A Writer’s Journal: August ’21

Stories in Progress:

  • Book of Ilesa (formerly known as ‘Book of Elders’)

Hello! Welcome to September! I personally love this time of year because the weather begins to cool and I’m able to wear one of the many, many sweaters that I own. It’s around this time where I begin to pray for some snow in the winter months and I stock up on my supply of candles to burn as I work. I’m not a pumpkin spice lover; I prefer peppermint. But I do enjoy fresh picked apples and apple cider.

I also enjoy the start of September because it gives me time to pause and reflect on the things I’ve accomplished so far, while I mentally prep to tackle the last few goals I hope to complete.

*Here’s where I insert a paragraph about the usual novella struggles*

I think a lot of what I want to say about novella writing would be repetitive. I’ve written about my progress (mostly slow) with this work in nearly every previous Journal post. (July, May & June, April, March, February, January) I created a drafting timeline, abandoned the timeline, started a NEW timeline and revised it again. It was a cycle of feeling guilty for the slow or no progress followed by periods of intense productivity. It’s not the most healthy way to work and by the end of August, I had a minor revelation over what was happening.

(Here’s a content warning for brief mentions of self-harm and mental health discussions)

Psychology Today says “Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals.” Some examples of self-sabotaging include “procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury….”

It’s important to understand that we’re currently living under immense stress and that few people, if any, are functioning at their normal levels. And that can explain part of the reason why I’m struggling with the novella.

But I also believe on a subconscious level, I’m preventing myself from making the substantial progress that I want/need to make. Not only do I struggle with self-sabotage, but I also have my issues with imposter syndrome and perfectionism. I think they all feed off each other. My need to complete a task ‘perfectly’ and receive validation fuels my imposter syndrome because I feel as if the compliments are unearned. That in terms leads to my self-sabotaging because I’m anxious and overwhelmed with the fear that I’ll never produce something worthy of admiration and that carries me back to perfectionism where I’m gripped with the inability to create unless I do it ‘correctly’ on the first try.

I feel the potential in my novella and there are times where I genuinely believe a small press will publish it. And as exhilarating as that possibility is, I can’t quite release the idea that if the novella were to be published, many people will criticize it and learn that I’m not actually a good writer, but a fraud in front of the keyboard.

It’s easier letting my fear win than standing up and facing it head on.

But my therapist once said recognizing there’s a problem is the first step in addressing and ultimately working through it. I’m sure there are plenty of steps I can take to mitigate the damage this perfectionism/self-sabotage/imposter syndrome triad creates. A few weeks ago, I realized I was sliding into a depressive slump and I’m trying to crawl my way out of the hole. I’m finding ways to be kind and compassionate to myself and I’m adding new tools to my self-care routine. It’s hard work and I can’t know how successful I’ll be until I’ve fully emerged on the other side.

When it comes to the novella, I write when I can and try to not beat myself up when I go a day or two or five without adding any words to the page. I remind myself that it’s not a complete long shot. I do have a full draft that I can always pull from to fill in the gaps in the narrative. And it’s not the end of the world if I miss the submission deadline this year. (Though I’m still in a good place to submit!)

For now, I’m focusing on finishing this current draft within a week or two and giving myself a short break (to draft another short story) before I launch into line edits. There are several outcomes ahead:

  1. I miss the submission deadline and will have to submit next year
  2. I make the deadline, but the press rejects my manuscript
  3. I make the deadline and it’s accepted
  4. I opt to submit to a completely different press, thus giving myself time for another round of revision

None of these options are particularly terrible. There are pros and cons to each path. But regardless of what I choose, I know I’ll give myself grace and kindness and accept whatever the outcome may be.

Whew! That was a lot!

The act of writing is many things at once. It’s a form of therapy. An art form that requires tremendous patience and practice. It’s infuriatingly difficult, yet so rewarding. It’s an exercise in persistence. It’s a balancing rope that shakes with every stray breeze. As I draft this novella, I’m learning more about myself as a writer and storyteller. I’m still trying to understand my unique writing practice and how better to fit it into my hectic schedule. And now that I’ve written my thoughts and feelings here, I’m eager to return to my current draft and write until it’s time for bed.

(First, I’ll eat some dinner because I can’t focus without some proper fuel.)

How are your particular writing projects going? Are you working on anything new? Personally, I’m excited to finish the novella and switch to something else for a bit. My attention span is NOT what it used to be.

Enjoy the last few months of the year! And as always, Happy Writing!

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