This has been a long year of anxiety attacks, despite the fact that there hasn’t been much cause for it in my life. All around me, things have been rolling along pretty much as usual, but inside of me it has been a different story.
Now, a certain amount of anxiety can be useful. For instance, the awareness of time running out can cause anxiety, but it can also be a good motivator. I’m in my sixties, and the awareness that I don’t have forever is part of what gets me up at five or six in the morning and back in front of the work in progress. At the end of my life, there will be a lot of things I will regret not having done or been able to do, most of which are beyond my control to achieve, but at least writing my novels will not be one of them.
When anxiety starts to expand from a twinge to a constant state, however, it negatively impacts everything from work to just plain having fun. It’s even hard to remember what it is you want out of life when you constantly feel like you’re under siege.
This problem started about a year ago, at the end of the third Charlotte novel, when I set myself the task of writing a novella and several other writing-related projects, the kinds of things that indie authors are told they need to do in order to get discovered by more readers. I could understand perfectly well why I had to do these things, and I really, truly felt they were good and achievable ideas. But for some reason, I froze. I went from enthusiastic to overwhelmed. The longer time went on without dealing with these tasks, the more anxious I became. I felt like I was failing. I was able to keep writing my book, but everything else became impossible, even a blog post like this.
While I could still write my novel, it was taking me much longer. This in turn meant longer and harder working days and less time spent on other parts of my life, a perfect recipe for increasing guilt and anxiety. One day, my husband rephrased his ongoing concern about how hard I was pushing myself. I don’t recall the exact words, but for one reason or another they lit up the proverbial light bulb. I was finally able to articulate how things really were for me, about the overwhelm, the sense of failing, and the complete shutdown of everything other than writing the book.
Just acknowledging the existence of anxiety and recognizing the things and situations that cause it has been illuminating–and liberating. It has enabled me to be brave enough to ask for help, and a lot more gracious about accepting help that is offered. It has loosened up my inner gift of gab, too.
During the weeks the current book has been out to my beta readers, I’ve been making some changes in meds, diet, and sleep routines, all to great improvement, and I’ve vowed to stick to them when writing the next book, no matter what.
Most of all, though, there has to be acceptance of things as they are–or at least more acceptance than I previously thought was sufficient. Perhaps the amount and kind of work that I do has to be adjusted. The candle burnt at both ends in decades past won’t work in the current decade, and I’m making changes in my writing process that will hopefully make things a little easier. But the goal is still to write one novel per year.
Anyway, if you’ve made it all the way to here, bless your heart. The next post will be about the new book, which is coming out in December. That’s quite a bit later than I had planned, but a much healthier move than trying to cram too many moving parts into a shorter space of time.
And now I’m going to spend the last two days of my “vacation” fixing up my house, something I’ve been wanting to do for simply ages.