Wednesday, November 2, 2016

That Really Deep Writing Post // Part #3

Ever since I got a custodial job in August, I’ve been amassing ideas for another Really Deep Writing Post. (If you want to read the first two, you can find them here and here.) This one will, of course, be somewhat NaNoWriMo-themed, as this is technically my first pep talk of the month. It's on the short side, but don't worry—there's more to come. 

Manuscript Mountain. If you’ve been reading the official NaNo pep talks for any amount of time (or anything about writing, for that matter), then you’re probably familiar with the concept of Manuscript Mountain. I think it goes without saying that comparing writing a book to climbing a mountain creates a painfully accurate picture (but I’m me, so I’m going to say it anyway). 

What you may not know, however, is that custodial work can seem like its own mountain. I have to clean my church Fridays through Sundays. And it’s a large church. To break it down, I have to clean the building twice every weekend—roughly one third on Friday, two thirds on Saturday, and then the whole thing all over again on Sunday. Sundays can be especially overwhelming, since I have tended to need about nine hours to get the work done. It’s not that I can’t handle the job, because I can, even when I feel like I’m two steps away from falling asleep on my feet. Literally. But my anxiety has a tendency to look at the amount of work ahead of me and freak out. It tells me that I’m going to be stuck there all night—that I’ll still be cleaning the same bathroom when my boss gets there in the morning. As can be expected, I have to work harder to overcome this anxiety. 

Likewise with writing (and editing) a book. When you think about the concept of writing 50K words (or more), it doesn’t necessarily seem all that difficult. That’s why so many people will cavalierly declare that they would write a book if they had the time. Anyone who has written a book will hear this and laugh while crying hysterically on the inside. 

However, anxiety or no anxiety, once you actually break ground on your novel, you’re likely to start feeling a little overwhelmed. And by “a little overwhelmed” I mean, you would probably sell your own kidneys to get out of finishing that draft. This is an understandable emotion. But please don’t start selling your organs just yet. 

The trick is to focus on the task at hand and, for the most part, ignore all the work ahead of you until it’s time to move on to the next task and the next. It’s fine to plan ahead, but you’re going to exhaust yourself if you spend too much energy thinking about all the stuff you have left to do before you can call it a day. Yes, anxiety does not listen to reason, so either way, you may still suffer. No matter how much I remind myself that everything will be okay, I struggle. Every day. But the more I fight to control my thoughts, the more I win small battles in this larger war against my mind. 

But the thing you have to remember is this: Just because your veins feel like live wires doesn’t mean you should quit. And it gets better, even when it feels like it’s getting worse. I have, in small measures, gotten from the point where I couldn’t even think about leaving the house by myself to the point where I am sitting here, typing this in a coffee shop full of strangers. I have gone from the point where I couldn’t fathom getting another job to the point where I work overtime every week because I like getting the job done and doing it well. It doesn’t get completely better, not right away, maybe not ever. But it improves. You can improve. 

Motivational speech over. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? Do you struggle with anxiety, in life and/or in writing? What are some ways you fight your fears?


  1. I do struggle with anxiety but not as much with writing. Whenever I'm in college, my mouth gets all dry and hot and I speak awkwardly.

    I'm glad you were able to complete NaNo. over 80 thousand words? What? That's dedication. Also, I'm glad you're dedicated enough to clean your church. That's so hard ':'(

  2. Ughhhh this is something that I'm so, so bad at, and something that I'm learning in work and writing right now. I have so many projects going on and it's easy to get overwhelmed and just shut down and not do anything -- which is something I quite often in real life as well -- and I think the trick is, like you said, to look one step ahead instead of seeing the whole picture. Taking it a chunk at a time and conquering those little pieces is the most effective thing I've found.

  3. I struggle with anxiety as well when I'm looking at a big project. I have to make myself calm down and break it down then go for it. Thanks for the motivation, Liz!

  4. "Anyone who has written a book will hear this and laugh while crying hysterically on the inside." I don't have much to add to this conversation beyond the fact that I love that last sentence :)