Creative exhaustion + juggling

I’m currently sat outside in the sunshine in what is the hottest day of the year so far here in England, and in London where I am. (My car temperature gauge measured 28.5ºC!). Yet it was snowing just a couple of weeks ago. Strange times that we’re living in. Btw – you know it’ s hot when your iPhone stops playing YouTube suddenly, with an alert saying “Your iPhone needs to cool down before you can use it again”.

In last week’s post I shared my publishing ambitions, and how attending London Book Fair had only helped to re-affirm this. For those 3 days last week, Tuesday to Thursday, energy management was crucial, especially as I was out till late evening on two of those nights – and it takes anything from 7-90mins to get back home form ‘town’. Friday came as a welcome relief, before I went to an Indian wedding on Saturday, and then went to Church on Sunday evening and hung out afterwards. Monday I had a meeting with one of the panellists from LBF that I’d emailed, and then had a Sikh event in the evening which, again, saw me get back late.

When I’m away in London, I can forget about things like hydrating and nourishing myself, and I think the accumulation of busy days/evenings led to my feeling tired and under the weather when I got back late on Monday night. I then did the exact opposite of the sensible thing, and ended up staying up through the night; I wish I could say I was being productive – in short, I’ve had a long-standing issue when it comes to ‘being’ online – it certainly has been a release/crux of sorts when I’m particularly over-stimulated/tired/have lots of things going on; it’s something I’m working through in therapy).

creativ exhaustion.jpg
credit: geralt

In other words, I’ve had a fair bit going on and the priority to gain experience in publishing still remains, having had over a year off and the whole ‘job thing’ being a personal pain point of mine for so long. With my being so busy and active of late, the exhaustion also equates to creative exhaustion. Yesterday, as I sat in bed before going to sleep, I got down to writing just a couple of pages – the first story pages I’d written in a few days.

I’m trying to be kind to myself and, whereas before I was just wanting to get this book finished and out in the world asap, I’m now content with going at a slower pace. The key thing for me is keeping going, even if only gradually. Though I would still really like to maintain momentum and write at least a couple of days a week for, say, 30 minutes to an hour, I’m also conscious that – when I am working full-time – it will be more challenging to manage my (creative) energy with the job (and 3 blogs!); at this stage, I’m just trying not to worry about the future and take it as it comes.

Originally intended as a short story, it has now well and truly become a novella and is on it’s way to becoming a novel. I think I’ll even feel a little disappointed if it ends of falling short of the 50,000 words “novel mark”!

As I’ve previously talked about on this blog, some heavy editing will be needed – and I may also be weaving more into the plot to add some complexity and multi-dimensionality. I know I’m going to have to keep an eye on the pesky perfectionist in me, and I’ll do well to embrace the “don’t think, just do!” mentality I’ve been trying to adopt of late.

Another challenge for me is reigning myself in, and not getting carried away with so many creative projects – e.g. poetry and acting. These are two things which, as a curious and increasingly expressive/creative guy, I’m intrigued about. I actually released my very-amateurish first self-narrated poem to the world just yesterday on Twitter. It’s definitely the closest I’ve felt to being Eminem, I must say.

Like my journalling, poetry is just an amazing outlet for me to express my innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions from my core. Writing is definitely the medium through which I feel most comfortable and effective when it comes to expressing myself. I’m not much of a talker or a sharer when it comes to ‘my stuff’ – therapy and writing are filling that void for me right now. (Psst – that said, I have recently been quoted in a couple of articles about my mental health – this one is the most recent, published just today: 19 men share what it’s like to take anti-depressants). It feels like this week’s post is, apart from being a rambling one, as much of a reminder to myself than anything else. A reminder of that fact that life has priorities, and whilst these exist my energy is a limited resource. that I am only human, and best when I focus my efforts on just 1 or 2 projects, rather than a whole bunch. That with writing a story, maintaining 3 blogs, and focusing on a job search that is now in full swing – plus various extra-curricula activities I’m now involving myself in (some publishing-/book-related, some religious-related), as well as trying to consciously cultivate closer friendships…. I will need to be EXTRA-kind to myself over the coming days and weeks!

I hope that you, too, are kind to yourself when it comes to your writing and your life as a whole – and remember to love yourself and respect yourself in the same way that you probably do with others, rather than hold yourself to ridiculously high and punishing standards. #guiltyascharged

Right, I’m off to start my ’10 minutes of story’ on my list for today…

Have a lovely weekend folks ✨☀️

PS. Do check out my 1st recorded poem if you get a chance, on Soundcloud
& the ‘The Metro’ men’s mental health articles I contributed to can be found here and here

✏ Written: Thursday, 12th April @ 2.31pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
What ‘creative projects’ are you working on, at the moment? And – how good are you when it comes to being kind to yourself, and/or prioritising as needed? 💙


My trickiest ‘writing week’ yet

Week 3…a toughie
This third week of writing my short story has been the most challenging one yet. Week one had seen the start of a new project, and the first time I’d written a story in years, and so I was excited to write on most of the days. I was slightly less excited in the second week, but still maintained fairly good rhythm. This last week, however, I’ve just not felt in the mood to write.

