The Squeeze

Hello and welcome to another anxiety-fueled edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

And what a struggle these last two days have been. You see, friends, I seem to have worked myself into a burnout.

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I have always had a hard time finding a sustainable balance between my day job, my family, leisure time, and writing, and that conflict is once again coming to a head. Largely because I’ve decided that adding a part time writing gig (on top of my personal writing projects), a new self-care regimen of diet and exercise, and some new home improvement/housekeeping routines all at the same time would be a fabulous idea!!!!! THINK OF ALL THE THINGS I’LL GET DONE!

Hah, except when I feel so much like a wrung out sponge that I can barely drag my ass into the shower, much less wash a load of dishes, walk the dogs, put my kids in bed, read three chapters of a dense as hell book, come up with a couple new pitch ideas, write 1000 new words toward my WIP, and unwind with a little basketball or video game all in the same evening, like I’ve for some reason convinced myself is possible.

Part of me is convinced I’m at fault here. Other people do all these things, what the hell is the matter with me for not being able to keep up? Or, that if I took myself seriously as a “professional writer” I would make it work and since I haven’t that’s just proof that I can’t hack it at my dream job.

Another part of me knows that one solution would be to make sacrifices. Like… while I’m writing a “work” project, my personal WIP should be on hold. Make reading my leisure activity (even though I don’t really find it all that relaxing). Wake up earlier and go to bed later.

Or maybe I can compromise. Do “work” writing Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and personal writing Tuesdays and Thursdays. Figure out how to listen to audio books (I have audio processing issues which has historically given me to bounce them) so I can get my monthly reads in on the commute.

Or, become hyper-obsessed with budgeting my time. At 5:45 walk the dogs. 6-6:30 is washing dishes and making dinner. From 6:30-7:15 do “work” writing. From 7:15-8:15 is daughter’s guitar lesson. 8:15-9 is putting the kids in bed. 9-9:30 work on personal writing. From 9:30-10 read. 10 until bedtime relax. Except for Tuesdays and Thursdays when I have to blog. Does that fall under personal or work writing at this point? And the local critique group meets on Wednesdays (whenever the hell this pandemic is over, that is), how do I block out time then?

None of these are perfect solutions, which means I should probably make an attempt to cobble them together into some kind of grotesque amalgamation of a work/life balance, and… you know, that’s fine. If only my anxiety would stop giving me a guilt complex for not being able to do it all in a single day, that would be great.

So, I’m curious, for those of you who are in similar situations to mine: how do you survive the time squeeze? I mean I’m all ears for any tips and tricks. I have accepted the fact that I’m probably going to have to sleep less going forward if I want to make this work, and that my comfortable routines are going to have to budge up and make space. But most importantly, the last two days have shown me that what I’ve been doing is not sustainable. That first rush of endorphins from landing this new writing opportunity may have carried me through the first week of working almost non-stop, but those have worn off now and I’m left trying to make sure I can actually do all the things I promised myself I would.

And so ends another day in the life of just another struggling writer.


I almost didn’t even write this tonight. But I’ve actually, for the most part, managed to keep my blogging habit going and I’m really proud of it. So, even though I’m tired and crabby and want to watch the Voice while I work on my latest cross-stitch pattern, I wrote. And, today, that’s a win.

So I’ll be back next week, hopefully unclenched. I will most certainly not be ready to review my latest read as it is dense. Normally that would be grounds for my brain to excuse DNFing it, but it has so many elements I wanted for my now shelved Border Towns project that I know I have to finish it. For research purposes. Yes. So, all of that to say, I’m going to be slightly off my reviewing schedule. Hope that’s okay. Until Thursday, my friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.

Kerry Share

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One thought on “The Squeeze

  1. Phew! Just reading this gave me a rush of anxiety! 😂 Damn girl. First thing, I think it’s great that you’re acknowledging that you’re feeling overwhelmed. With all you listed, I would be too! Hair on fire overwhelmed.

    If I were in your position, first thing I’d do is identify the things I *have* to do in order to feel good about myself. For me, it’s use my planner, write 500 words, and exercise. My mental health has required all of those to keep a good handle on things. When I start skipping any of them, it’s a sign I’m struggling.

    Then I’d drop nonessentials. Everything may feel essential, but I’ll bet you could back off at least the most ambitious home improvements. Not give them up, but scale them: what things are others waiting on you to do, what are things you must do for your own happiness in the short term, and what are things you’d like to do, but might be able to bump back a few weeks?

    I used to have a little hand-drawn wedge-gauge to show myself when I was going from productive-stressed to frazzled, when things started slipping through the cracks. Frazzled means you’ve taken on too much. Anything that you can bear to let go of, even just for now, do. Like the writing meet-ups? No need to worry about it yet, because it’s not time yet. Put off worrying about how to fit it in for now.

    My other suggestion—for the personal habits, self-care, exercise, even the WiP—is to check out the book Atomic Habits, if you haven’t already. It’s been a lifesaver, and taught me a ton about how to move myself and my behaviors in the direction I want them to go without having to 100% commit and jump to the perfect version of those habits/lifestyle choices. Small changes have made more difference in my lifestyle than huge leaps ever have (especially because I’m a way over-optimistic goal-setter who in the past has consistently bitten off more than I could handle—and those big jump habits have almost always failed to be sustainable).

    And most of all, be kind to yourself! If you need to write on your own work daily (or split the week—I’ve been doing novel-work to a word count requirement Mon-Wed, then short fiction Thurs-Fri—it gives me a refreshing break from the novel, but isn’t such a huge break that I can’t jump back into it) set a small goal. Last year, when I had #2, I set a goal for 100 words a day, just as a placeholder habit. Kept me creeping forward on my WiPs, but wasn’t hard to do even at the end of the day when I was tired. Smaller, sustainable goals may help release some pressure.

    Deep breaths! You can do this! It may just require some ruthless prioritizing. ❤️👍

    Like

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