Inspiration,  Self Talk

Dos & Don’ts for Writers Having An Existential Crisis

Sometimes this writing gig is WAY TOO HARD!

We face moments of unbridled inspiration and then droughts of writers’ block. We sacrifice sleep, relationships and leaving our house for the sake of our passions. We isolate ourselves so that we can be real to the world. We nit-pick and fixate. We criticize and whine. We aspire and pursue only to be rejected and disappointed.

We’re a sensitive lot and if our work is getting to be too much for us or if our other responsibilities are overwhelming us, then we can completely lose it.

I’ve completely lost it a few times.

I understand. I’ve had major existential crises. I’ve put my writing on back burners to focus on the other aspects of my life more than once. 

I have a feeling, however, that I am not the only one who feels like this. So, I’ve come up with a quick list of No-Nos for us who are doubting our writerly futures during difficult times.

This is what you do not do. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, do the following: 

1. Talk about yourself in the negative. Especially on social media. If you can’t something nice about yourself, don’t say anything at all.

2. Magnify your new interest in your path to fame. Do not create, in a manic state, that this next idea is THE BEST ONE EVER! And all you really need is a lot of followers and you’ll be RICH!  The truth is all ideas need time to germinate, and most are not worth your own YouTube channel. If it’s a good one, it can wait until you are more able to handle it.

3. Jump to conclusions about your small beginnings. So what if no one left a comment on your Facebook author page? So what if you’re not getting that Instagram following just yet. We all start at zero. All of us. Modest beginnings are par for the course. Instead of panicking, just keep at it!

4. Lose sleep to keep up with an unreasonable schedule. Self-care should always come first, before your Twitter feed, your blog posts, or your witty review on Goodreads.  You can take a break. You really can.

5. Fret too much about originality. Write the best story that you can and with the help of a writer’s community, develop twists and variations so that your “old” story is told in a fresh way. There really is a place for you somewhere.

6. Start smoking. Do not start drinking whiskey. Do not fly to the Florida Keys and check into the Hemingway Hotel For Stressed Out Writers. This will only make you grow fat, gray your hair and say bad words. It’s not worth it.

This is what you do do. DO ALL OF THESE! DELIBERATELY AND REPEATEDLY:

1. Stick to the basics. For me, this means laundry, meals and general life for my large family. They need me to take care of them whether I write or not.

2. Eat properly. Drink water. Sleep regular hours. Life is so much better when just these three things are covered.

3. Find a good way to exercise. 

4. Communicate with your family about what you’re stressed about and figure out solutions.

5. Be honest with a few close friends. I feel so good when people who love me ask how I’m doing, pray for me, and encourage me, whether I write or not.

6. Realize that sometimes your existential crisis is only a season. Things could get better when the semester ends, when the schedule changes when your medication kicks in.

7. Hang on to the belief that our suffering has a purpose. It makes us better writers, it makes us compassionate to others, it draws us closer to our family, it draws us closer to God.

 BUT  . . . What if there’s a deeper problem here?

You could take this Mental Health Assessment quiz from Psychology Today,  or this quiz from PsychCentral. Now, please don’t abuse these quizzes. They are only tools to examine the possibility of a need. They are not there to label you or to diagnosis. Use good judgment and contact a mental health professional if you need to.

Sometimes we’re just tired. Sometimes we’re a little stressed. Sometimes we need an expert.

Your mental health is far more important than your writing goals. You owe it to yourself and your family to fix what’s broken.

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.

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