So, my title was ridiculously long, especially compared to my other titles. This might be because I have been struggling the past week. I will not call this “writer’s block” because it isn’t. It’s more about me than writing. (Plus, I truly think that calling it a certain thing can cause the problem to be much worse.) I set up a goal for myself, and I didn’t meet it, and I didn’t meet it for a reason. Below, I want to share what happened in the hope that my story will help others who struggled to understand where their struggles came from and how to quickly get out of a slump. Basically this is going to be how I reminded myself that it’s okay to fall down – as long as you get back up – and how I got back up before I convinced myself that I couldn’t.
So, what happened?
I’m in a writers group called Kansas City Writer’s. Recently, members were invited to submit to an event that would be taking place. Of course, I was excited. I clicked on the invite, ready to read the guidelines, and my excitement almost immediately died.
The event was Listen to Your Mother – a wonderful show that takes place on Mother’s Day in which writers from all around the city read about their mothers or mother figures or being a mother themselves. While I’m sure many writers were ecstatic, at this point, the invite felt like some universe joke, and a cruel joke nonetheless.
Why did it feel that way?
Well, as many of you know, my mother died from a drug overdose when I was eleven. I talk about her a lot. I write about her more. But it’s also been a decade since her death, and it’s sometimes more difficult later on in life – especially during the big events, like my graduation. My next novel also releases one week after the day she died eleven years ago. On top of that, this year is a mark that my mother has been more dead in my life than alive in it. Honestly, I’ve been talking to my dad about her a lot, so I’m still learning more about her drug abuse that I couldn’t comprehend when I was younger. These realizations are really hard. There’s really no more that I can say other than that because that is the truth.
As much as I write for my mother, I also write for myself.
I found myself at my laptop, striving harder than ever to just write about her, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Not right now. And it took me over a month to realize that it was okay to feel down about her again, even though it’s been over a decade. I’ve gone through a lot the past year or so – I’ve moved, my brother became engaged, I graduated college, I’ve been published three – almost four – times, I got a job, and I’ve lost my roommate and grandmother. Because of all of this, I haven’t really taken a lot of time to just rest, to let all of the events soak in, to take a breather and write for myself a little more. Trying to force myself to write about my mom was just what it sounds like: forcing myself. And I can’t do that. Accepting that I can’t do that is harder said than done, but I’m getting better at it.
This is what I did to remind myself that it’s okay.
I shouldn’t have said “I did” something because it’s more along the lines of what “I do” all of the time. I keep nice reminders close around me at all times, especially when I’m feeling down. One thing I do is keep trinkets on my desk to cheer me up. I also keep photos on my laptop’s desktop that remind me of what I’m proud of, what I love, and what I want in the future. Below, I’m going to share a few of those things, and why they keep me lifting me up when I fall down.
Since we were talking about my mother, here is a photo I keep on my desktop as well as top objects I keep on my desk at all times.
The photo is probably my favorite photo of us, because it was Christmas, and we were with the entire family. The objects are a little different. The mother-daughter statue was given to me by my aunt during my mother’s funeral. The bracelet draped around her shoulder is my mother’s bracelet that I used to wear every day until the hinge broke. And the fake flowers is actually a project we made together during my sixth grade year in middle school. All of these help remind me that she is proud, no matter if I can write about her or not.
But I also keep reminders of my cat (who is currently sleeping behind me as I type this)
This is because Bogart is always with me. He reminds me to smile, and – as many pet owners say – pets are family. He often reminds me when I’ve been on my laptop too long (by crawling onto my laptop, of course) so having reminders of his much-needed little break time is an uplifting (and fun) reminder.
I have lots of reminders on my desk like this, but I never forget to remind myself of my novels. Photos like the one below are also on my desktop.
If I remind myself of what I have already accomplished, then I’m less likely to tell myself I’m not good enough and I’m more likely to remind that I am already good enough. I can only get better.
Lastly – although this is definitely not my last thing on my computer (I’m just preventing this post from getting too long) – I keep other parts of my life around – parts of my life that are unrelated to novels or inspiration for novels. The photo below may be me at a gun rage, but it is a lot more than that. It’s the time my father taught me how to shoot. It’s the time I received my grandfather’s gun. It’s the time I was reminded that I can do whatever I want instead of the stereotypes that dictate what we’re “supposed” to do. It’s the time I learned something new about myself. It’s possibilities within capability.
To fall down is only the step before you get back up. This is one of the many ways I get back up quickly. I hope you find ways as well. I hope this post might aid you in your times that you fall, so that you can find something in your life to help you stand again. I hope for a lot of things, but I ultimately hope for more artists to continue to pursue their dreams, even if they keep falling down.
