Resistance is futile … or is it?


This has been a rough week, the second of two spent out of town for the day job.  I’m exhausted, feeling ill, and I seem to be getting a lot of bad news, or rather I’m taking the news (in itself, neither bad nor good, just news) I’m receiving rather poorly.  I know, that’s my problem, not yours, but I’m sharing anyway in the hope that someone out there might benefit from my momentary struggles.

On a side note, I was moved to join Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group, but the sign up page does not appear to exist at the moment (!)  Yes, it’s been that kind of week.

This goes back to the issue of having, or in my case lacking, thick skin.  When I blogged about this originally, I wrote that having thick skin was kind of like being brave.  Being brave doesn’t mean you’re fearless, it means that you act despite your fear.  Having thick skin doesn’t mean shrugging off criticism or refusing to be affected by it.  Having thick skin means that you have to find a way to view criticism objectively, find a way to accept what you can, compromise where necessary, stick to your guns on what you believe is truly essential, justify your position, and write on.

That’s where I’m having trouble this week, and I think I just need some time to get some objective distance.

So what was the news?  The biggie was the illness of a friend.  The specifics I won’t get into because they’re not mine to share.  Needless to say, it was a bit of a blow.  Perhaps it was more of a trigger.

It’s coloured everything else I’ve done, and all the feedback I’ve received, this week: my coursework, my day job, and especially my writing.  What would otherwise be constructive criticism (taken in stride), or even compliments, have taken on a significantly more subversive tone.

Fraud, the sub-text whispers …

writer's block - crushed and crumpled paper on...

writer’s block – crushed and crumpled paper on notepad (Photo credit: photosteve101)

Why?  I’m blocked.  For the first time in years I can’t write a sentence without rewriting it five times.  Even then, I delete half of what I’ve written (the equivalent of the old-timey writer crumpling up sheet after sheet of paper as they emerge from the typewriter) and try to come up with something that has meaning.

For five years, I’ve written every day.  I’ve returned to the words and they haven’t failed me.  Until this week.  I’m hitting a crisis point, truly overwhelmed, and clueless as to how to proceed.  Surely this means that epiphany can’t be far away?

What I really think is that my old frenemy, depression, is starting to rear its ugly head again.  And yes, it’s my head, so I can call it ugly if I want.

Time to count my blessings:

  1. My health.
  2. My husband (wonderful man – unlimited hugs).
  3. My mom (amazing woman).
  4. My friends (all of them, a blessing in my life).  I have to note a couple of specifics here: Margaret, out of the blue, sent me a card because we’d shared emails of woe; Kim put a quote of mine on her forthcoming book cover (wonderful poet! I’m so honoured!).
  5. My work friends.  More specifics: Monica, dealing with some heavy personal issues of her own, saved our training bacon this week; the training team – most of us got together last night for a lovely evening out and lots of laughter and hugs were shared; my manager commended the training team for our superb work and dedication.
  6. My dog.  Has to be said: unconditional love and sweetness.  Panacea 🙂
  7. My critique group, honest and tough, but very supportive.  They help me become a better writer.
  8. The Wordsmith Studio community, sources of great ideas and resources, chats (though I don’t get to participate as often as I’d like), and networking.
  9. My classmates and our instructor: encouraging and informative.  Another virtual community in the making.

I’ll work my way through this rough patch.  The way is not yet clear, but with all of the above help, how can I not succeed?  Sometimes we just need a reminder.  Life is good, folks, for all that it seems otherwise.

Is anyone else out there fighting the good fight?  What do you do to remain positive?  Any tips and tricks to share?

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15 thoughts on “Resistance is futile … or is it?

  1. My coping mechanisms for thin-skinnedness: 1. Riding my horse-forces me to focus on one thing at a time, namely the one that won’t let me fall off and break a collarbone when I’m jumping an oildrum. 2. Wine- no explanations necessary. 3. Read Dorothy Dunnett, or William Faulker or some other crazy git whose work is so oblique and dense and brilliant that I essentially do the same thing as #1, except in a literary fashion. 4. Then I force myself to remember that templates are great and necessary assignments for other people to avoid having to read my whole MS, but that’s not how my brain works. That, my friend, is not how your BRILLIANT brain works.

