The Truth About Me and My Writing Success
I ride an emotional rollercoaster every single day.
As someone with borderline personality disorder, I am used to managing a tumultuous and emotional inner world. Fortunately, I’ve recovered and healed to a great degree, and that allows me to be a reasonable parent.
I even hold onto personal and professional relationships with greater success than most people might expect from a person with BPD.
Inside, my emotional rollercoaster never actually shuts down.
Success doesn't soothe the beast.
You might think that finding a certain degree of success as an independent writer would more or less guarantee some peace. Especially if it's earned you a living wage for months. Or allowed you to save some money for the first time in your life.
With enough success, you might expect that rollercoaster to take a break or at the very least? Slow down. Maybe even enjoy the ride.
But success as a writer is a very strange thing, and I’m beginning to suspect that success itself is the strangest thing.
As much as I used to blame mental illness for my inability to quiet my internal storms, over the past year I’ve discovered it could also be a writer thing. No matter how well we’re doing mentally or emotionally, we writers want so much from ourselves.
We want things like frequent and eloquent output, wonderful reception, and of course, stats that are always soaring but never slowing down.
And we want ourselves to swallow our fear. Or hurl it away into oblivion.
There's too much fucking fear.
Writing can be tiring.
Lately, I have been tired in a way that makes me feel afraid for my wellbeing. Tired in a way that makes me want to slow down, but for the most part, cannot.
I am tired in a very specific and depressing way that causes my own writing to hurl me into new pits of despair every day. But this lifestyle of anxiety isn’t working for me and I want off the bumpy ride.
The truth is that I know I have been working way too hard. And that makes me afraid that I’m just spinning my wheels.
I know that I am working too hard when after every new piece I write, I feel as if I haven’t done enough. I'm working too much when I feel like I don’t dare give myself a break after finishing another story after that.
And I'm definitely working too much when I tell Shaunta Grimes that I'm having "a lazy day" by not writing anything between 2 and 9pm. I did, however, do some reading and joined in on a live blogging workshop within those hours. But for me, I can't help but call any bit of downtime lazy, because I feel like I need to be constantly hustling to build a better writing career.
This is a reality check.
Please don’t read this as a cry for help. I’m honestly not feeling sorry for myself. This is simply a reality check.
I told myself that I would persevere through the down times. Through the tough times. But did I realize that the terrible times would sometimes be of my very own design?
It's an uncomfortable reality that writers often work themselves up into a tizzy because we fear some sort of imminent rejection looming right around the corner. Make no mistake. Writing isn't doing this to us.
We are doing this to our own damn selves.
I am learning that the doubt and fear will never completely go away. Not for me and most likely not for you either.
How to cope.
One of the hardest things about writing successfully is simply managing the storms within. For so long I thought the storm was just me, but now I can see it in my fellow writers too.
So much doubt and worry. A palpable fear that can eat you alive for days if you let it.
All of the dark shit that happens behind the scenes will keep happening. That doesn’t actually go away once you start making ends meet.
Fortunately, I do believe it's possible to cope, but it's not an exciting or sexy prospect by any means.
You basically have to force yourself to take a beat, even when you don't want to. Even when it scares you to quit creating.
Maybe it doesn't need to be a full day. Or maybe you need to start out small and carve out an hour or two wherever you can.
But at some point, you have to recognize when you are sabotaging yourself by working too much and panicking about the results of your efforts.
We all do this to ourselves.
When you set out to be a writer, nobody is putting you onto some emotional rollercoaster where you have a good or bad day according to your stats or idea of ideal progress.
Nobody but you, anyway.
That rollercoaster you feel where one day you're on top of the world with your writing and then the next day you're drowning in despair?
You put yourself there.
The good news is that you can take yourself off that wild ride once you recognize what's happening. Good and bad days are a part of life. Your writing isn't going to get any better if you hurl yourself into a self-crafted sense of failure.
Give yourself permission to relax when the overwhelm comes.
Eventually, your writing will thank you.