- Walter's Writing Emporium
You'll get by with a little help from your friends
These last two weeks I’ve been struggling a bit with feelings of not being good enough either as a writer or a human being. I’ve had to do some rewrites for my work in progress and it felt like I’d lost all ability to write. My vocabulary felt limited and basic. My sentences felt too simple and repetitive. This then turns into me believing I'm a shitty person and my life being a waste of time. I've been fighting against this, cause, well, what else you gonna do? And I thought I’d talk about the things that have been helping me with the hope that maybe something will help you.
Connecting with others
I feel a bit of a hypocrite adding this because it’s something I’m rubbish at. Working in a call centre has given me the fear of telephones. Online, I prefer to lurker rather than participate. Sometimes it’s because my low self-esteem tells me no one cares about what I have to say, sometimes it’s because it takes too long to compose the perfect comment, and sometimes it’s too much of a head-fuck afterwards worrying about what I’ve said and what people think (am I dumb? was there a typo? have I offended someone? Has someone called me out? Why aren’t people nicer?). One-sided interaction (can it be called an interaction?) is much more my style when I’m feeling wobbly about myself. I’ve bought two books to try and help me feel better about writing and myself because these people have at least an understanding of the fear of not being a good enough writer.
Joanna Penn – the Successful Author Mindset
Sarah-Beth Watkins -- Life Coaching for Writers: An Essential Guide to Realizing your Creative Potential I’ll let you know how I get on with them in a future blog.
The Blindboy Podcast
Now this is a man I could listen to all day. He’s a provider of the podcast hug with his beautiful Limerick accent, hot takes, interviews with interesting people, advice on creativity and discussions about mental health. He’s a writer, artist and musician who had to deal with anxiety and agoraphobia and so it feels like I’m listening to someone who gets it. It’s inspiring to know he’s managed to go from worrying about panic attacks in supermarkets to performing in front of thousands of strangers. He’s also super smart and funny, and if you watch his twitch stream, you’ll see he also has lovely eyebrows.
His mental health podcasts are particularly helpful when I’m in a bit of a funk because they remind me of things I discussed with my counsellor. It’s easy to forget some of these coping mechanisms because after therapy I thought, oh I’m fixed now. Turns out dealing with your mental health is more like taking out the recycling. If you forget to do it soon you’re not able to leave your house. The podcast that resonated the most with me was about learning to separate your self-worth from your writing. To paraphrase, your writing is a facet of your behaviour and it does not define you. Everyone has value. It blew my mind because I hadn’t realised how much of my self-esteem rested on whether I received praise for my writing. I’m sure that fear of negative comments is holding me back from marketing my work. I’m not quite sure yet how to separate these two things yet but that’s what I’m working on.
You can find his podcasts on spodify and acast. Spodify has a better episode guide but the links don’t show the episode titles so these links are for Acast. Here are some that I’ve found helpful
https://youtu.be/9fH1nYi8Pq8 -- The video where he talks about dealing with criticism and not letting it affect your sense of self
The only quote you'll ever need
I’m not a fan of using motivational quotes. Live every day as if it’s your last-Pah! If this is my last day then I’m trying heroin, eating enough wheat to fill a house, and overthrowing the monarchy. Here is one quote that I find helpful when I'm struggling and actually makes sense – ‘When we are tired we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago’ (Friedrick Nietzsche). I’d also expand that to include ‘when we’re hungry and thirsty. When my inner critic is going off on one, reminding me of all the times I’ve been less than perfect, I ask myself if I might just be tired or hungry. It’s amazing how the simple act of realising that I’m tired has my inner critic getting his coat and calling a cab.
Eat like shit and you’ll feel like shit
It was my birthday two weeks ago and so, of course, I ate all of my favourite things and of course that meant junk food. I’ve noticed that I can feel a bit emotionally fragile a few days after I’ve indulged or forgotten about vegetables. Oh, chocolate and pizza, why have you deceived me in this way? Why don’t our taste buds make turnips and kale as yummy as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream if our bodies want those vitamins? I mean, come on, help us out here, body. I’m not going to give up on eating junk food because sometimes my soul needs pleasure more than my stomach needs sensible food. However, knowing the bad thoughts are coming from junk food makes them easier to ignore. I’m not a shit writer, I just like sugar. Remedy—I’ve been shoving those vegetables down my gullet but today I’m munching on a Curly Wurly.
