Welcome to the Life List Clubs bi-weekly blog fest. If you aren’t familiar with the Life List Club you can find out about it on the tab up on my header (or click the link). Today, I am guest posting over at Anne-Mhairi Simpson’s site on Goals and Standard Operating Procedures.
I am happy to host the fabulous co-founder and inspiration for the Life List Club, Jess Witkins. Jess is an ultra-cool adventurer who blogs about her travels, fun recipes, books and the creepy legends that roam the woodlands of Wisconsin. And so, without further adieu, here’s Jess.
Writer Meltdowns: A Case of the Mean Reds
A funny thing happened on my way to being a writer. I read this book by Gretchen Rubin, called TheHappinessProject. She changed her career from being a successful attorney to being a successful writer and she made herself happier along the way. So I finished reading the book and dived right in. I started a blog. I started my own book. I enrolled in a writer’s conference. I submitted my work for contests. I started a critique group. I got admitted into WarriorWriter’sBootCamp as a Fly on the Wall. I met some AMAZING writers through the blogosphere (Gene totally being one of them!). And I got to partner with MarciaRichards, the co-founder of the LifeListClub. So there I was, surging forward. And then that funny thing happened. I had a raging meltdown.
It Begins with the Juggling Act
Not all of us are writers, but we do have an uncanny commonality with circus performers. We have to juggle. We all wear a variety of suits throughout our lives. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, partners, bosses, workers, students, writers, beekeepers, piano tuners…we’re a lot of things. And sometimes, it’s difficult to be all of them to our fullest. If I stick with my juggling theme here, I felt like I was trying to balance a chainsaw, a typewriter, and an open bottle of wine. I was trying to learn a new job at work, keep up with my writing projects, and maintain some semblance of a relationship with the person I live with and yet never seem to see.
I started out dreaming about work. Entire 9 hour days were happening overnight followed by actual 9 hour days in the store of people asking me endless questions I was still learning the answers to. Then I started getting behind on my writing, really behind. I hadn’t added to my work in progress in months. It was the first thing to get cut during the day. And before I knew it, I woke up one morning saying, “Maybe this isn’t the year to start writing. Maybe you should focus your time elsewhere and try writing again next year. Maybe the writing thing just isn’t meant to happen.”
I was ready to battle that voice. My inner child remembered barricading myself in my room with my mom’s old typewriter that couldn’t print the letter ‘n’ and had to be handwritten in. She told me this was my dream, and I was really stupid if I thought quitting was the answer.
Quitting and Crying in the Grocery Store
But things did not get better. They got worse. I was overwhelmed at work, still not getting writing done, and making my partner feel ignored. I felt alone. Clearly I was a loser who couldn’t handle it, and didn’t deserve to be published if I couldn’t devote the time.
I tried to blur my troubles with a routine. I went grocery shopping. I had just a few items on the list, some basics. But they didn’t have the frozen juice I needed. I scoured the shelves and asked a clerk, but they didn’t have it. I called my boyfriend and asked him to please call the grocery store across town and find out if they had it. They said they did. So I drove to the other side of town and looked for it there. It was too high for me to reach. I had to climb into the freezer section to get the can out. My shopping cart was covered in mayflies, which I hate and creep me out and I felt like everyone was staring at me. I started crying. In the grocery store.
Jess Asks for a Sign
I’m an avid reader of Kristen Lamb’s blog. Kristen is the social media expert for writers. She writes honest and excellent advice for creating your author brand, better blogging and twitter guidelines, how to improve your writing, and she’s funny! Earlier in the week I read her post, Are We Born to Create? She shared with us her story of becoming a writer and asked us to share our ideas about supporting writing and finding creativity. I was still feeling weepy. I commented that my biggest fear is that I’ll never be able to make the transition to full time writer. That financially, I couldn’t support myself. And though I had tried, I was unsuccessfully working on my book, meaning I wasn’t at all. I asked for help.
Two Writers Peel Jess Off the Floor, and Tell Her “Buck Up, Bronco”
My help was unexpected. It came in the form of two bloggers who shared their honest emotions during their own mean reds turned raging meltdown. Linda Cassidy Lewis is an author working on her second novel, managing marketing and book sales for the first, attempting to top her work with the second. She blogged that she was stuck and full of doubt and didn’t know why. Her blog is the first one I read that told me I wasn’t alone feeling doubtful and in the dark. And then my blogging good fairy came in the persona of Renee Schuls-Jacobson. Her post, When Writers Meltdown, confirmed everything I was feeling. One minute you’re the “together girl” making it look so easy, and the next, you’re…well, juggling a chainsaw, a typewriter, and an open bottle of wine.
