weird stages of nervous anticipation, and I had great difficulty reading books or listening to audiobooks. Obsession with planning a good outline and producing something good took over, it was hard to think about anything else. Far Flung got placed firmly on the back burner – I barely even tried to work on it while this exciting new possibility filled my head.

For the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: How well do you handle multiple writing projects? Do you find that one story-in-progress simply takes up too much mental real estate?

As for me, I find out in another week or two what will happen. The idea I was obsessed with for May has been submitted for consideration, and I just have to wait and see what they say. Maybe I can get back to Far Flung for a bit. Maybe I’ll read a book or two. One thing’s for sure – it’ll be a tough wait.

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I’m in B.C.!

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Four generations of boys met near Prince George yesterday!

I have a good reason to skimp on my Wednesday posts – I’m travelling around British Columbia! It’s pretty far from my hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, but it’s where most of the Canadians in my family are now!

I’m in Prince George as I type, and I’ll be passing through Jasper, Banff, Whistler, Vancouver, and Victoria in the remaining two weeks of my vacation.

You can bet I’ll be looking out for writing inspiration as I travel. This beautiful land is ripe with history, scenery, and colourful characters!

Keep your stick on the ice, eh?

– TCCE

#IWSG – One Year Running

Click here to sign up for the IWSG!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been running this site for over a year now. I have to admit – I don’t have a lot of posts to show for it!

What a fine balancing act – getting enough writing done, getting and giving feedback, and posting on a blog. All while I teach full time and then some!

From what I’ve read, most writers have the same issue – most author pages I see around the web do not have that many blog posts. I’m pretty sure most of those who do blog regularly must have already crossed the line I can’t reach yet – the point where writing has become most or all of their income.

I don’t have a lot to show, but I have certainly done a lot this year.

I’ve got what I think is a superior submission to Sixfold (take a moment to visit, they do good work). I’ve got work in progress that has passed through my writing club and that has come out better than anything I produced before. I’ve judged a writing contest, and I’m now helping out Holly Lisle with her new site, Readers Meet Writers (again, take a moment to visit and read what it’s all about).

How about you?

What have you done this past year? Do you feel you have posted often enough to your own blog?

A Reblog from Dianne Salerni – Do Full Time Writers Keep Office Hours?

As I’m not yet a full-time writer, this is a hard one to answer. I would like very much to keep regular hours with my writing, but teaching and taking care of kids often have to take priority. I don’t have exact times set for my writing beyond “Write for one hour, after the kids sleep” and “Blog for one hour every Wednesday after work”. My schedule has to be flexible, which means these times can move earlier or later as needed.

There’s an advantage in this way – I’m flexible and I can change plans easily. And of course, there’s a HUGE disadvantage – “After the kids sleep”could end up being well after midnight (when my energy reserves very quickly go kaput). My wife and I may need an important talk, right in the time I had set for writing. My writing ideas may simply not come to me at all (they usually come at times like the middle of a freaking class while I’m teaching – that’s a whole other blog post). Distractions about on the internet, and sometimes I feel like I NEED them (oh look, I wasted all my writing time on 9gag.com, what a pity).

I do need a more fixed schedule, and I’m with Dianne Salerni on this one – it’s damn hard. I think I will have to sit down with my wife to establish “Do Not Disturb” writing hours. And yet, I will also have to allow for things like games and mindless entertainment. I can’t work all the time, but I can’t mope around feeling like I don’t do enough either!


Originally Posted by Dianne Salerni at http://diannesalerni.com/do-full-time-writers-keep-office-hours

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I was pondering that question this weekend when I ignored my lengthy To Do list on Sunday afternoon and read a book for fun.

I felt guilty about it. Because, you know, I quit that lucrative teaching gig to do this writing thing.

Yes, I had other reasons for leaving a profession that was rapidly heading in a direction I didn’t want to go. That doesn’t take the feeling of pressure off.

WHAT I NEEDED TO DO ON SUNDAY:

  • Figure out where I’m supposed to go next in the 1st draft of my WIP
  • Do the background reading I need for two potential projects and take notes
  • Write my blogs for the week
  • Research pricing for school visits and start putting together promotional information
  • Research a list of people to contact for school visits
  • Stop freaking out and thinking I will never again have another good idea or finish another book

WHAT I DID INSTEAD:

  • Read a book in my hammock

Read more here: Do Full Time Writers Keep Office Hours?.