There are some great meditations on Youtube focused specifically on writing. I’ve found these helpful to do before going into a writing session. Sometimes it brings on ideas. Other times it just chills my Inner critic out. (What am I doing giving that little bastard a capital!) When writing, I like to be in that world, same as if I’m walking around and possessing the characters. At times though, words are like bars and I’m too persony and solid to slip around them, so meditation’s been great at helping me get into that more floaty dreamlike state. Here are some I’ve found helpful.
https://youtu.be/xQTtLNoYmoU Subliminal messages and affirmations
https://youtu.be/3zI5uGIobzw Beating writer's block
https://youtu.be/saQvJkmumZk For beating writer's block and inspiration
https://youtu.be/rNaO-JZ9Vco Meditation to help with self-criticism
It’s just stuck energy
Linked to the above and something I’m learning about is chakras. (Forgive me while I butcher this explanation). My understanding is that they are energy centres or points on the body and each one corresponds to certain emotions or ways of being and so when the energy is stuck or blocked in those places it manifests in negative thought patterns and physical symptoms. What I do know is that my negative emotions are in my belly (top and lower) or as I like to call them Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. When I’m anxious I feel Tweedle Dee playing about with a cattle prod in my lower belly. This is the sacral chakra and relates to creativity. The shame of being a piece of shit is Tweedle Dum and he lives in my upper belly which is where the solar plexus chakra is. It relates to self-esteem. The dividing line in this is my waist, which fortunately stays out of matters, quiet and content to just be a body part rather than a seat of tempestuous emotions. I’ve been doing meditations and yoga focused on these two energy points and it has helped to ease those sensations. Maybe it helps because it encourages the muscles or sinew or organs to relax. (Can you tell I’m not a Dr?) Maybe it’s psychosomatic. Maybe it is something more mystical. I'm not too sure at this point.
https://youtu.be/Pz47Fv_TQDU Solar plexus meditation
https://youtu.be/akT0bNPP_DI Solar plexus mediation
https://youtu.be/yUMQk5Ww5y0 Sacral chakra meditation
https://youtu.be/5FJfL0ZMH5Q Sacral chakra meditation
https://youtu.be/Lr2O71ltrbA Yoga for sacral chakra
https://youtu.be/8aL_OQA9Nhc Yoga for sacral chakra
https://youtu.be/RQMIcvhRV64 Yoga for sacral chakra
https://youtu.be/dcCIuBMowLg Yoga for solar plexus
If something’s wrong or bothering me I need to take action and feel like I’m sorting out the problem. Unless it involves potential conflict with other people in which case avoid, avoid, avoid. Rather than feeling like a shit writer and consigned to always being a shit writer, I want to improve those areas I feel insecure about. At least then I have hope that in the future I will be a good writer. I’m currently reading a book on grammar, a book on linguistics for literature students and I’m going back to learning the dictionary. I’m going to master the fucking English language even if it kills me.
Let’s not kill ourselves for our art though
Burnout is a big thing for me. I’m pretty sure it’s partially to blame for my nervous breakdown—that and my low self-esteem (a topic for another blog). Sometimes I feel stuck with my work and dislike myself because I need to take a break. Working hard can be a form of self-punishment I’ve realised; I don’t deserve a break because I’m not as good as other people yet. It’s also an effective way to shut my head up for a bit and avoid dealing with things like life and emotions. I’ve been trying to force myself to take a break and find treats that are better for me than chocolate or junk food. Scheduling them in makes me feel like I’m still doing something—I’m doing relaxing, brain. I recommend finding a celebrity crush, preferably one that has a lot of content you can watch. It’ll give you that nice dopamine hit. If you need some ideas my current crushes are Cillian Murphy and Kristen Stewart (post Twilight) ... and did I mention Blindboy has spectacular eyebrows.
picture from tearsofamuse on ifunny