Getting in Your Own Way

The writer’s guide to overcoming yourself.

Recently I had an incredible opportunity surface for my writing career. However, there was a bit of a trial period, and there was no guarantee I would actually be kept around after that trial was over. I sent in my materials, received a response from the person in charge, and sat back to wait, filling my time with my own writing, Camp NaNoWriMo, critiquing two friends’ projects, and generally just living my life.

Well, the two week mark hit since I had last heard from this person. I began wondering if I should send a follow-up email, and I mentioned this to someone in my life. In their attempt to keep me from having my heart broken, to keep me from getting my hopes up only to be disappointed, they made a statement about how I would have, should have, heard back within a week if they were interested.

I was heartbroken to hear it. I lost my joy from a great weekend, I went to bed early, I called off work the next day, all because I felt so discouraged and like my dreams were impossible, like I and my writing weren’t good enough to make it as a career, no matter how far off that might be. Pieces of my depression returned, all because of that statement, of wondering if I was wasting my time on my dream job, on trying to get my dream job past my day job. To make it worse, my day job, which was once a job I really wanted and loved, has been a bit miserable the last few months because of a specific project we’ve been working on. If I can’t even enjoy the job that earns me the money to do what I love, what’s the point?

So I felt discouraged in my dream and in my life, I felt like I was wasting my time, and I was starting to wonder why I should bother. I was getting in my own way, letting my head run away with a spiral of depressive thoughts and broken dreams that might not even be real. It was a fight to open up my work in progress, let alone get out of bed.

As writers, as creatives, I feel like we are more prone to these kinds of feelings sometimes. And it can be so easy to let these things stop us from doing what we love. So here are a few tips to deal with those times we get in our own way.

  1. Don’t quit. Keep writing or painting or drawing or whatever it is you do. When you’re feeling low, try to make yourself create through it, even if it’s as small as a sentence. Don’t let your head win.
  2. Remember why you started. For most of us, we create because we love it. Yeah, it’d be awesome to be able to do it full time, to really have our dream job, but we create for the simple joy of creation. Remind yourself of this, and let yourself enjoy the process without worrying about the logistics, at least for a while.
  3. Find supportive people. It’s been immensely helpful to have other writer friends as I navigate this process of publishing, of finding an agent. These people who share my passion and want the same things I want can spur me on and encourage me, and they actually understand all the bits and pieces we encounter as writers, including the discouraging things we find. And for me, on occasion I need to talk to a professional to deal with the depressive things that hold me back. Find your support network for your creativity.

It is so easy to get in your head and keep yourself from following your dreams and expressing your passions. Sometimes all we need is that little reminder of why we started in the first place and the push to never give up.

For me, I’m going to do my best to keep going despite the negative feelings in my head. But what about you? Have you experienced these feelings before? How did you combat them? How did they affect you and your creative process?

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