I don’t know about you but just like bad hair days and good hair days, I have bad writing days and good writing days.
I’d like to believe that in the majority of the cases I have good writing days when the words just flow, the flow just works; it’s pure bliss and I feel satisfied and effective — with the process and with the output. Sure there are ups and downs and a little bit of writer’s block here, some tiny imposter syndrome there… but all in all, it’s working out between me and the writing. I love writing and it seems it just loves me back, we lovingly gaze into each other’s eyes…
But some days it feels that the bad writing days seem to outweigh the good ones. Not because there are more of them, but because I take good writing days for granted. That’s my baseline, and whenever I hit a low, it hits me hard. And no matter how many times I have experienced it, it always surprises me.
After all, writing is what I want to do! It’s that kind of job that is also a hobby. And that kind of hobby that derives from a vocation. It is meant to be.
And yet it makes me miserable — and I even get to a point when I question why am I even doing this?
Just like in any relationship, good things should outnumber bad things. The balance should be always in the positive — and not only by a little, but there should be so many advantages that the downsides are just tiny discomforts.
Life is very creative, much more than any creative mind out there — it can throw you all sorts of curveballs that you haven’t even dreamt about existing, let alone practised to avoid.
It can be a new species of imposter syndrome where no matter how hard you work, how meticulously you document your wins and celebrate your successes — you still feel small and useless. It can be a comparison-feast, where you subconsciously torture yourself with your stats and the perceived stats of others — disregarding whether they have started years and decades before you, having bazillions of published books and an army of editors on their side, having a completely different area with readers who behave differently, or they are at a very different stage of the seemingly similar journey. It can be about money not coming in or views not going up, or a new tool you just tried out not working out at all.
It can be big or small, significant or almost imperceptible — it sends you in a downward spiral and on the way down you cuss and swear, shake your head in disbelief, you regret your whole life and start to hate it all; until you hit the ground crushed to pieces wondering why you are even exposing yourself to failure and rejection again and again. You pick up your pieces and you start to wonder if you should even get back to writing — and what the reason could be anyway, apart from the repetitive and dead-dull “you are a writer if you write” and the “show up every day and just write something anything” kind of advice.
You stare into the distance with a blank expression, searching for the joy that writing initially gave you… where has it gone?
This is a new low, you need to do something about it, before it turns your vocation and hobby into something that drains you, disappoints you and drags you down. You need to deal with your apathy and the habitual motions that will push you forward just out of diligence. You need to handle the anxiety that drowns you in between two essays that should be uplifting others.
Snap out of it
Your apathy and the tiredness is real. The anxiety is real too. Yet, as opposed to mental health issues, this is something you can snap out of. Shock yourself out of apathy and self-loathing. Watch or read something really unusual, something that shakes you up. Get out of your comfort zone, consume something that inspires you, scares you, angers you — it is invigorating and it gives you some energy.
Take conscious breaks from writing
The stress here is on conscious. Staring at the blank page is not a conscious break, it is torturing yourself. If you already pushed yourself to put enough words today on paper then allow yourself to take a break. Decide that for a certain time you will not worry about not accomplishing anything. The difference is huge. The same “doing nothing” feels completely different if you decide about it, telling your brain that it is a conscious choice, not a sign of failure.
Take a break from social media and others’ articles
Social media is great, connecting with fellow writers is even better. You get the encouragement, you get inspiration, and you also receive a lot of proof that others are actually doing something, writing things, achieving goals when you don’t. Give yourself a break — don’t set up a scene for unnecessary comparison. Connect with people for the sake of connection, not for comparison. Engage in conversations, share experiences, start discussions about other topics than success and failure.
It’s strange how it works, but usually when you are down and desperate helping someone and caring for someone else’s issues is enough to show you a different perspective. Reach out to others and offer some guidance, assistance, mentoring. Do something good today and bathe in the satisfying feeling of being there for someone else.
Recharge yourself by exposing yourself to new experiences
If you are in a rut and you are pushing yourself too hard with writing and reading (and everything that should be enjoyable but now it’s not), you need to charge your batteries. A night of good night sleep is more than obvious, eating enough, staying hydrated — they go without saying. But go further than that: do something unusual. If you usually stay at home, go out, meet some friends, change the scenery. Choose another cafe for writing. Or just get dressed and don’t stay in PJs for today. Do some exercise, and try to do something different than usually — if you always go for a run, do some pushups and burpees. If you do yoga, try another instructor’s class. Snap out of the routine, get some new impulses.
Fall in love with writing again.
Just like in an interpersonal relationship, remind yourself why you want this, why you are in it at all. Remind yourself all the good things that it gives you and all the growth that you can get out of it.
Make sure you appreciate the positive and try to focus on that. If you want to find fault, you will. If you fake that you are infatuated and everything is still rose-coloured, you will see the hue of pink appearing at the cracks. Let it in, embrace it.
Don’t give up on yourself. The bend on the road is not the end of the road, you can get through; you started for a reason, and you have come so far. You have so many things to do and experience that it would be a shame to give up and turn back.
Take it slow. Maybe you need some time out, maybe you need to see others too. If you turn your hobby into a job by taking it this seriously, you might need another hobby. It’s not cheating, it’s keeping the spark alive.
When you are there, go all-in. Don’t mind the rest of the world, don’t think about all the others, don’t mind your readers, your fans, your stats. There should be time for just you and your love: writing. Give it all your passion and love, and just be there, and watch the magic happen.