19 thoughts on “For the First Time in a Long Time, I Struggled with Writing, and This is What I Did About It”
Thank you for sharing this!
Thank you for reading!
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Wonderful post, Shannon.
My writing area is covered in trinkets and pictures, things that I find inspire my writing etc. I think that all writers have doubts and feel their confidence is knocked at times. Sometimes it is the tiniest things that seem to knock off us momentarily off course. The most important thing that we must remember is that it is only a moment and that moments pass just as quickly as they first appeared.
Writing can be a long, solitary and sometimes unforgiving journey and I am glad to hear that you remind yourself of how much you have achieved in yours so far. I predict and wish for great things for you, Shannon. You deserve a great deal of success.
Very true! Many things can knock an artist off of their passion for a moment. We should focus on the word “moment” instead of how we got knocked down. I remember at one point when I was younger, thinking I was going to give up, but I quickly had an afterthought that was laughing, “Ha. You can’t give up. You aren’t even capable of giving up. You couldn’t if you wanted to.” And I remember knowing that was the truth. I couldn’t even if I wanted to because
A. I would never want to
B. Writing is my way of breathing
The faster I remind myself that, the quicker I stand back up, brush the bad feelings off, and get right back to what I love.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
Excellent post. My favorite part is this:
“If I remind myself of what I have already accomplished, then I’m less likely to tell myself I’m not good enough and I’m more likely to remind that I am already good enough. I can only get better.”
This is something a lot of people, myself included, need to work on. That positive attitude can be the difference between failure and progress.
Thank you for reading and commenting! I think that’s my favorite part, too – about getting back up. It’s the moment when you realize you’ve already stood up again.
I loved how personal this post was and even those of us who have not lost parents can relate. I lost my little brother some five years ago and that experience changed my life. I decided to pursue my goals and aspirations miserably failing at first but then I realized, you have to take it one day at a time. You also need to take time to heal and let everything soak in so that when you’re ready to go at it again, you’re totally refreshed.
I have no “writer’s desk” so chances of Bailey…or other things running across my lap or curling up on my laptop can happen. Bogart, I see what you’re doing
You’re an amazing writer and an amazing person and writing can sometimes be a b*tch but you do it so effortlessly. The best is yet to come for you pumpkin!
Eesh | The Other Side of Paradise
I am so grateful for your comment. It’s true how tragedy can sometimes push loved ones into being more serious about their dreams and aspirations. I think sharing those emotions can help others who have lost understand that it is okay. (Meaning, I once felt guilty for becoming more serious as a writer after my mother’s death because it made me once feel like I was making good of it, which – come to think of it – doesn’t sound like a “bad” thing, but dealing with death is a confusing, irrational, but also loving process.)
Thank you for sharing your story.
I hope all is well,
I can relate to this. I lost my dad when I was just 14. He has now been gone from my life for 31 years. That’s more than twice as long as I’ve been alive. Yet I remember him as clearly as if I only saw him yesterday. I also lost my mum 15 years ago. Neither of them have ever known me as a writer. I often wonder what they would make of this. I’m sure they would be very encouraging
After all, they always encouraged my love for reading
Thank you for sharing this – especially this part: “That’s more than twice as long as I’ve been alive. Yet I remember him as clearly as if I only saw him yesterday.”
For some reason, hitting the point where she will be more gone than alive is hitting me harder than usual. It’s a strange concept to understand. Perhaps it cannot be understood. But it is difficult to go through major life events – like becoming a writer – without them, without hearing from them whether they are happy or proud or anything really (even though you know they would be.)
Thank you again. :]
I love reading these articles because they’re short but inravmotife.
Talking, or in this case, writing about parents who have died, is so important. In a world that is so busy with it’s obsession about youth and life, people’s grief is often ignored in the vain hope it can be hidden away. By giving it a voice, you are doing a service to all of us, who survive the death of a loved one. Thank you!
Lovely post, very open and honest. Sometimes as a writer, you have to tackle subjects that are tough, and at times, we can produce our best things from that. Yet, other times, you just got to let it go and find something else 🙂
Thank you for sharing. After my daughter died I discovered that God used her death so that I could reach out and help others heal. Writing is also my therapy. God bless you in both your journeys of healing and writing. I enjoy reading your blogs.
Thank you for reading and commenting. I feel the same about my mother’s death. I hope I can help others. Thank you for sharing your story about your daughter. My condolences.
Lovely post. Thank you for sharing.