What’s the Worst That Can Happen When I Don’t Write? #MondayBlogs #amwriting

I don’t like complaining … in public, anyway.  And I don’t like making excuses.  Unfortunately, complaining and excuses seem to go hand-in-hand for me.  The thing about complaining is that there is always someone worse off than me, which should give some perspective.  And the thing about excuses is, nobody cares.  We all have excuses.  We all have reasons why we haven’t done this and why we’ll be late in doing that.

Lately, all I’ve been doing is complaining and making excuses: to my husband, my coworkers, my cats. Because of that, I haven’t been writing for my blog.  I want to, but when I’m being tormented by the demons of Angst, well, I don’t think my writing is very entertaining or fun to do.

You see, I have very little to complain about.  […]

In fact, I just deleted two whole paragraphs where I complain about … something.  This is my desire for privacy kicking in.  My deep-seated belief that some things just should not be shared publicly.  Not that anything awful has happened.  No, no, no.  It’s just the usual issue of balance and I’m not talking about yoga.

So let’s be positive.  Or, rather, let me in this blog post try to retake control of my life.  The thing is, I’m getting too old for this, among other things.  I want to slow down.  Everyone seems to want to speed up.  I want to simplify my life.  Everyone seems to want more and more things, more bells, more whistles, more distraction.  I want to minimize the distractions in my life.  And I write this after having sent out a slough (for me, anyway) of tweets.

Maybe I want others to feel my pain.  Maybe my use of Twitter and Facebook isn’t so much because I want to “connect.”  Maybe I just want to assault people with the same brain-numbing bombardment of tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions that I experience after one of my WP posts goes live.  But that’s not true.  For one thing, I don’t receive that many tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions after any of my WP posts.  And I can choose when I respond, should I choose to respond.  So what’s the problem?

You see, there really isn’t any problem.  When I write down my angst, it suddenly seems so trivial.

A couple of decades ago when I was a doctoral student, I fell into a depression.  A mental one.  I once literally fell into a depression and sprained my left ankle.  It occurred about the same time.  Anyway, I digress.  I was seeing a counselor at the university, a wonderful woman recommended by another student.  During one session, she asked me what was the worst thing that would happen if I dropped out of the doctoral program.  How would it ruin my life?  I thought about it and realized that my life would not be ruined if I left the program.  I would be fine.  Although the program was a big part of my life, it didn’t contribute to my happiness … like my husband did, or my knitting, or my friends, or my cats, or my writing, or my walks in the neighborhood.  That one question changed my whole perspective.  I had control.  I could decide to stay, or to go.  I didn’t have to let the program rule me.

Eventually I secured a “real” job (that is, one with better wages than that of the lowly student research assistant), finished my coursework, and simply drifted away.  I admit I toyed with returning to the doctoral program on occasion.  But deciding not to return is a decision I’ve never regretted.

So, what is this about?  Just that I do have control.  I have some control over how things run my life, or, perhaps I should say, whether things do run my life.

I think of my counselor and that pivotal moment in her office, and I ask myself, what is the worst that can come of this?  What are my priorities?  If writing a blog post is not in the top five of my priorities for the day or even the week, what bad will come of that?  If I choose a morning yoga practice, reading The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen, grooming my cats (alas, they have fleas even with Revolution), going to the gym with my husband, and (finally) knitting while watching a movie with my husband, all of that ahead of writing a blog post, who is there to fault me?  Do you think I’m spending too much time with my husband?

Yes, there is so much writing I want to do.  I started working on a revision of Clemency a few weeks ago.  And I’m writing book reviews in my head.  But there’s time, isn’t there?  Does everything have to be done now?  Taking control means that I believe I have all the time in the world.  It means that I don’t live as if this day may be my last.  It means that as long as I enjoy what I am doing when I am doing it, then I am having a good day.  And if that means I don’t get to my novel that day, well, you know, I think I’ll live.

