I’ve been missing in action for a few weeks now due to the exhausting process of moving to a new apartment. I suffer from a lot of anxiety and the past month or so has wreaked havoc on my mental wellbeing—and on my productivity as a writer.
First, I had to find an apartment that fit my budget and was within a reasonable distance from my work so I wouldn’t spend a fortune on gas, a nigh impossible task in the tight housing market of my city.
When I finally found a new apartment, I spent a few weeks worried about the upcoming move. It turned out that my worries were well-founded: the move was every bit as exhausting and difficult as I had thought it would be. My boyfriend and I couldn’t have managed it without the help of several friends who lent their time and energy.
After moving in, there was still the small matter of unpacking. Apart from watching the fantastic third season of Stranger Things, unpacking and settling in has taken up all of my free time in the past week. According to Word, I haven’t worked on my novel since June 23rd, and I guarantee that whatever I did on June 23rd was not significant.
My novel, The Relic Spell, is set to become available for preorder in Fall 2019. I don’t have a ton of wiggle room here.
So I turned to Twitter and asked for advice on writing while depressed, anxious, worried about money, constantly exhausted, and/or angry at the world. I got a lot of sympathy, a lot of encouragement, a lot of people on the same boat as me.
Replies like this one reminded me that none of us are alone in this struggle:
This tweet reflects my frustration and also shares some wisdom that I’ve had to remind myself of repeatedly this past month:
This tweet reminded me that everything we experience as writers can serve to make our writing richer and more human:
A change of scenery (as well as exercise) has often helped me more than I could have imagined, as this tweet reminded me:
These two tweets had a lot of great points: Set small goals. Establish a routine. Remind yourself of what excites you about your project. Be kind to yourself.
These tweets shared a surprising and fun piece of advice. I haven’t written fanfiction in years, but I have tried to set aside a little time to write more fun, indulgent projects to remind myself of why I love writing:
I felt called to write this blog post to share advice and commiseration, because if you’re a writer, chances are you’ve been there, too. You could even sub in writing for any other creative endeavor you do on your own time, because they all share the challenge of keeping momentum.
All of these blocks to writing—the majority of writing blocks, really—come down to time, energy, and motivation. If you don’t have those three consistently, you’re not going to make much progress on your projects. And we all want to get things done, right?
Time is the easiest of the three to tackle. If you don’t have time, you make it. You find it. You squeeze it. Fifteen minutes a day right after you wake up, during your lunch break, right before bed.
You might think you can’t find time, but I guarantee that you can. You don’t need a giant block of free hours; you need consistency day to day. You can check out my blog post on managing time as a writer for more tips.
But even if you could technically squeeze in fifteen minutes a day for writing, that leaves energy and motivation, which are much more difficult to find. I’m a big believer in consistency: establishing a routine can really help overcome the hurdle of finding the energy and motivation to write.
When you pick a manageable amount of writing time and commit to it, it becomes a habit and you don’t need to wait for inspiration or enthusiasm to come to you. I used to write every day during my lunch break and I made fantastic progress that way.
But when I started looking for apartments, I gave up my lunch break writing time to scroll through Apartments.com and Craigslist in search of a place to live. I used my lunch break to make calls, schedule visits, try to figure out my finances. It was the only way I could make it through the rest of my shift without having a panic attack.
Things become a lot more complicated when you’re dealing with mental illness, worrying about how you’re going to pay rent, or questioning the futility of being a writer in a world that feels like it’s on fire—or any of a hundred other worries that could be weighing you down.
I don’t have many answers. I’m still trying to figure this stuff out for myself. All I know is I had to take a break and now I’m going to do my best to catch up to where I should be in my revision process. Now that my stress has gotten back down to a manageable level, I’m going to try to establish a routine again and hold my writing time sacred—no using that time for anything else.
If you’re in a similar situation, you’re not alone. Share in the comments any difficulties you have with time, energy, and motivation when it comes to writing—or any other creative endeavor. The beauty of the online community is that you never have to feel like you’re alone.