Summer is here and I’m so glad. The gentle breezes, the abundance of birds and squirrels, the SUN. I never believed I was dependent on the latter. Having grown up in San Jose, California, I took sunshine for granted. Truth is I longed as a child to move somewhere I could experience real weather. Storms, snow, tornado force winds.
Be careful what you wish for is my answer to that wanderlust now. The shift from bright and shiny often leads to getting stuck. Not in snow, but the mire of our own minds.
That’s how it’s been for me these past months. Yes, we’re grieving the loss of a dear friend. Any and all prayers for the repose of the soul of our sweet young Brandt – and the family whose sorrows far outstrip mine – are very much welcome. So too is the article in Psychology Today that is helping me overcome the frightful storm that has consumed me.
But here’s my take on the 7 steps outlined for mental health. The mental health of a writer in particular, those of us who are, by nature, sensitive observers of the world around us.
1. Let go of the past.
We need, as writers, to learn from the past, not beat ourselves up with it. If you didn’t write yesterday, that holds no bearing on your ability to write today. Unless you let it. The past can be a great steam engine, pushing us forward in a manner wherein we avoid landmines we’ve learned are out there. It can, if not properly managed, become that ill-fated albatross, flapping desperately against the phantoms that will only sap its energy until flying isn’t an option. (So let those portions of the past go that prove detrimental. Shut the door. Toss the memory. Better still, associate that memory with a new, positive action that will head you toward your new goals!)
2. Change your perspective.
This one seems easy, but can be tough if you haven’t cut ties with past demons. A change in perspective is more than a change in scenery. Step number two involves looking at reality in a new fashion. So you’re stalled. Great. It doesn’t feel good, but what if it did? Changing your attitude about the change in productivity is often the way to get back on track. Engines need fuel to run and so do writers. If you’re stalled, it could be a sign that you need to fill the tank. But being gentle with yourself – and taking that break from the routine – may be just what’s needed to blow out what’s bothering you. Different people, places, and things give our mind a much needed rest.
3. Start with small changes.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a new perspective. A sign of just how stuck I am is that I’ve been willfully cleaning the garage and breezeway. LoL. But you know what? It feels good. The breezeway sure looks better and my mind isn’t bogged down with what I think I “should” be doing when I go out there with my laptop. Same goes for embracing my nightly yoga routine – a tiny one – outlined by my son who shakes his head at his OCD mother’s lack of balance. But that’s part of the change, too. My kiddos aren’t small anymore. They can see what might help me. So I’m listening. Not a complete change as I’ve always tried to do that. But actually “doing” what’s suggested is different. And that feels great.
4. Explore your purpose.
Seek meaning in your work. Dig deeper. If you’re out of touch, maybe it’s because your purpose has shifted. And that’s okay. Writers write. But they don’t have to write the same thing all the time. I’ve been woefully neglectful of my blog and perhaps that’s adding to my angst. Perhaps analysis is the way to go.
We writers embrace the premise of Goal, Motivation, Conflict when crafting our characters, but often fail to apply these faithful tools to ourselves. Want to create a great character? Dig into GMC. Find “your” purpose! To entertain? Teach? Share? Uplift? Intrigue. Rediscover what you want to do with your writing and then check out the obstacles with a dispassionate precision. You won’t be sorry.
5. Believe in yourself.
It’s been said that people are often their own worst enemy. But we can also be our own best friend if we actively engage in believing in ourselves. And the potential of every new day. So change the toxic dialogue in your head. If you’re not making the progress you’d like in your project, welcome to the club. Celebrate what progress you are making. Lift the cloud of self-doubt and key on what you are accomplishing. Even a much needed break is worth lauding if that respite keeps the proverbial cheese from sliding off your cracker. We’re only human, but humans can achieve great things if they believe they can. Otherwise we’d all be living in caves.
6. Practice being hopeful.
Treat pessimism like the pest it is. Would you let flies collect on your BBQ when you have hands to swat them away? I know I wouldn’t. (Another food reference, I know ;^) So don’t let your soul collect flies whose sole purpose is to sting and sully. Get back to basics. Do what’s needed to forestall the inevitable because the flies are out – in greater numbers during some seasons of our life. Pray, meditate, engage in those physical activities that will distract you from whatever poison threatens to dilute your hopes and hope on. We need to eat to stay alive, right? Well, we need to work on positivity — we need to pray — to stay positive. The alternative is is a very dark place.
7. Consider talking to a professional.
In the Psych world, this means seeking a therapist. In the writer’s world, this can mean seeking a professional editor and mentor, or it can mean networking with fellow authors. We’re not alone. We’re not the “first” to experience these realities of the writer’s life. Far from it. Sometimes just getting the assurance that others have gone before and conquered this nasty malaise is enough to nudge a writer back into gear. Sometimes talking with friends is the break-thru we need to rediscover ourselves, the core of whatever we write. So don’t miss the opportunity presented by summer stall. It could be exactly what you need to…