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A Word to the Wise

From a not so wise novice writer:

DO NOT BURN YOURSELF OUT.

I'm learning this the hard way. If you read my last post, A Tale of Victory, then you know on November the 16th I won NaNoWriMo by hitting the 50,000 word mark. I wrote a little over 21K words that day, some of it admittedly from notes the weekend before. I was victorious, a sprinter in a marathon. And now, a confession.

I haven't written a word since then.

I still need to wrap up the last one or two scenes to complete the novel and set it aside for a while before starting on edits and revisions, but I haven't been able to get my head into writing. I think my Muse is still recovering, 5 days after the epic push. My sleeping habits have become erratic once more, and my ADHD medications don't seem to be helping with the brain fog of whizzing thoughts I wake up with and can't seem to get rid of all day. I recognize these symptoms could be my ADHD, but I also recognize I may have exasperated them by pushing too hard.

I should have paced myself, for just behind the NaNoWriMo 50K finish line was my Completed First Draft finish line, and I stalled out before I could get there.

Even without my Muse I can't seem to stop the blizzard of words that attacks me, stinging and biting when I reach out to catch a few with the intention of placing them in my WIP. Sure, I can write a blog or tweet or talk with my friends and family. But when my mind wanders to the waiting story, my brain turns to mush and I have to take my laptop from my desk in the garage and go lay down on the couch or my bed. There is a pressure in my head, tensing my shoulders and causing me some sleepless nights.

I've made an appointment with my Primary Care Physician (military speak for the non specialist doctor) to get a referral to evaluate my sleeping. Because beyond the word exhaustion, I've been having problems going to sleep, waking up, and feeling rested. I do on occasion wake up feeling ready to take on the world, either my created ones or the real one, but more often than not it's a miss and not a hit.

I confess to feeling very worried about all this. Is this just my ADHD meds no longer working for me? Or is it some sort of sleep disorder? Will this affect my writing in the future? Will it cause enough problems that it will make working on more stressful deadlines unfathomable? Heck, will this blogpost cause second thoughts to agents who google me when I finally query?

I can only hope I can write a blog in the near future that cancels out this one. I can only hope to find a way through this tiresome fog, a way to bypass it when it's there. I wish fervently the doctor will find the root of my problem and a solution to go with it. But the earliest appointment available was for December 1st. So for now, I'm hoping a week of trying to relax and not force myself to write, and not feel guilty when I don't, will do the trick.

Because really? All I want to do is write.



8 Comments

  1. Diandra says:

    I have heard similar problems from many writers I know, and have experienced it once or twice (though never after such a glorious rush as you seem to have experienced).

    Believe me. Many people talk about 9-5 jobs as if they were kind of "dirty", they will tell you that creative people need to be free and follow their muse. And that is true - at least partially. But those people that simply follow their muse and stare into the grey sky on other days will probably never make it to that big goal of "published writer" (just like many people who like taking photos when something special is going on will never be famous photographers).

    You need to put work into your work. (Stupid sentence.)
    You need to write on the days that you really don't feel like it, so it will become a habit.
    But you also have to make sure you don't overuse that creative skill you've got. Finish your workind day after a certain amount of hours or words. If you feel you still got something to write, take notes, but leave it at that. Take time to recover and play. (I know this is difficult, but...)

    As to the other challenges - I wish you all the best and good luck! I really hope you will learn to live with the things the fortune ladies graced you with... (I know, they've got a crappy sense of humor.)

  2. Jean says:

    Take a real good rest, sleep the whole day(or 2-3 days), Brittany, you deserve it. Health comes first!
    Take care!

  3. @Diandra - Oh trust me, I don't follow my Muse - it's a joint venture ;) She's like my alter ego, my twin, and my mother rolled into one. But after that burnout... yeesh. I'm still trying to get around the block in my mind, the barrier it builds when it's trying to keep me halfway sane.

    I like the idea of finishing my working day after a certain amount of hours or words, taking note on anything after that and leaving it alone. Now just to put that into practice XD

    @Jean Thanks hon. There are few things that take precedence over writing, but they are important - Husband and Health, as it should be. ^_^

  4. I've been in that place too! And, yeah, I think a lot of it's from ADHD. Though some of it's just being a writer. (Not sure what the difference is. In me, they seem linked. Yet I know authors who report simalar sensations who don't have ADHD...)

    This NaNo has been much less obsessive for me than usual. Which actually worries me. I'm used to having all those thoughts swirling around and the silence I find myself in makes me feel dead...

    Unfortunately, I'm still not sleeping well and have been making my body hurt. I don't think that's from writing though, that's from other stuff. Largely other stuff related to becoming an author. Which is making it hard to create, not just because I'm stressed but because I know anything I write is going to lead to more stress later. I'm trying to get a handle on that. It's hard.

    Let me know what your PCM has to say, please. The most I've ever gotten out of anyone on my sleeping issues are reminders that people with ADHD tend to have them and invitations to try some pills... But prescription sleeping pills do really weird things to me and over the counter ones do nothing.

  5. @ Andrea - OMG another ADHD writer. I feel understood, lol. I feel odd too when the racing thoughts aren't around, at least with my meds they just tend to be whispers instead of buzzings.

    The sleep problem sucks, and for me it's often what makes my body hurt - tossing and turning into weird positions and whatnot. I think also struggling with other authorly, non-writing things is stressing me out too. It's so hard, trying to handle the stress and telling myself not to.

    I will definitely keep you posted on what my PCM tells me. I get the same blah blah blah from my psychiatrist, and have tried Ambien - some days it seems to only exasperate the problems. Hoping the PCM can find a different thing to say.

  6. Brittany,

    You were such a help and inspiration to me during my NaNo journey, especially during my low point. I only wish I could do the same for you. It sounds to me that you are experiencing the classic symptoms of Burn Out. And yeah 21K in one day will do that to ya. I have no experience with ADHD but am an insomniac which is why I decided to pace myself with NaNo and sleep when I could. Now, after 50K, find I can't stop till I get to the end - though still trying to catch up on sleep.

    Without rest, everything snowballs and turns into a vicious cycle. I know you are afraid to stop writing. But just because you stop doing it physically, does not mean you will not be writing. Someone as dedicated and true to the art as you, NEVER stops writing. Even if you were relaxing on a beach, I imagine your muse would be whispering in your ear.

    Everything we do informs what we write so the time off could not only help you de-stress and catch up on sleep, it might well inspire your novel (and the other ideas you have brewing) in a whole new direction. Many hugs and by the way, have added your link on my blog.

  7. Amanda says:

    I needed to pace myself better, too. I was way overindulgent. Next year I plan to do this a more sensible way.

  8. @Amanda - totally. I do not want to go through this again. Getting word count numbers is not as important as not BRAIN DYING XD

    @moderndaystoryteller - Thank you Karen, so much. I'd forgotten my writing process, how I have to daydream up the scene's to understand what I should be writing. I've been doing that for this WIP, the sequel, and a brand new one this whole time, and I felt bad I wasn't actually typing. But it's the way I work, and I forgot. You gave me the reminder that let me breathe a sigh of relief, and I'm truly grateful. And thank you for adding my link to your blog. ^_^

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