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    • You guys! I’m tearing up here! Not the result you were aiming for, I’m sure, but I’m starting to feel better already 🙂
      #2 – thinking spiced rum in a toddy, or a Guinness for this evening.
      #3 – Just started a fascinating book by fellow Canadian Authos Association author, Ben Nuttall-Smith: Blood, Feathers, and Holy Men. Historical fiction. Strands a group of 10th century Irish monks traveling home from Iona somewhere in the Hebrides. Norse traders take them for slaves, travel via Iceland to North America, and down through the native tribes of the plains to the Aztecs and somehow it all gets tied up with Quetzalcoatl (!) Think Brandon the Navigator in all his twisted possibilities. Think that’ll do the trick?
      Leaving the outline alone for now. Let it simmer on the back burner.
      Thanks so much (((hugs)))

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  2. I take a mental health day and read a book I really love. I know you have at least one of those dear Mel. Step back and take a break. The words will still be there when you’ve decompressed. Virtual hugs and happy words to you doll.

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  3. Melanie, thanks so much for your honest sharing – I’ve certainly been there – and your process for getting through it. When I feel stuck in my writing I go to my journal with colored markers and draw. It takes the pressure off, feels playful, and is usually productive ~

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    • Thank you for commenting and for sharing my blog post, Kelly!
      I did say I was a WYSIWYG kind of girl, didn’t I?
      Everyone has these dark patches. I just hope that by sharing, others will feel the sense of support and community I’m so lucky to have. Are you a fan of the lovely SARK? Love her 🙂 I do doodle occasionally. Think I might spend some time sketching this weekend.
      Thanks again,
      Mel

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  4. A bitter-sweet post. I love your honesty, the rawness of the post. I’m sorry that life is rough these days. I’m sorry that the words have failed. Having just recently been there, I understand that part. I hope that you found my blog post a little bit helpful. I love your list of blessings. I think that is a great way to start! Life can be overwhelming. Maybe while you are in the midst of this storm, give yourself a break from the pressures you are putting on yourself. The words will come. Good luck fellow writer.
    Sarah

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Sarah. And yes, your post was helpful. Definitely need to take the pressure off. I know the words are there and that they’ll all come back. I just have to make my heart and mind a more pleasant place for them to come home to!

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  5. Being self-aware is huge Melanie and you’re clearly self-aware. Usually takes me awhile to get some clarity. When I’m struggling I’ve found getting my head into the present (vs. worrying about what might happen or grieving over what has happened), then taking each day one step at a time. And finding at least one thing each day that gives me joy. As your list of things to be thankful for points out, you’re not alone.

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    • Thanks, Richard 🙂 It is definitely time for a little Zen. Read a bit of trivia today that our brains are less active when watching TV than they are when we’re asleep. This I can believe, but then my nocturnal life has always been a bit more fascinating than the waking one. Thinking of taking in Snow White and the Huntsman, or Mirror, Mirror this weekend. Maybe I’ll watch both and do a comparison/contrast for next week’s post 🙂
      Shaking the funk already thanks to my virtual writers’ posse!

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  6. Aaww .. sorry you’ve had a rough week. I like that you counted your blessings. That is one of the things I like to do, too.

    Since you have been writing every day for five years, I’m not sure I can give you any insights other than what you already do. I’ll give it a shot though! When I’m having a tough time with my writing, I start writing sensory details of things around me, going into detail about the sounds, then the smells, and then seeing my surroundings with a new eye and describing them. It helps to get me out of my head and re-centered.

    Sending positive energy . . .

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  7. I think writers need breaks from writing. There is great benefit to simply living life for days. Feelings are OK…the fun ones and the ones that don’t feel good. They come and go. I like to remember that what we resist, persists…just let it flow. You are taking care of yourself by reaching out. You care and we care. Sending a gentle hand on the shoulder and a warm hug.

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    • Thank you, Sabra. The most important thing for me was to give myself permission to relax (yes, I’m an evil task-master) and to not feel guilty about it. I was surprised how easy it’s been 🙂 Most of my pressure and stress is self-imposed. That, in itself, gives me the means to diffuse the situation. I think I’m going to work a few regular writing breaks into my life and schedule. Felt the warm hug all the way up here!

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