And what about you, dear Reader and dear Friend?  Have you found a balance between living your life and writing?  Share any and all secrets 🙂



38 thoughts on “What’s the Worst That Can Happen When I Don’t Write? #MondayBlogs #amwriting

  1. I love this perspective. Thank you for sharing it here. I once had a counselor ask me a pivotal question that changed my perspective. Talk about complaining … I was complaining about a certain person in my life nonstop. The counselor agreed with me, that this person was all the terrible things I named. Then she asked, “What are you going to do about it?” It dawned on me I couldn’t do anything about it. I could only do something about ME! So … there is my secret. I enjoyed reading yours. 🙂

    • Hi, Lori, thank you for coming by and commenting. Special thanks for sharing your secret 🙂 I love it when a counselor has the wit and insight to essentially stop us dead in our tracks and make us rethink the problem.

  2. I think that social media and author platform are words that should be banished from the universe. Trying to write while having a job, relationships, outside activities/hobbies, etc., is difficult enough. Add a heaping dose of social media and what’s to stop a writer from toppling over from the stress/daily drain of it all? So I totally understand. And I also don’t “get” Facebook. I sweep in every few days, post, and then sweep out again. Though I do love blogging and blogs. And Twitter can be fun. But mostly, it’s just a time drain (do I really need to know, and do I care, what someone I used to go to high school with is cooking for dinner?).

    I’m glad you’re seeking balance and that you’ve found control. It’s one of life’s struggles, isn’t it?

    P.S. I kind of enjoy when people aren’t always positive on their blogs. Life isn’t always positive and I certainly don’t want to read about happy people all the time, so I do truly appreciate posts such as this one, posts that are honest and show vulnerability and doubt. Way to go, Marie. You totally made my day.

    • Ah, thanks, Cinthia! I always struggle between saying what I really think and being what I call “happy faced.” This post was kind of a compromise because I was in a real funk when I started writing. And then I started feeling better (all in real time!) and so I decided to delete some of the bits that I thought were too negative. But still, this seeking of balance is not only a ongoing struggle for me, but also it’s becoming a boring one. My post was my way of trying to exorcise it and I really appreciate everyone’s comments … especially about social media. Especially about Facebook 😉

  3. Work/life balance is always hard. I’ve found that to be more so now that I work from home. I let my working hours bleed into the evening and that used to really frustrate me. Yet, when I took a better look I conceded I am better of working in the evenings at times so I can try to have real weekends. There are always tradeoffs to be made. It can be frustrating when people tell me editing is my life… it kind of has to be so I can stay afloat. I know for sure my hours are much better and stress is way less now that I am no longer in the classroom. No more 65 hour weeks for me.

    • You definitely right about making tradeoffs and if working evenings on occasion means you can enjoy your weekends more, than so be it. The thing about being self-employed is that you’re probably going to be focused on staying afloat for a long time. You don’t have the luxury of still getting paid if you have a lull in your business. Then again, you can set your own goals and organize your needs so that you can enjoy more flexibility than most of us 9-to-5ers 😉 And I bet you’re less stressed now that you’re not teaching. I once taught a semester of first-year composition for university students. Hardest job of my whole life.

      • Marie, teaching really is one of the most stressful jobs. I know some people scoff at that, but they haven’t tried it 😉 I’m also getting better about scheduling chunks of time for my creative writing. My NFAA chapter in Boise does FOCUS challenges (focus on one course until success) that have helped me immensely with my focus. When we meet our challenge, our name gets put into a jar for a twice yearly drawing, so that’s motivation too.

        • I also taught one semester of an online Master’s-level class several years ago. It was easier than the first-year composition (in part because I was much older), but still it was so much work. I have friends who are natural teachers, great at what they do, but a shadow passes over them when they talk about having to grade papers 😉 And if you’re teaching high school and undergrads, then you have other issues like discipline and motivation. It sounds like you belong to a wonderful group. Focus is key and I’m glad to hear you’re finding ways to keep working on your own writing 🙂

  4. I always enjoy your posts since they cause me to pause and think about your discussion points. A balance between life and writing? My goodness. I suppose I don’t consider the time spent away from writing as a separate life. Sure I go for walks on the beach, into the surf, cook killer meals, drink killer wine, watch killer shows and movies. I don’t consider any of this as a separate piece of me. I’m a writer who works at writing for a day job then knocks off and goofs off. It is hard for me to separate myself into one life or another. I have one and this is it. (Oh, yes, I have lived three other lives but even those I considered as one life at a time.) You should never feel guilty doing what you enjoy. MWAH. Great post.

