When I started my long-term project last week, I had grand plans of chipping away at it and bringing my idea to literary fruition week by week. And it already feels derailed, here in week two.
I’ve spent several hours writing the next section to follow last week’s intro, but no matter how hard I tried – the space I gave my mind to find clarity, the time I dedicated to being creative, the pressure I tried so hard to take off of myself – I couldn’t seem to figure out what exactly I wanted to say.
I started two separate posts, and each of those two posts underwent several iterations and edits, and I ultimately walked away from both because the words and ideas became so jumbled that I became disoriented in my own writing, unsure of where I was or where I wanted to go.
That’s been the story of my life lately, an overall theme of the past year and a half of pandemic living, but particularly in the past four to six months: my brain feels less like a tool for problem-solving and creation, and more like an empty space filled with fog. I’ve been roaming around in this thick, heavy fog for months, unable to think, much less articulate my own thoughts and feelings and make decisions about my life.
The project I am attempting to start is a light to help me find my way out of the fog, but given how deeply entrenched I am in it, this wretched fog still has a firm hold on me. Words do not come easily; ideas do not reveal themselves in full clarity because the fog obscures them.
Writing, something that was once a joyful vehicle of expression and self-awareness, is now a cause of stress and frustration. It is no longer fun for me, and if I’m being honest with myself, it hasn’t been for almost two years. I suppose I pushed that notion down, ignoring it because I believed that I was just making excuses for myself, that I was attempting to avoid my writing because it felt ‘too hard’ and that I just needed to get over myself and write anyways.
But now that truth that I have long been ignoring – the truth that the process of writing has lost its joy for me – cannot remain underground. It has forced itself back up, and I cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist.
I have thus far honored my commitment to publish my writing every week of 2021, but lately, I have been admittedly questioning that commitment. I have been wrestling with both sides of this decision, doing my best to give each side fair consideration.
What would it mean if I stopped writing for a while? What would it mean for me to break my commitment? How might I feel, and what would be the purpose in stopping?
Alternatively, what would it mean if I pushed myself to keep writing? What would be the purpose of that decision? How would I feel if I pushed through – what emotions might I encounter that could both help and/or harm?
What are my priorities right now, and how does writing (or not writing) fit with those priorities? What do I need to find clarity, balance, and well-being again?
Yes, it has been good to keep myself writing and engaged in my creative work; I have written certain pieces that I am proud of and that those of you who have been following this year seem to have enjoyed. I know that I will feel disappointed in myself if I stop now, almost nine months into my commitment, and with only three remaining. I know that I will feel proud of myself for sticking with it and honoring a self-proclaimed commitment that seemed like a tall order when I first announced it. It has pushed me to write things that I didn’t know I had inside of me – stories that I am dearly proud of.
At the same time, I have also written a lot of pieces that I am not proud of. Pieces that felt thrown together, not receiving the care and attention that I wanted to give them because of the pressure to publish in my self-scheduled time frame. Most weeks, I only had a few hours to devote to my writing, and the pressure and guilt that ensued those weeks drained me. Ultimately, the choice to force myself to write, rather than listen to my truth, has cost – and continues to cost – me dearly. In my agony and lack of clarity, I am robbing myself of joy and creative freedom that could be found in other ventures.
And when I take into consideration the other aspects of my life – many of which are still in various states of disarray and dissatisfaction – I see that I need to be prioritizing other ventures, the things that will move my life forward and back into my independence and adult-ness. It’s not that I believe that my writing is frivolous or unworthy compared to having an ‘adult’ job; it is quite the opposite for me, as my writing is vital to my health and my humanly creative expression. But I have no interest in pursuing my writing as a career at this time, and I therefore need to restore wellness to my professional, emotional, and mental aspects of my life before I have the creative capacity to allow my ideas to flow freely again.
… … …
Honoring commitments has always been a strong value of mine; even if I decided I didn’t like whatever the commitment was partway through, I still showed up every day that I was needed. In school. In sports. In jobs. In friendships. I always showed up.
No commitment should come at the expense of my (or anyone else’s) health – but for most of my life, that’s how I operated. Everything and everyone else came first, and my physical health, my self-confidence, and my emotional well-being suffered tremendously.
So when I initially started this post, my answer on what to do about this blog was, “I don’t know.” I wanted to find a way to see my commitment through, to rationalize myself into pushing through this fog and finishing the year. So I intended to say “I don’t know” while I continued wrestling.
But it has become very clear as I have written today that I do.
This is the clearest I have been able to think in months, and I need to follow that clarity for my own health and sanity. I know that I will return to writing, and yes, I am disappointed in myself for not seeing through my own commitment. However, I also feel great strength in what I am doing.
This isn’t a practice in breaking a commitment; this is a practice in fiercely committing to myself, by becoming aware of when I need to say ‘no’ and set boundaries. I care too much about writing to burn myself out from it, and I care too much about myself to make myself sick from stress.
Stopping this project is one of the hardest things I have done in a long time – and it’s also perhaps the most important. My commitment to myself comes first.
Thank you for your understanding. As someone very dear to me likes to say, this isn't goodbye; it's see you later.
So I will indeed see you later, when the words start flowing again. ❤️
Photo credit: Brett Jordan on Unsplash