Little forewarning here, this post will be long. And personal. Since long and personal is kind of my jam, but I figured I'd warn you beforehand anyway just in case you're not in a long and personal kind of mood.
But I have things to say.
About what happens when you lose your shit.
A little over two years ago my life crumbled. My writing life. My personal life. My marriage. Almost everything exploded all at the same time. All the stability I'd built up over the last decade was gone, and I suddenly found myself stuck in Montana, with two kids, and a desperate need to move them and all of our things nearly a thousand miles by myself. As a freshly single mom, blindsided by a divorce I never saw coming. I didn't have a job. I didn't have a place to live.
And I most definitely didn't give a damn about writing.
This bubbling passion I had before, this NEED to do anything and everything to make that dream happen, just stopped. I moved, I stabilized my life, I bought a house and made it beautiful. I started over and rebuilt everything from scratch, and slowly but surely got rid of the chaos.
But I still wasn't writing.
There were inspirational stories-- all over Twitter, in blog posts, at conferences, in advice from friends-- filled with talk of slumps. Stories of how they stalled on a book for a WHOLE month. Sometimes longer. Talking about how they went a full year without writing, and then turned it around.
People LOVE a good comeback story. They like to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but to me, there was nothing more demoralizing than being stuck, and NOT writing, while the whole world tells you, "Don't worry, it'll pass soon."
Because I'd passed the month mark. And the six month mark. And the year mark. And then the two year mark, and it still hadn't let up.
I started to think it never would.
When you miss writing, when you feel like you have all these characters in your head, and they never come out, and your brain is about to explode with all the ideas you have stashed away up there, but you still can't bring yourself to write a damn thing? Soon is never soon enough.
I thought about writing every day. I avoided it every day. I wished I could shake whatever roadblock had erected itself in my path. Every. Single. Day. And I hoped that eventually I would, but the more time that passed, the less likely it seemed that I'd ever write another book.
That shaken feeling that derailed me in the first place just wouldn't go away. For some reason, moving two kids and two dogs several states, starting a new career, tackling single-momhood, all that was a cakewalk compared to facing the instability of publishing and the writing world in general.
I'd false start, and think I was good. I'd write two thousand words in a day and think MAYBE, MAYBE THIS IS FINALLY IT. MAYBE IT'S FINALLY OVER, and then fail again the next day, when I read over what I wrote and deleted it all. I started and restarted and restarted the same projects over and over again, and they never went anywhere. I failed on a regular basis.
But I kept trying.
And the point of ALL this rambling about how hard this all was, is to say that it's okay to take as long as you need to get back on your feet. No matter what it is that derails you. Life, family, mental health, publishing fears, the color of your living room. WHATEVER IT IS, you'll move past it in your own time.
Everyone gets stuck. Everyone. Sometimes for a day, sometimes for a month, and sometimes, if you're like me, three years.... and counting. Life is fucking hard sometimes. Writing is harder. And it's okay to lose your shit. It's okay if writing sits on the back burner for a little while. It's okay to rearrange your priorities a little bit, until your life sorts itself back out.
Because writing every day, isn't always doable. That saying about real writers being the ones that sit down and make the time to write? That saying left me feeling like a fraud for years. Because I was still calling myself a writer, and couldn't write anything.
Say it with me: You. Are. Not. A. Fraud. You're still a writer if you get blocked or derailed. You're not less of a writer if you have to take time off, or if you get an extended dose of writer's block. You're not less of yourself just because you're not producing pages.
It's okay to fail for a little while. It's okay to fail for a long while!
After all that time, I'm JUST NOW starting to feel like myself again. Like the writer I was before everything exploded into a fiery ball of life-suck. It's taken YEARS for me to get back up on my feet again, and start writing like I did pre-explosion.
So don't let anyone tell you that you're on a certain timeline. You'll get back to a good place when you're ready. You'll bust the writers block in your own time.
Don't sacrifice yourself for your word count. You're too important for that.