  5. I always try to remember a saying I see bandied about in different places, in different ways — We can’t avoid pain, but we can avoid suffering.

    Sounds like you’re regaining control of your life, so that’s great! Everyone struggles with balance and it helps to remember that in the end, we all have choices. When we get to the point where we feel like we’re being forced to do something against our will, it’s a great time for some “shock therapy” that helps us remember what it is we really care about in this life and that more often than not, we have the capability to do something about it.

    I guess in the end, it’s just a matter of being brutally honest with ourselves.

    • Hey, Phillip, thanks so much for coming by. I love that idea about avoiding suffering as opposed to pain. Yeah, whenever I feel like the fun is being sucked out of something I started doing for fun, I reassess. I think I just wanted to publicly give myself permission to not feel like I’m letting myself down if I don’t write regularly, and especially if I choose to just sit and watch hummingbirds instead of write 😉

  6. When I was marketing RC&R I spent hours upon hours writing blogs, posting and responding to comments, Twitter and FB. I’m taking a much different approach with this book. That ate up my time wherein all I was focused on was the book (for two years). The payoff wasn’t worth the effort. My time is my own now and it’s balanced with Thursday night date night with my husband, Tuesday night group meeting and pizza, and I go to parks for socialization and pokemon three days a week, and do gym battles three days a week with friends. I refuse to become a slave to this book thing. I write for fun. Not going to let marketing ruin the fun. I have a publicist that will be helping when the eversion is out in a few days. It’s all good 🙂

    Keep doing the things that bring you joy…and drop in on us from time to time. If you are in a mood to write…then write.

    • I like the way you think, Susan! I don’t even have a book published, but I feel like I’ve internalized the agony and angst of my fellow writers who have. There definitely seems to be a law of diminishing returns with marketing, and that may be true even with books that get reviewed in the NY Times 😉

  7. Hi Marie! I’m strolling through my reader and thought I’d see what you’re up to. 😍. I absolutely love your philosophy in regards to enjoying the moment and what you are currently doing without the stress of the should’ves and could’ves. We are in control of our lives, more so than we think we are. I am a big proponent of choice when it comes to how we choose to deal with the cards we’ve been dealt. We can choose to let the circumstances either own us or be dealt with and then tossed aside so we can move forward.

    I haven’t written much either but I’m okay with that and am actually enjoying other social media outlets that don’t require such a commitment. 😍

    • Ah, Maria, YOU are an inspiration! Giving all that you cope with, your humor and warmth is always enveloping. Sometimes we can’t take control when we want to or we can’t take the kind of control we want, but there’s always something that can be done. Often that just may mean being patient and living in the moment. I’m still amazed at how the simple sighting of a hawk flying overhead can shift me out of a dark mood 🙂 Good to see you here but I do enjoy following you on FB (and your beautiful family!).

  8. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I want to kvetch, but you ruined it for me with your inspirational talking here. Gee thanks ;). I too am having a hard time right now. And I hate aging, in part because I am vain and in part because I have health issues and it makes it all worse. Good article you reference, also. Did I ever tell you Elizabeth Cohen was my first memoir teacher? Email time. Thanks for writing this, Marie, and I hope you feel balanced and peaceful as often as possible.

    • lol … you go right ahead and kvetch all you want, Luanne!! Actually, maybe I should do a post on what I hate about the aging process too! In the last few months, I’ve started having problems with my feet (plantar fasciitis and other unexplainable pangs). And I am quite vain. I’d like to be philosophical about that part of aging, but that ain’t going to happen. And, goodness, what a small world!! Elizabeth is a friend of one of my (many) cousins. I think they went to high school together. Anyway, my cousin connected us a few years ago when Elizabeth was looking for readers for The Hypothetical Girl. I didn’t have time then, but we wound up connecting on Facebook. And now I’m finally reading The Hypothetical Girl and love it! And I’ve ordered her memoir. Did you review her memoir on your blog?

      • What is The Hypothetical Girl about? Her memoir was about caring for her father with Alzheimers at the same time she was caring for her own baby/toddler. It was very good. Re the aging complaints: UGH, tell me about it!!!

