When life gets in the way…

When life kinda sucks, it affects your work. Everyone knows this, right?

When life kinda sucks and your job is a creative one, it really affects your work. Whether we like it or not, our creative mojo is heavily influenced by what’s going on in our lives. It’s one thing to be busy–you don’t have the time to write because you’re __(making ends meet/sick with scarlet fever/in outer space/etc.)___. It’s quite another thing to forgo writing because you just don’t feel like it.

This is something I’ve tried to avoid admitting for a long time. I’m the Queen of BICHOK after all–I work from the wee hours of the morning to the wee hours of the night.

Sure, I’m not writing the entire day, but only because there is a LOT more in an author’s job description than just writing (such as blog posts like this. ;)).

But whether I’m writing or working on writing-related-things, when I don’t accomplish enough each day, I feel rotten and guilty, and in turn I get depressed.

Now…what if I was depressed to begin with? What if I’ve just gotten some crap news or had a fight with a friend? Then I don’t feel like working because I’m unhappy…and when I don’t manage to meet my daily goals, I get even MORE unhappy.

It’s a freaking exponential curve! O_O

Sometimes it helps to be on a deadline (self-imposed or editorially imposed). You have to get it done, so you BICHOK miserably until the end. But…most of the time, those deadlines only serve to make it worse. You pull your hair out, stare mournfully at the computer, and wonder how you ever thought you could cut it as a writer.

I’m letting an emotional hiccup interfere with my work! you think. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!?

Yet, no matter how hard you try, when you sit at the keyboard, the words don’t come. Or what you do manage to get out is painful and slow. On an average day, I can produce about 3000-4000 words. On a good day, I might reach closer to 5000-6000 words.

On a bad day…I can sit and type all day but only manage 100 words–100 bad words that won’t even end up in the final manuscript because I was only working to keep myself from feeling guilty.

And this is when it’s time to for me–and I bet a lot of you other artists out there–to step back and reevaluate. This is when it’s time to decide two things:

1) First, figure out why you’re not producing. Is it something as “simple” as writer’s block–i.e. you don’t know what to write next? Or is it bigger? Is it a sheer lack of motivation or interest in the story? Is it something hanging over your head that keeps you from sinking into your book?

2) Next, forgive yourself. If it’s more than just laziness or writer’s block–if it’s a rough patch at your day job or drama in your family or straight up depression–then you absolutely must FORGIVE YOURSELF. Deadline or no, if you didn’t produce today, that is OKAY.

It sounds so easy to just “forgive”, but as the master of beating myself up, I know it’s not really that easy. And that’s where the final steps comes into play…

3) Take a break. Yep. Do the one thing we guilty artists are loath to do: step away from the computer and DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. Maybe for the next three hours or for the next six months (if you don’t have a deadline, that is). If you aren’t producing anything worthwhile, then you could be making it worse by continuing to try. Spinning your wheels might lead to epiphanies later on…or it might lead to deeper depression and more work-avoidance.

There’s a reason why you see a lot of authors taking more time for their third/fourth/fifth/ten millionth books. They realized they were killing themselves trying to meet a deadline that seemed reasonable a year ago…but wasn’t actually going to work.

As much as I don’t believe in inspiration as the only way to write a book, I DO believe that your emotional state is the key to writing a good book. A book you love and want to share.

And this leads me to the last step.

4) Talk to someone. Be it a writer friend, your agent, or your editor, TALK TO THEM. Tell them what’s happening to you. Tell them you’re frustrated with your writing because you’re not producing like you want (or perhaps used to). Sometimes just expressing our problems and admitting verbally that our emotions are interfering with work is a HUGE stepping to moving on.

Like I mentioned on Friday, life threw me a big curve ball last week. For days, I was in a really emotionally looooow place. But…I had a deadline on Wednesday. I met my deadline (thank goodness), but only after I managed to talk through my problem with one of my writer buddies. Hearing her opinions convinced me not to feel guilty and also showed me how I could move past my emotions and meet my deadline.

Now you tell me: Do you ever find your creative endeavors (or perhaps other endeavors like jogging) to be affected by your emotional state? If so, what do YOU do to power on?