Ah, life. Just when things are settling into a nice normal, it has to throw other things at us.
But this post isn’t really about how the air conditioning convector got a mouse stuck in it that clogged it and flooded the floor of our living room which now needs replaced, or how a friend is having a medical issue that has me in worried big sister mode, and all the things that are horrible in the larger world. The tweets above combined and got me thinking about what is really under our control when it comes to writing. Doesn’t it seem sometimes that no matter how hard you try, something finds a way to throw you off? You try to plan, OK, I’ll have this draft written by July 1st, and then edited by September 1st, and so on. Then an afternoon is spent chasing the dog around because she has diarrhea because she was an ass who decided to, in the 15 minutes between humans, get out of her bag, open the bedroom sliding door, and eat a cough drop (No actual harm, they weren’t sugar free, she just has a historically sensitive tummy). Or you just get going on the project and the phone rings where your mother in all but law finally has time to talk and you need to coordinate what’s going on with the whole floor thing. Or, let’s be real, your social media feed is a mix of politics and cute animals and you reallllly need to stop scrolling and get things done.
What do you do, when it feels like you’re overwhelmed, to stay productive?
Sometimes, nothing. Sometimes the best answer is to stop and step back, breathe into a plant for a while (seriously, it helps more than regular deep breathing!), and let the project sit. Snuggle that baby, or dog, take a walk, and eat a thing that makes you happy. Watch one of those BBC reality shows where nothing bad ever actually happens and if you zone out for a while, you haven’t really missed anything. (I’m getting quite fond of Lords and Ladles for this purpose.)
But deadlines, I hear you scream. I have to get this done.
Yes you do. Take time though first to work through your immediate feelings, sleep, eat, and shower, and you’ll find it easier to deal with. Once you’re not feeling so overwhelmed, then make a plan. IE I’m only allowed to scroll social media while I am actively eating. I must have it blocked with an extension the rest of the time. Hold yourself to whatever deal you make, but treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend. If you screw up, smack yourself on the hand, and get back to work. Outsource what you can (Your friends are more willing to help than you realize, and no, you wont be bothering them to ask!), automate where you can, and focus on spending the limited time and energy you DO have on the things that will get you closest to your goals. For me, that’s editing client books and working on my own. If that means the dishes only get done every few days instead of daily, or that we eat a bit more takeout, then that’s what happens.
Spoiler: No one really has their shit together. No one has a wand that makes all their problems go away. The best we can do sometimes is to figure out, OK, for this next hour, I’m going to go write. I’m going to go schedule some tweets for later, including some cute animal pictures, because it might help someone when they’re having a bad day.
Second trick-Look for something good. One of my writing groups does a “Things that Don’t Suck” that people can ask for whenever they feel they need it. Talk with a friend about what you’re dealing with, but also about what’s not sucky. Maybe they had a really good idea on how to fix a problem with their book, and it’ll lead to feeling energized about yours. Ask your friends if they have some good news to share, or search for book releases, cover reveals, or deal announcements. Realize that all those books? Were probably interrupted by problems both small and large. They did it eventually, and eventually so will you.
No one knows what the future holds, except in this: There will be shitty (sometimes literally) days, and there will be amazing days where you feel like everything has come together. There’s always good ahead, you just gotta put up with the shit to get there. Someone grab the bleach spray and the rubber gloves, and let’s get down to work.