I’ve chosen to interrupt my previously scheduled hiatus from blogging to return to my blogging roots for one night only. Those who have followed any of my blogs (or have known me in general) likely know that I started my very first blog all those years ago as a way to try to help me work through my mental stressors at a point in life when I couldn’t afford therapy. Truth be told, it helped more than I thought it was going to. Even if I hadn’t ended up writing a book or anything as a result of that writing, the fact that I did it had a positive effect on my mental health at a time where I really needed it.

I’m at a position in my life now where I cannot blog/write/whatever as freely as I once did. Even ignoring the ramifications about writing about things impacting your mental health online1Even if you’re only sharing your struggles with a small group of people, it’s definitely easy to overwhelm others, whether you mean to or not. My very first blog that I used for cathartic purposes was a locked blog shared with three other people. After a couple of weeks of every other day head clearing posts, one of said people same to me and said something to the effect of “look…I know you’re going through some shit right now, but you need to pick and choose what you write about. If you’re overwhelmed by something I can’t help with, I’m just going to ignore it.”. Was that right? Probably not. But I do get where they were coming from. where others who impact your mental health could (and likely will) read it, the internet doesn’t forget. Saying one wrong thing when you’re trying to work out the thoughts in your head or taking one wrong action because you’re naive and young can come back to haunt you years later, regardless of the context and how much you’ve changed as a person.

2019 has not been a great year for me. There have certainly been positives, but it has largely felt overwhelming, stressful, and disheartening on several fronts. I’m not going to talk about most of the various areas where I’ve felt that way, as this isn’t the right place to do so. What I do want to talk about — and what I’m hoping to try to work through with this post — is how this year has made me feel all those emotions about my writing.

I have a weird duality when it comes to my writing. Part of me is surpremely confident in my ability both to write well and to tell a story. I know I generally write with good to great grammar. While my sentence structure, plotting, and pacing aren’t on par with academic journals, fantasy novels, or great murder mysteries, respectively, I do feel like I have a pretty good idea what I’m doing when it comes to penning a work of fiction. Furthermore, I can create a really good world in a story. That’s not to say the worlds and ideas I create don’t need some fleshing out. But at their base, I can create good stories.

On the other hand, I deal with a fuckton of imposter syndrome when it comes to my creative work. Part of this has come from external sources. I’ve had multiple people over time tell me that ‘I shouldn’t write creatively ever again’ or that ‘I grew up too poor to use words that big’ or that my writing is “just a hobby’. And those things hurt. Some hurt more than others. But I’ve always taken a little bit of enjoyment out of working as hard as I can to prove those statements wrong. So while I’d love to say the imposter syndrome comes from here, all such statements really do is piss me off and make me work harder.

What hurts that feeling more are the little failures. I fully recognize that the things I’m about to talk about aren’t necessarily failures. That said, I need to frame them as how my mind thinks of them in order to explain this properly.

I lost a patron recently. It was the first patron I’ve lost since starting my Patreon account last year. I only found out because one of my friends told me that they finally fixed their Patreon notifications, leading me to go in and grab them a link from my page, then seeing the notification that I’d lost one of the four patrons I had. The fact that I’ve only managed to get to four patrons in nearly a year is frustrating. On one hand, I can’t help but thank those who have supported me enough for all they’ve done. On the other hand, I lost someone. I’m clearly not doing enough2I realize people have their own reasons for pledging and it’s nearly never personal. I also realize that this event hit me really hard, starting the mental spiral that I’m trying to get out of by writing this post..

Maybe this is just a hobby after all.

I am working on a story. I’ve talked about it in the past and will have another update on the book in the near future. The story itself is good. The world it’s being built into is good and will continue to get better. I have an editor who is amazing and who is constantly pushing me to get better with my book. She’s fucking awesome and I can’t thank her enough for all she’s done. She also told me I should stop complimenting her until work is done3Since I know there’s a very good chance she’ll read this — hi., but again, trying to clear my head here.

The book will get done. It’s moving slower both than I expected and than I wanted it to. The former is explained by the fact that I’m repeatedly rewriting the book to make it better. I have zero trouble reconciling that fact4Though I do want to share it with others so bad right now.. As for the fact that it’s moving slower than I wanted it to — that goes back to my general feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed with life. There’s been more than one night where I’d planned to spend a few hours writing or editing before I go to bed only for something to happen. Then, suddenly, my time is taken away or my mood comes crashing down and I can’t bring myself to write. Rinse and repeat across most of this year and I begin to feel like I’m letting down myself and my goals. I know my mental health should take priority over my writing. And usually it does. But I worry that my mental health is impacting my writing to the point where my work isn’t the best it could be because of me. Because I don’t feel happy.

The hardest part of writing this post is not knowing who’s going to read it. If anyone will care enough to try to help or if I’ve overwhelmed those around me to the point where they’re getting tired of listening to the shit that’s spewing out of my brain. This might not have been the most constructive post. I know this is all a part of my brain — an inner critic, I’ve heard it called — that is doing this. But when everything else I’ve tried to help myself has come up short (or had no help at all), I figure there can’t be much harm in going back to my roots to try to help myself.

    1. *AND probably the most appropriately timed advice I was ever given was after a workshop on something I’d written. One of the actors that had read for me was really taken with my piece, which was amazing mainly because I really admire him as an actor – he’s been a regular with my old masters, he’s close with my former tutor, he’s just a gem, ok – and as we were talking, I brought up how after my masters I’d been pretty unwell and not much further forward as I’d hoped because of it. Apart from the fact that he remembered my dissertation piece 2 years on (beyond flattered), he said ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’.