I put this down to a number of possible things. The initial excitement has worn off. I have now pretty much outlined the story, plot and characters – so there’s less imagine left now, it’s just about the graft that is writing. Also, I’ve been letting my mind wander again (kinda like I did last week), this time thinking about other possible stories; I’ve stopped myself from getting too carried away though, and avoided honing in and developing an idea that I know could distract me from getting this first one completely.

woman pencil teeth
credit: JESHOOTS

My struggle to finish things
I’ve struggled to finish things I’ve started in the past. For example, I started 2 degrees at 2 different university; not long into each, I lost interest and pretty much switched off. I dropped out a year after each, but I could have done that a lot sooner even. Similarly, with my Masters, I had a couple of wobbles before I eventually pulled through. I’m not sure if this not-finishing-stuff is down to boredom, laziness, or a lack of self-belief. Probably a combination. With this story, I know there’ll be a great sense of satisfaction that comes with it’s completion. I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other, and concentrate on the next step. Right now, that next step is getting the 1st draft completed. It feels like I’m about 60-70% done at this stage; for whatever reason, it’s stretching out longer than I expected. I’ve noticed that this week I’m being a little more carefree with the words, sentence structures, etcetera… I’m just trying to get it all down.

Then, I can type it up and edit as I go; the idea is that I’ll effectively have ‘newer draft’ when it’s all been typed up, before I can then conduct a 2nd self-edit. After this, I can hand it over to someone else to edit (provided I don’t carry out further rounds of self-editing). Really, I just want to keep my feet on the ground and keep moving forwards.

Easier said than done.

Self-doubt + other nasty inner dialogue
And all sorts of doubts creep up on me, pretty much on a daily basis. Is there any point in doing this? Am I any good at this? Am I supposed to be a writer? Is this even going to lead anywhere?

Writing these doubts down, like I am right now, actually helps. As does reading about the experiences of other writers. This week, I started listening to Joanna Penn’s huge library of podcast episodes (300+), starting with this episode, titled Stop Worrying, Start Writing. How to Overcome Fear and Self-Doubt with Sarah Painter. I liked the episode, and it served as a good reminder that this stuff is so common. Sarah, of The Worried Writer, also mentions that she has been diagnosis with clinical anxiety, something I can relate too having also had the same diagnosis. Equally, I have been following other writers who have also had challenges with their mental health (depression, anxiety, social anxiety) and so forth. I actually recently shared a post about my own social anxiety, here on my other blog.

For every writer I see online who has 1000s of followers, a portfolio of published works, and otherwise looks like ‘a proper author’… I also try to remind myself of those, just like me, who feel like they have no idea what they are doing, and are just trying to see where their writing takes them. In the podcast episode, a particular tip I found useful was where Sarah talked about being kind to yourself and removing those triggers for your anxious/negative thoughts (when you need to); for example, not going into bookshops and looking at all the ‘big, famous titles’ in there (something which, funnily enough, unsettled me a couple of weeks when I visited Waterstones to buy my mum her Mother’s Day present), or following other reputable with 100,000s of followers, or anything else which can make you feel small, insignificant and overwhelmed. A useful tip that certainly spoke to me.

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 01.30.20
This week, my therapist also recommended a book to me about the creative process, which she couldn’t find on her bookshelf but thought might be something that could resonate. She said it might also help me feel a little less alone, in terms of identifying those phases that every creative goes through when producing something (thoughts of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art spring to mind). In therapy, I’ve also been talking through things that I’ve been holding in for a while – even last year when I had intense group therapy (2-3 days a week) and 1-to-1 therapy; I’m addressing some of the issues that started when I was a child/teenager, and the associated habits, thought patterns and core beliefs about myself which have spawned as a result. Talking therapy and writing are helping me slowly unpick these meaty issues and heal from them.

Daily writing
Perhaps a little contrary to the article on Lauren Sapala’s website that I read last week (which certainly makes sense to me), I’ve been trying to do some fiction writing (i.e. my short story) every day, even if just for a few minutes. I have found that it helps to maintain momentum, and helps avoid days passing with no writing. It also is useful for me to be ‘tuned in’ to what I am writing; if I leave it, say 3 days, without writing, it means that I may have partially forgotten what I’ve previously written about – and I feel I’ve lost a bit of that connection with the character, whose shoes I’m attempting to stand in, and connect with, in order to tell the story.

Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 pages (A5)
Week 2: 27.5 pages (A5)
Week 3: 21 pages (A5)

[added] ~15k words written

What’s next
Whilst trying to take it in small steps, I’ve been using the thought and excitement of ‘finishing’ as motivation to plough on. I also have an idea about what I might do with the finished piece – which I’m excited about, as well as nervous, of course. Watch this space…

Should I be reading fiction?!
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, is whether I need to be reading more fiction. I see a lot of indie/aspiring/published/unpublished authors on Goodreads, consuming lots of books, sharing their reviews and other authors’ work, etcetera. I’m sure they enjoy doing this, and it seems like a meaningful way to contribute and make connections, and perhaps gain support for their own published works, too (further down the line). I’m asking myself – do I need to do this?

I’m feeling some resistance – to be completely honest, I’ve read hardly any fiction in recent years. Whilst I do recognise that that reading has so many advantages for authors, I am also wary of how reading other authors’ books has the potential to interfere with my own personal style / ‘writers’ voice’.

But then – am I not missing out by not reading fiction, and engaging in reader communities? Am I depriving myself of the present/future benefits of reading, reviewing and contributing to the community? I’d love to get your thoughts on this! (see below)

PS. Confession: After writing this earlier in the day, I got back after midnight after the pub with a friend. It is 1.41am on Friday at time of publishing – but it’s technically still Thursday’s, so I’ve maintained my posting schedule, right?! 🙄

✏ Written: Thursday, 21st March 2018 @ 2.07pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
How do you deal with your anxieties/inner-chatter? Do you read and review lots of books? Should I be doing the same?! As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts + perspectives 💙