I haven’t magically made my schedule more manageable. I haven’t suddenly written 3 new chapters (or one for that matter). But I have made some connections that showed me I’m not alone. That meltdowns and mean reds are part of the process, and they mean I’m growing. I owe much of my progress to the amazing Life List Club too, without whom it’d be easier to quit, but that’s just NOT an option. And I’m happy about that.
How do you handle the juggling act? What helps you overcome meltdown status?
Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it! She deals with it all and writes about it! Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining. Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to.
I encourage you to comment and let us know what you think before heading over to see my guest post on Anne-Mhairi’s blog. There are thirteen of us traveling around today and we’d love to have you join us. Just follow the link trail from site to site or use my Life List Club blog roll on the side column.
Gene, you know how I handle it…I have a ROWbro. Seriously, I think having someone to bounce ideas off of when you need it, be a cheerleader when you need it, and be a drill sarge when you need it is a tremendous help. The writer community, both physical and online, is a great help. I’ve found writers to be extremely helpful and sympathetic when you’re down. Obviously, Jess found this as well. Great post. Heading over to read your guest post Gene.
I’ve totally suffered the melt down. Once I started blogging, things got out of control fast. How was I going to blog, take care of my family, and write my WIP? I wasted more than one day walking around in circles, just trying to figure out what to do first. Gradually, things sorted themselves out. Now I write on my WIP first thing in the morning, do family chores through the afternoon and evening, and polish up a blog for the next day at night. I also gave myself permission to acknowledge that it’s the best I can do. I still have days when I’m stressing. I don’t get to other folks’ blogs as often as I’d like. I don’t spend as much time with my family as I’d like. I don’t get as much done on my WIP as I’d like. But those things are always true. So you’re not alone, here, Sistah. And when it does get overwhelming, I turn off all electronics and listen to the wind for a while. Thanks for your post. All the best.
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What Piper said. And I’m glad that my public admission of total meltdown helped. It was humiliating, but — as you said — in the end, I did find that I was not alone. And, as Kristen Lamb reminds us all the time WANA (we are not alone). So why do we forget?
I blame the laundry.
Aww, Jess, sorry you had to go through this. I recently had a meltdown myself and it wasn’t pretty…think crazy woman in tears serving up burgers to her wide-eyed and now very nervous grandchildren. My husband stood by not know what to think while I babbled on, ‘I’ll never finish my book. I can’t even find time to get on twitter, and I’m lucky *sniff* to get a *sniff* bloooogggg writtteeennn, wahhh!’ Embarassing is what it was! But I decided to spend all the time I had on writing blogs and get a few weeks ahead. Then I could spend time catching up on social media and writing my WIP. I am two weeks ahead with blogs right now and working on a few more…then I go back to writing my WIP. YAY! You’ll find a way to get it done. Just keep pluggin’ away. Once you’ve learned your new job, everything will fall into place. Great post, thanks.
I’ve had the meltdown as well. I’ve felt guilty about the time it’s taken away from my daughter, felt like I wasn’t doing enough at home and that I was just wasting my time. I’ve had more than one gloomy day. But like Gene, I’ve got a great critique parter and friend in Catie Rhodes that helps me with ideas and various crises. I’ve also leaned on the support of Twitter friends and bloggers. As you said, just knowing there are others that feel the same way and can understand where you’re coming from makes a big difference.
Glad you’re feeling better. Thanks for sharing!
You’re not alone on your meltdown. I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting it done lately, and I’m scared I’ve forgotten how to get it done. You’re not alone. I’m glad you’re over the hump. Now you can figure out what to do about it. This post touched me.
I’m happy to know my meltdown helped you out of yours, Jess. 🙂 I’ve found the quickest way out of that state is to admit it on my blog. The sympathy and support from my readers acts as a lifeline and literary B-12 shot.