      Sure, it’s cliché, but it was timed with pretty low self-confidence in me and my own capability at doing…well, anything. By that point, I was 2 years out of uni, and spent a year of it literally incapable of doing much. So to have essentially a stranger be so firmly in my corner, and it being purely based on what he’d just read, was such a stupidly incredible boost. There are days when I regress to that mindset, and I have to remind myself of that moment.

      Yeah, it’d be great if there was a glitch in the matrix and everyone’s work, hobby or otherwise, just took off with next to no effort. But that doesn’t happen, not very often. Most people who seem to come from nowhere don’t – you dig into the past of prize winners and commissioned writers, and you’ll find they’ve come from particular courses, institutions, are a relative/friend of a certain someone. The only ‘nowhere’ they come from is that they haven’t done this specific thing before. Who cares how long it takes, write because you want to.

      1. It is really good advice. I want my work to be the best it can be. I think where I get so disheartened is not when it requires a lot of edits to get it there. I mean, that can be frustrating, but I completely understand it’s part of the job. I think my frustration comes from when I feel like my own mind or my inability to deal with other shit in life gets in the way of me writing well. That’s much harder for me to reconcile, as I feel like that’s somehow out of my control or that things are harder than they need to be.

        1. Preach, we all go through it, the key is to not beat yourself up about it. Life’s going to happen whether your passion is your career or your side hustle. Make smaller goals, they’ll become bigger milestones eventually 🙂

  1. I’m sorry it’s been rough for you this year, Tim. I’m no stranger to rough years that lead to a variety of emotions and unhappiness, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    First thing I wanted to address — writing being a hobby — it’s only a hobby if you choose it to be a hobby. If you’re only somewhat serious about it, as more of a passing activity. You are not. I think people all too often get confused between a hobby and a serious passion that requires constant active pursuit, and still may not always pan out into a career. Those who have tried to tell you it’s just a hobby do not understand the world of writing. Success does not define whether or not it is a hobby. If that were the case, I’d have bounced back between professional and hobbyist many times.

    As for this not being a constructive post? It doesn’t need to. Sometimes, we just have to get things out of our own heads, and into the world — let that inner critic have their fun — so that it stops bouncing around in our heads like a game of Pong.

    I’m still looking forward to your book, whenever it may come about, and I know it will be great when you are done it.

    “There’s been more than one night where I’d planned to spend a few hours writing or editing before I go to bed only for something to happen. Then, suddenly, my time is taken away or my mood comes crashing down and I can’t bring myself to write. Rinse and repeat across most of this year and I begin to feel like I’m letting down myself and my goals. I know my mental health should take priority over my writing. And usually it does. But I worry that my mental health is impacting my writing to the point where my work isn’t the best it could be because of me.”

    I most definitely could have written this part of your post, because that is where I have been frequently over the past year or so. I’ve beaten myself up so many times because of it. What I have started to realize though, is this is just a part of the ebb and flow of life — especially during difficult and trying times. We cannot do ALL THE THINGS all the time, as much as we would like to. The one thing I have found that has helped during those stages is to let go of the need to write, or the planning, and just focus on doing what I need to do. To let my body and my mind have what they need for a few nights so that I can come back recharged. Yes, it will slow the process — but it means a lot less of kicking yourself when you wanted to move forward and couldn’t.

    Another thing I have found that has helped is to find hobbies that can give me a break from the need to accomplish. For me it’s been crocheting and colouring books. Giving my mind a few nights (or weeks) to relax without that pressure of what I want to accomplish, so that I am not ending up worse because of how awful I feel those nights when I can’t do it. It’s not been the perfect solution, but it seems to help.

    Going back to your roots is a good step. When I made that decision about my blogging and stuff, at first it felt like maybe I was reverting in a bad way. But once I officially made the change, I felt relieved — more than I have in years. There is a part of me that still really wants to do the things I was doing, particularly the advocacy, but it was mentally and emotionally killing me. I had lost the thing that made me a blogger in the first place, the thing that made blogging a positive part in my life.

    I do really hope this year begins to get better for you, and that you are able to find your footing to a place where you feel more empowered in your writing and even blogging again. I know I haven’t been able to comment or read as much as before, but I’m still always lurking and have always loved reading.

    1. Thanks for the support. I really appreciate it. You wrote a really lengthy post with a lot of good feedback. I’ll give a better comment in the morning when I’m not so tired. But thank you in the interim.

    2. Alright. Let’s try this again after ten hours of my site being down and two LONG comments that not only failed to post, but also erased because of said issues.

      I feel like the hobby post was not meant with the same distaste that other comments I mentioned — as well as some I didn’t mention. That said, I think it’s also one of the most common ones writers get. If you’re not Stephen King or John Green or something, your writing isn’t series. It’s a frustrating hurdle to get over because it’s such a pervasive though.

      As for a mental break, I think I’ve somewhat found that in the Pokemon gym posts and the sarcastic Fire Emblem playthrough I do for this site. They’re constructive, so I feel like I’m not wasting time doing them. That said, I’m sure there’s more I could do to help me there.

      I appreciate you swinging by and commenting/reading whenever you can. I know things have been hectic for you (at least I’d assume so), so it’s definitely appreciated.

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