Are You Addicted to Writing?
“There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.”― Sherman Alexie
These past few months writing finally took its well-deserved place in my life — I started to write and I started to write a lot. I never called it a hobby, it’s a lot more than that. It has always been more than just a pastime I enjoy. It has helped me through multiple painful episodes throughout my life. Rediscovering it and taking it finally seriously, believing that I can do it, I am a writer — changed a lot of aspects of my life.
Writing is the best thing that could have happened to me. It’s bringing out my ignored and neglected creative part, it heals me, it helps me process. It is calming, soothing, more often than not it puts me in a flow state, where I forget about the world, about my hunger, my thirst, my fatigue and I only exist in the tiny universe I am creating with my words. It’s beautiful, satisfying, it’s my go-to drug.
And on the other hand, it can be stressful, it is very intense, it is taxing — mentally and emotionally. It lures out some monsters out of the dark, fears and phobias, self-deprecation, imposter syndrome. And as opposed to the blissful flow state, I am sometimes faced with writer’s block, stuck somewhere between my thoughts and the keyboard, struggling, drowning, dying.
It is the most intense thing I have ever been doing — except for those mind-blowing sexual encounters I was lucky enough to have.
It is way more than a hobby, it is a job, a vocation, a lifeline. It is everything.
The best thing is that when I am writing, I am me.
And the worst thing is that when I am writing, I am me.
I am who I am, I cannot change it. I am tackling writing with the same passion (and then some) as everything else I care about in life. I am an overachiever, an overthinker, an overdoer.
When I started to write this time, there was one huge difference compared to any other time in my life when I was writing. This time, I started to publish. Wow! Huge huge huge difference. Writing for an audience, especially on a platform like this is a gamechanger.
I don’t only want to be read, I am totally hooked on the gamification features and the vanity metrics. I am a Leo, I am only human, I am a creative person, I am vain. Reads and claps and ratios, comments and highlights, badges… and curation. It starts small and if you are doing a good enough job, it gets gradually better, it slowly creeps up. And there is more, always more. There is always another milestone, another badge, another beautifully written response that makes my story just a little better.
And there is the community, there are my new friends, my idols, my writer crushes. And this community of writers and readers add another aspect to the gamification. The personal touch, the feeling of being loved and appreciated, uplifted and cherished.
And I am addicted to it all. I am high on words and I am starting to experience the side-effects.
When I say there is always more, it also means that it’s not just the feedback that grows exponentially. I have a thousand ideas, a million articles on my mind. I want to write a book, no make it two, actually, you know what, ten and all of them bestsellers. I want to try another topic, another genre — and another one, and another one.
And I am clearly showing the symptoms of addiction.
What is addiction?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic disease that affects the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory functions. Someone with an addiction will crave a substance or other behavioural habits. They’ll often ignore other areas of life to fulfil or support their desires.
General signs of addiction are:
- lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behaviour
- decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships
- ignoring risk factors despite potential consequences
- physical effects, like withdrawal symptoms or needing higher dosage for effect
Looking at just this definition, and having researched the signs of addiction, how to recognise it, I have to admit that the more I read, the surer I feel about it. Check, check, check.
I am losing sleep. I am losing weight because I literally forget to eat — hey that’s a good thing, right? But for me, it never happens automatically, unless I am heartbroken. I am losing interest in anything else, my job seems uninteresting, meeting my real friends sounds a lot less appealing than jumping into another article — just this last one. I feel my kids are a distraction. I am balancing everything around my writing.
And I am overdoing other things, I’m drinking too much coffee, I am drinking too much wine, I don’t bother to eat healthy because it takes too much time to prepare, I am skipping exercise, and the worst according to my kids: I am skipping grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning too.
Can you overdo writing? Can it be detrimental? Can something this good be harmful?
In principle, everything that you overdo can be harmful. Everything can become a source of stress, a source of frustration. Everything in life should be done in moderation, you should have a balanced approach to everything — writing included.
But what is there to do?