        • The Hypothetical Girl is a collection of short stories about online dating or online socializing. Some of the stories are quite funny and some, well, one in particular so far, caused a great ache in my chest. What I love about short stories is the reader is getting a slice of life. There’s no real ending. You know the characters are going on with their lives after you finish the story, but that’s like real life. People move in and out of my life, I get to see/hear bits and pieces of their lives. For me, short stories are more like real life than novels.

          • Oh, interesting! I like short stories, too. When I was a kid I got two short story collections through Scholastic books, and some of those stories have stuck with me like Gorilla Glue. They really influence me a ton.

  9. I use the “would it be the end of the world if…” strategy a lot, and it works! As a budding Stoic, I’m really tuned into the idea that you have to keep things simple in order to get and stay happy. Unfortunately, writing is one of those pursuits that imposes goals on you and makes you feel kind of lousy when you don’t reach them on a rigid timetable.

    Sounds to me like you’re getting things prioritized just right …

  10. Wow. I don’t think I knew you were in a doctoral program, Marie. But I’m glad you had the courage to let it go when it didn’t really fulfill your life.

    I can understand the pressure to unplug social media. My blood pressure goes up the more I’m on Facebook. So I try to be on it as little as possible. I enjoy blogging. But I had to cut back on that too. Once a week works for me.

    • Yes, I was in a program many years ago. Frankly, they were accepting all the warm bodies they could get. I guess that was part of the stress and then part of the reason I left. The interesting thing is I wound up getting a job that was along the lines of what I would have pursued with my doctoral anyway. So it was pretty easy to walk away :). Facebook can be a scary place at times and I try to limit my time there. It’s particularly frustrating because I’m “friends” with so many people with whom I have little in common (like relatives ;))

  11. I find the pressure to have a social media presence, if you want to be published quite draining. Perhaps if writing was my full-time job, which it never will be, I’d feel differently. Blogging is my favorite form of social media. I’ve met so many wonderful people and have learned so much about them. I just don’t get that from Twitter and Facebook.

    • Interesting that you say writing will never be your full-time job. Is that because you have low expectations about making a living from writing? Or because you’re fine with your current employment and just want to write for its own sake? Or something else? I know that when I publish, I’ll have low expectations. I know too many very, very good writers who have been traditionally published but who still need their day jobs to pay the bills. Of course, then that begs the question of why work so hard in marketing (i.e., have so many social media accounts). Like you, Jill, I find my greatest community in blogging. Twitter and Facebook not so much although they can be useful and sometimes just more convenient.

      • I write as a hobby, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed, Marie. As for the money, if I had to depend on my writing as my only income, it would no longer be enjoyable to me. I couldn’t handle the stress. Also, with my medical issues, I must have excellent health coverage, which I have now.

        • Thank you for sharing this, Jill. So many people I know are writing because they want to earn a living off it. You’re right: if you had to depend on your writing, it probably won’t be as much fun to do. I love the idea of writing and the act of writing. What always throws me off is the idea of marketing and selling. Yuk 😉

  12. Still working on that balance thing. Starting to wonder if such a thing can ever be held and maintained. Adulthood seems full of curve balls and ‘complaining’ is one of the many ways to shrug off some of the stress. I think social media definitely makes that easier because you have a higher chance of either being ignored (feels like private venting) or having people make you feel better (I’m not alone!). Honestly, I never got the ‘someone has it worse so I have to be quiet’ mentality. I understand it, but that means there should only be one person in the world who is allowed to complain. Our problems are our problems and every person has his or her own stress limits, which are tested by these issues.

    • Good point about the “someone is always worse off” mentality. It’s not like it really makes me feel better that there are people worse off than me, but I guess it just makes me feel I could be worse off. Still, when I allow myself to complain (and, if you ask my husband, he would say I allow myself to complain quite frequently), it is a stress reliever. Ignoring the things that make me unhappy doesn’t make them go away. And maybe it’s not so much balance that I need to achieve as just allowing myself to make difficult choices and feel okay about it.

  13. I retired at the beginning of the month and I’m trying to find the path between enjoying not being at work, but not getting to the end of the day without having done something. This is a slightly different problem, but is also a question of balance.

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