Do you ever have a hunch that someone, some perfect stranger, is talking directly to you? You have absolutely no proof except that their own content seems indisputably like a response to some of your own recent remarks. It feels like they MUST have read or scanned at least a few minutes worth of your own work and come to a couple conclusions of what they would say to you if they knew you personally or could have a conversation with you about the field you have in common, maybe over drinks at the local café. Yeah… me neither. But if it were true, here’s some things that I would say. “Thanks for calling me out on my crap (You have NO IDEA how badly I needed it!) and I’m grateful for the encouragement. I sincerely mean it. And, by the way, the lettuce wraps were the bomb. Life changing, like you said. Did you try the chocolate cake recipe yet?”
So here are my thoughts as of late:
I absolutely hate clichés, but they’re inescapable. No matter how hard I try to avoid those darn little buggers, I inevitably fall prey to one or two a week, whether in writing or in conversation. Look at my blog! My blog description has a big, distracting fatty right there: Writer’s Block!
Alright. Look, define writer’s block however you will, but everyone else has different definitions for it as well. So you can’t go assuming that I, or anyone else who uses the term, are using it with the FLAT, BORING, LAZY-A– definition that has become so cliché for the term. But I do believe it exists in its own right. For me it is a combination of things, but to sum it up: I’m a woman. A moody, emotional, perfectly flawed, tempestuous, sassy, Scottish diva. Add in a few extra adjectives of your choice, I’ve probably been described by a lot of them, for better or for worse, and I’m okay with that. I spend a lot more time inside my own head than I probably should but I’m happy there. I’ve got about a billion things going on in my head at once, so changing gear when it is time for me to change tasks is not as easy as pushing a clutch and down-shifting. If I have writer’s block, it is a combination of things with good reason. How many hats am I always juggling? I’m honestly not sure. However, I can tell you that here are a few of my own “writer’s block” triggers.
My main problems:
I’m an extremely creative person. I love to use all kinds of mediums and I can usually take an average concept and turn it into something golden. While I have had a few failures, they don’t bother me and I’m able to use creative license to turn them into something amazing in their own right. This is true with many mediums for me. But, truth be told, it doesn’t matter how good or bad I am at something, I’ll never have enough confidence in myself. I’m always going to be seeking the approval or acceptance of others. (You do too, in your own way, so I don’t care how hard core you try to be, you can’t deny it.)
Fear of Failure
Dude! I’m a perfectionist! You can’t just say that everyone sucks and to deal with it. Some of us don’t roll like that, we aren’t wired like that way! I’m not saying I’m a genius and I never fail, because I most certainly do, but failure is certainly not my favorite feeling to revel in. If it means I have to go the long way by tiptoeing around the rank, bubbling, steaming bog of shite that some people like to blindly launch themselves into simply with the promise of a deep cleaning with a high pressure hose afterwards, then so be it. I’m gonna do what I know best, and that’s take my time and follow my gut. Still, that doesn’t mean I’m happy with where I am at or the speed I’m going. I will always be my biggest critic and I honestly do need and appreciate a shove in the right direction or a mental reboot if I’m hung up too long on a detail here or there.
It reminds me of a date I went on with this guy back in my single days. He and I had been friends for a few years at this point and both of us had recently returned from humanitarian service missions, he in Central America and I in New England. After 18 months of devoting every waking moment to the service of others, I returned home to Vegas and experienced a complete culture shock. After a movie and dinner we discussed how each other was adjusting and by the end of our evening the last words he said to me were, “Heather, I think that maybe your main problem is that you just need to teach yourself to stop caring so much.” (I saw to it that we never went out together after that.)
I appreciate honesty and candor no matter what, and I’m not saying he wasn’t right at least a little bit at the time because I was tired and somewhat lost in what I wanted to do next with my life, but don’t try to take away the things that define a person. For me, it is how much I care– about everything. Maybe I do get consumed in what I’m doing to the point that I forget about myself more than I should reasonably be allowed to justify, but if I’m not allowed to be me and, at the very least, do the things that I know I can do and do well, then I can’t possibly have confidence in myself for the things that push my outside of my comfort zone.
The better piece of advice for me usually consists of, “Heather, when is the last time you took a break and focused on you for a little while? Do your best to moderate yourself and not get burned out again.” I’m trying to adapt the old French proverb “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Depression and Anxiety
I’m a mom of 4 kids under the age of 8 years old. Sometimes I have it. I’m exhausted and I don’t always admit to how badly I’m suffering from self sacrificing for so long. The perfectionist inside me wants to strangle every well-dressed, make-up done, pristinely styled hair, trendy outfitted, (fake), model mother out there. But then I remind myself that they’re not as multi-faceted or ambitious as me and to not listen to their criticism because they have no clue how I manage to home school 4 kids and maintain a home and relationship with my awesome husband. (Neither do I, honestly.) So if they want to judge, then I normally don’t let it get to me. But, deep down inside, whether I want to always admit it to myself or not, their exclusion and disdain for me eventually take hold of me for a while. I’m learning how to balance and take the good with the bad. Sometimes I have to cut my losses and move on. I’m learning how to surround myself with positive people who uplift me and believe in me while cutting out the toxic people in my life.
Depression is not something to be taken lightly. It can vary in severity in each person, and is very common in creative people, but there’s never any shame in accepting that you have something going on inside you which might be bigger than you can handle by yourself. I urge everyone to seek help. Don’t ignore it. Recognize that you are only human and that it’s okay to need a little help sometimes. For me that means that I am accepting of help when I need it and I have learned to recognize my triggers and to maintain a healthy lifestyle in diet, exercise, lifestyle, and activities which I take part in. Drown out the negative and surround yourself with joy and beauty. Until you find balance in all aspects of your life, you will not find peace. Get there. Do whatever it takes, just get there.
I’m so easily distracted. I have lofty goals and I am determined to see myself succeed. But I’m at a point in my life where I have no choice but to juggle so many roles. With a husband in college still and 4 little ones always keeping me on my toes, plus the billions of other things which I try to do, I get derailed once in a while. Sometimes willingly, frequently unintentionally.
Surround yourself with a supportive circle of family and friends. Avoid naysayers and all unnecessary time suckers. Keep in mind there’s a difference between being freaking busy, like, all the time and just being lazy. Don’t be lazy. A lazy person is a mediocre person. Nobody likes mediocrity. As Pablo Picasso said, “Only put off until tomorrow that which you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso was not mediocre. He, like all other creative and intellectual geniuses, was given the same 24 hours per day which we have. Another smart piece of advice is to divide your day into thirds: 8 hours of rest, 8 hours of work, and 8 hours of play. How you designate everything from there is your choice. Choose wisely, young padawan.
I’m so friggin’ tired. No matter what amount of inspiration or work I have swimming in my head, I can’t do squat if I’m too tired to write or type. The best ways to avoid this or manage this are first, Sleep. Get yourself onto a responsible sleep schedule. Second, Exercise. Stay healthy and strong. I’m telling you, the more fit you are, the easier it will be to stay healthy and more easily listen to your body. Third, Eat Responsibly. The better and cleaner the foods you eat, the more mental clarity you will have. Fourth, Balance. Schedule everything! Stick to a routine so that none of the important things fall on the wayside due to neglect. (This includes relationships at times as well.)
Have I forgotten anything? What are some of the writing (or other creative) blockages which you sometimes encounter and how do you deal with them?