When I started blogging again after a two-year-long hiatus, I didn’t struggle with generating topics related to bipolar disorder. I felt almost hypomanic as my brain showed no sign of decreasing ideas. I jotted themes on neon-colored post-its lest I forgot any subject. I enjoyed a sense of well-being connected with the inspiration writing gave me. It was a joy to feel that way after being depressed and unable to write for so long.
Then my brain slowed with its outpouring of ideas, and I began worrying. “Am I getting depressed again?” I pondered. Well, I more than pondered becoming depressed. I created a fearsome mindset that I named The Dreads. I was dreading the possibility of the onset of severe depression. The good news was that I was still able to get out of bed, drive the kids to school, be fairly productive, and perhaps most importantly, I was sleeping at night. But I had taken a couple days off exercising and wasn’t using my Sunbox bright therapeutic light. I was eating even more sugar than I usually consumed. Making a big batch of red velvet cupcakes with my little girl on Tuesday (and eating lots of the batter…) certainly couldn’t have helped me. Lastly, the “I Smell A Rat” problem really grossed me out to the point that I couldn’t use the room where my writing desk, files and Sunbox were located.
The sudden ceasing of key elements of my daily practice threw off my routine, and if you have bipolar disorder, you know how critical your routine is for mental health. It seemed that I was being challenged with a case of mild writer’s block worsened by the lack of several crucial healthy habits.
An attitude adjustment was in order as well. I’ve been dealing with a bad case of writer’s envy. This is a chronic problem for me and I know I’m not alone. I also realize that I have to bring my envy up in therapy because it’s getting worse. Yes, I’m not dealing with it well. I keep comparing myself to wildly successful bloggers and non-fiction writers, and I find myself coming up short. The expression “comparisons are odious” comes immediately to my mind; I’ve always found it to be so eloquently true.
At a particularly low moment I sent a Facebook message to my friends stating, “I am feeling so jealous and insecure. Not of another woman (thank you God!) but of other writers who are mediocre writers at best, yet they have HUUUUUUUGE internet followings! I must remember that I am a decent writer and ***there is a place for me***, but it’s so hard sometimes. Advice anyone? Mantras anyone? You can bill me.”
I was surprised at how many comments I received: a lucky thirteen in all. I usually only get one or two comments at most on my Facebook posts, and I was grateful for this amount of feedback. The most helpful comment I read was written by Beth Brownsberger Mader. Beth blogs for the BP (Bipolar) Magazine website and she writes for the magazine as well. (http://www.bphope.com/bphopeblog/post/Perseverance-vs-Endurance.aspx)
Beth gave me the following advice:
“I don’t have a huge internet following. I don’t write for that reason. I write for the benefit of helping others, and for helping myself grow, learn and figure out my own life. The fact that my audience has grown organically has been the benefit of it all. That my writing has improved has been a benefit of it all. Sure, sometimes I notice all the “successful” writers out there, especially the ones I know personally, those from high school/college, and I feel less than. Then I remember that everyone’s situation is different, and I don’t know theirs necessarily or what rows they’ve had to hoe–or on the flip side, what short cuts they’ve taken or values they’ve eschewed. Dyane, give yourself a break–it takes time, keeping your eyes on the prize, and determining for yourself what that prize is–is it being a good writer? having a following? making a difference? healing yourself? witnessing the journey? Breathe.”
She’s absolutely, positively right in everything she discusses above. I’m working on determining what the “prize” is for me. At first blink I felt that all five prizes Beth mentions are the ones I want! I’m not wishing for megastardom, but here’s what I do yearn for:
- To become a productive, consistent, and focused writer
- To achieve modest success in having a well-written, well-edited book published by an established health publisher that will help others
- To have a loyal following
Yesterday during my online time, I noticed a prolific blogger who I follow had tweeted asking her fans for help with her writer’s block. That small thing buoyed up my spirits. Her comment reminded me that not everyone experiences the blissful “flow state” all the time, not even bestselling authors. If you are new to the “flow state” concept, here’s a concise definition:
Flow: A mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi this positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields”
Here’s my favorite line that appears later in the same definition:
“To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow.”
(thank you Wikipedia!)
Doesn’t flow sound awesome? Who wants scary-sounding “ennui” in her life? I am fascinated with definitions, and I knew “ennui” wasn’t good; take a look at its precise meaning:
“Ennui: a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom”.
Oh, I know that feeling all too well. As far as I’m concerned, I want to kick ennui’s derriere to the curb forever!
Another Facebook suggestion I received was to take a writing class taught by the bestselling local author Laura Davis. Davis co-wrote “The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” and I’ve known about her for many years. Her website states that her books have sold over 1.8 million copies worldwide. I’ve seen her writing class flyers displayed at my favorite coffee shop, and I’ve taken a peek at them more than once. While Davis’ teaching philosophy seems like it would be quite helpful, I don’t feel drawn to the class. I could change my mind down the line, and take a class either with her or another teacher. In the meantime I’ve bought a couple new books about writing to fire me up.
One book has the irresistible title of “You’ve Got a Book In You – A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams” by Elizabeth Sims. My other splurge was “The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story” by Linda Myers. I downloaded Kindle samples of Dani Shapiro’s “Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life” and the latest Natalie Goldberg book “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir”. (Yes, I read Goldberg’s classic “Writing Down the Bones” and “Wild Mind”.) I’ve read every book by one of my favorite bestselling authors/artists SARK, including her “Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper” how-to guide. I’ve had the thrill of meeting SARK, who lives in San Francisco, and I interviewed her for two “Good Times” newspaper articles. Check out SARK’s website for a plethora of inspiration. I bet you’ll recognize her unique artwork such as her colorful poster “How To Be An Artist” if you visit: http://www.planetsark.com.
I will be writing more about the elusive flow in the months ahead. If you have any pointers on the topic, by all means, please share them here. I’m sure there are some amazing studies analyzing creative flow, so perhaps by studying innovative research, I’ll create more flow of the writerly kind…not magma flow, and not food poisoning flow! 😉