“When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t…” ― Luke Davies
Keep Sight of Your Goals
If you are an overachiever like me, who is addicted to the accomplishment, not just the process, you will always have another idea to pursue, another article or post to write, another character to analyse, another social platform to use to promote your writing, another friend to uplift, another draft to check, another milestone to reach.
No wonder you are overwhelmed! You are spreading yourself so thin that eventually none of your accomplishments brings the satisfaction you expect.
It’s hard to focus when your mind is all over the place; when you actually enjoy being torn between ideas.
But you need to keep your ultimate goal in mind to anchor you in reality. Why are you doing it in the first place? Where is your real passion? What fuels it? What are your writing goals? Does everything you do serve this goal or could you try letting some of them go?
Ultimately you are in it for the long run, don’t wear yourself out for things that don’t serve your purpose.
Establish a Routine
Your mind thrives on routine. And so does your body. If you want writing to be an integral part of your life, as a full-time or part-time job, or a fully experienced vocation, you need to find its place within your life. Treat writing as you would treat a job. Set aside working hours, create your working space, arrange your writing tasks, schedule your goals and deadlines.
You are your own boss, so be a good one, make reasonable requests, give appropriate feedback and allow holidays.
Stick to your routine, let yourself fall in a good pattern and watch how your addiction is kept under control and how your productivity increases.
Have a Hobby
Yes, you heard me. A hobby! Even if writing started off as a hobby, usually it becomes something more — as it is for the most passionate writers. If you treat writing as a job, as a vocation, then you will need another hobby. Indulge in other things you love, exercise, art, craft, travelling — anything. It is both needed to give you a well-deserved break from writing taking over your life completely, and to give you inspiration and energy. Whatever you are doing it will enrich your writing — it will show new aspects, bring you new people, keep your brain and ideas fresh.
Make Time for People
Not just your characters. Not just your writer friends. Don’t ignore your friends, don’t think that the only topic to talk about is writing. Be there for your friends, let them be there for you. Share moments, tears and laughter with them. After all, human connection is the best we can have — it gives us value, it grounds us in our present, it shows us perspectives. Never underestimate a girls night out — and who knows what inspiration it gives you to your next plot, next character, next article.
I thought I hated exercise, but it turns out I just hadn’t found the right one; until I finally did. It doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise, just get moving, get the blood flowing. It can be yoga, walking, running, cardio — of any kind. Exercise produces endorphins. Endorphins make you happier, calmer, more balanced.
It fuels your writing by clearing your head, washing away worrying, giving you a boost of energy — to be able to push through your writer’s block, imposter syndrome and burnout.
Take a Break
Take a conscious break from writing. Step back for a day — nothing will happen if you don’t publish or you don’t write for 24 hours. Yes, I heard about the don’t break the link productivity hack too, but consider it as a brewing period, not as a lazy break. Allow yourself to gather your ideas in your head, to distance yourself from the actual act of writing, create in your head — as I am sure you won’t be able to take a full break, as in not even thinking about it.
Get out, go for a day trip, unplug all your devices, go and sunbathe — vitamin D is brilliant and it was such a long winter! Cook something, invite some friends over, have a full day of self-care. It will be worth it!
Get New Inspiration
Read, read, read. Watch something new, watch something you have seen before and look at it with fresh eyes. Go to an exhibition, immerse yourself in photography or painting. Talk to friends who have very different hobbies and interest from yours. Watch the Blue planet from David Attenborough. Read about quantum mechanics. Or watch kids cartoons. Change your usual sources of inspiration — stock up with new thought and ideas and have fun while doing it.
Or… you know, what, forget it!
You know the saying: “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral, or fattening.” Well, writing is okay, none of the above… so why don’t you just write something today, and we’ll start the 12 step program tomorrow, shall we?
“I admire addicts. In a world where everybody is waiting for some blind, random disaster or some sudden disease, the addict has the comfort of knowing what will most likely wait for him down the road. He’s taken some control over his ultimate fate, and his addiction keeps the cause of his death from being a total surprise.”― Chuck Palahniuk