I loved the picture of the girl and her typewriter. If you had the fortitude to handwrite all those n’s, you can’t give up now! 😉
Jess, you are SUCH a wonderful writer! I actually had to get up midway through reading your post and close my office door because I was doing that snuffle-oh-no-girl-you-are-NOT-gonna-cry thing. This brought back my feelings of my own meltdown a while back so strongly. And yes, mine happened during a huge job transition too. In my case, I let myself give up writing for years and went through most days feeling like I’d lost a part of myself because of it. I kept getting up and droning on and shoving the part of me that was yelling ‘get it back!’ into the farthest recesses of my brain. You haven’t done that, so you’re already winning, one exhausting step at a time. I still struggle to balance it all, each and every day. But the good news for me was that once I hit that meltdown point and came out on the other side, I knew I would always find a way to write and move my goals forward, even if it was nowhere near as much or as fast as I wanted. I never wanted to go there again. I am so proud to be on this journey with you – you rock : )!
Thanks to all of you for the excellent support and comments. You are all the very best 🙂
Special Thanks to Jess for opening herself up with such a wonderful and inspiring post. We have all felt the pressure of our calling and it truly seems overwhelming at times. Yet when we persevere through the hard times or find that spot where things are out-of-balance that is when we see growth and progress.
Jess, it has been a great honor to have you here today 🙂
It’s amazing how life starts swamping you whenever you decide to change. Heh heh heh, that was what my guest post was about this week. It’s tough though. I know I’ve had my meltdown and near meltdown moments. It feels like so much to juggle. But (as Jenny Hansen said), we just need to show up. The rest takes care of itself.
Jess, thank you for such an honest post about your meltdown. Mine happened at the day job, and unlike Pam, I don’t have an office door, or an office–just me in my little cubbyhole veal-fattening pen with tears streaming down my face. I’m surprised my co-workers didn’t commit me–there’s very little that happens in rare books libraries to cause one to bawl.
Every time I want to hit the snooze button when my “it’s time to get up and write” alarm goes off, I remember sitting at my computer crying because I thought I really had no way to continue writing; that (and the smell of the pre-programmed coffee) get me out of bed!
It was another long 10 hour day at work today with no break. I have to update you all that the best parts of today included another sobbing episode of calling the boyfriend saying I needed to postpone our plans, but having him tell me its ok, bringing me a snack and giving me a hug. Then I got my passport in the mail today and officially get a vacation this next week. AND, I came home to read all the supportive messages from you guys. That’s the best.
I love the idea of a writing partner. Having someone besides the voices in my head keep me accountable for write goals sounds like the best and smartest plan ever. I absolutely intend to do that.
Thank you to Linda and Renee for writing their posts and making me feel ok about sharing my own meltdown. It’s more clear than ever that we are not alone, and it has meant the world to have such positive feedback and well wishes. You ladies rock!
I secretly think Pam and I lead parallel lives because our situations are so similar. So Pam, thank you for your compliment and always sharing your “I’ve been there, this is how to survive” advice.
And a big thank you to everyone who shared their own meltdowns. It’s nice to know I’m not the only weepy mess on the block. 😉 Honestly, it’s been comforting and embracing to know others have survived the same stress and gone on to be better for it. It is a daily challenge, but we stronger each day from it. Thank you all.
There are plenty of things I could say about this post. But I’m just gonna say: “Jess, you are awesome, and brave, and hugely supportive. Thank you.” Give you a nice big virtual-hug, and leave it at that. ^__^
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Thanks Amanda! Right back at’cha!
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I had my own meltdown not too long ago, it lead to me posting a blog about wanting tacos and being sick of blogging. It’s funny how writing can be both a stress and a relief.
We all melt down. I suspect writers do it more than others though. We have such great imaginations…it ends up being a curse.
I blogged about my last meltdown over on Sonia’s blog and the comments were lovely. I’m so happy to see that same experience here too. Thank you for starting the LLC so I could be part of such a fun, inspiring group of writers.
Wonderful post, Jess…you made me smile and nod my head in recognition. Thank you so much for the honesty and the chuckle!
Meltdown comes from overstress, and there have been times I’ve lived on the edge of meltdown for weeks.
What I do to avoid meltdown is REST. I’ll take a day — usually on a weekend, but will sometimes take day off the dayjob — for myself. I’ll do ordinary things, but whenever I start feeling tired or sleepy (a signal of stress for me) I lie down. Often, I’ll nap, or I might just read a bit.
Once in awhile, I’ll take a week off work to mostly write and sleep. I tell people I’m using the time to get caught up with things, including sleep.
Too many times we get stretched too far. Sometimes we have to reel ourselves in, take a break from the stresses we CAN get away from for awhile, and get some rest.
Take care, everyone.