I use an app called SelfControl to block access to social media sites and certain other sites I like to hang around on, mostly other writers' blogs. You can schedule block times for up to the next 24 hours. I start it in the evening before shutting down the laptop for the night so that when I get to the laptop in the morning I can get straight to writing without any distraction.
Today, somewhere around late morning I was itching to get on to FaceBook and see what everyone was discussing in the various writers' groups. Nothing particularly relevant to me in this stage of my business, yet I wanted to simply scroll down the posts even without reading them, see my newsfeed populate with new posts.
I also remember the moment my fingers pulled up the Chrome browser and tried to get into my FB account but unable to do so because SelfControl was still operational then. (It is an awesome app. Truly!) It was when I started to feel that the story I was writing was crap, that it was no good, not making any sense at all, and that I might as well give up on it instead of carrying on with this madness that surely no one is going to read, let alone read and enjoy.
Dean Wesley Smith calls this 'Critical Voice'.
And boy! The strongest element in my being, one that has permeated every part of me, is definitely this Critical Voice.
The one that keeps telling me I'm no good, my stories are no good, I'll never be able to write an engrossing tale without making it emotional, sappy, sentimental, maudlin, effusive.
Because I am all of those things, and sometimes I write to escape who it is I am, only to discover that all those things I am running away from – that essence of me – has seeped into the story I'm writing.
So there's no escape from me at all. I am with me, myself, everywhere I go. Whether I write or not.
I've been making a conscious effort to write humour recently, but even in that bitterness and resentment managed to seep in somehow. Is this who I have become?
The other related thing I realised, or rather came to terms with, this morning was my own anxiety pertaining to matters other than writing. KrA and I were on opposite sides of a discussion this morning, and after lunch I simply couldn't work. Thoughts kept spinning in my head endlessly. My heart was racing. And the immense effort it took me to not head over to KrA's room and shout and vent exhausted me, so I took a nap. Then I ran a nice, warm bath, got ready and went to pick up D from school. KrA came along (he usually does the drop-off while I do the pick-up) and I burst into tears talking to him on the drive to school, all that rage having finally given way to reveal the fears they were concealing.
Over and over again, external life events have caused me to stumble and falter. It takes so much time and effort just to keep my head above the water, and Critical Voice roars with all its might at times like these. So even when I sit and try to plough my way through this period, eventually I give up and seek solace elsewhere. Most often, I take a nap. Off late, it has been mindlessly browsing writers' groups on FaceBook.
I also find that browsing through the various groups and reading the blog posts of other writers gives me a temporary sense of community or companionship, but at the end of the day there is always something lacking in these engagements. It gives me the impression of having engaged with people but in reality, a very false impression, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
It is quite similar to how reading books on writing or taking courses or reading about writing gives on a feeling of doing something akin to writing. But it's quite like watching a sport on the television instead of actually tying on your laces and going out for a run. It may feel good in the moment but at the end of the day we always look back and wonder where all the time went and why we aren't feeling good about how we've spent all those hours.
At this point, I think – I hope – that resuming a daily meditation practice would help calm my nerves, cajole that anxious voice in my head, and not let it submerge me completely.
Aha! As I write this, I remembered something else. Last month, I had been diligently working on my Morning Pages, and even though I had promised myself that no matter how much things begin to look up, I wouldn't stop writing them, that is precisely what I did.
I started doing my Morning Pages at the same time I started to wake up early to write. So I'd do my Morning Pages first and then get to my fiction. This was around the time school began for Beanie (D). And then, D started waking up earlier than his usual early time. So I'd have just finished my Morning Pages and made a start on fiction when he'd be up and eager for me to go down and play with him. Which is why, despite my earlier resolve, I skipped Morning Pages and dove straight into writing fiction.
I don't necessarily think that the time I think I save by not doing my Morning Pages has translated into more time spent writing fiction happily and productively. If anything, I've been anxious, unable to calm the thoughts swirling in my head all day long. Things came to a head this week on that front. The non-stop swirl of thoughts. My goodness! I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy. Even deep breaths became ineffective.
So, voilà! I'm going to resume Morning Pages tomorrow before flicking open my current WIP.
I feel so unburdened having written all of this down that after a long time I'm actually looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning and putting all these plans into action.
I best get going now.