After I hit “publish” on Talia’s Tiger, the last novel in my “Rock Star Husbands” series, I seriously thought I might never write another novel. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the most intense. I felt it deeper and more strongly than the few other times I’d experienced burn-out.
The semi-decision lasted longer than before, too. And when only the third or fourth review of Worth The Risk came in at two stars (not to brag, but that’s unusual for any of my novels that early in the game), I think I might have told my husband something like, “See? I suck. I might as well never write another novel.”
But, really, it wasn’t the heartbreaking review that was the root of my near decision. It was three other things. I like to be transparent with my audience so they can see that I’m just a struggling individual like they are, so I’m going to let you in on those three things.
#1: Severe eye strain.
I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. As such, my eyes are particularly sensitive. Either my lenses or the muscles supporting them can only take so much of scanning and reading before they fatigue. If I take them beyond the point of fatigue, I can experience pain for up to a week. Take them beyond that point and then some?
It takes months before my eyes feel well again.
The thing is, sometimes I can’t tell I’ve gone too far until it’s too late. This is what happened when I spent about a half hour (maybe longer) trying to find the perfect photo for the cover of Worth The Risk.
That was before the global pandemic was announced last spring.
And I’ve only just recently felt pretty much back to normal…though I still can’t write more than about 400 words at a time before my eyes start “talking” to me. (And yes, now I’m listening!)
By the time I finished Talia’s Tiger, however, I was still hurting. A lot. And I just couldn’t see myself writing more than a few hundred words a day, ever again.
No way would I take that long to write a novel. It would drive me nuts!
Which is a good segue to the second reason I almost quit writing novels…
Since hitting puberty, I’ve suffered from anxiety and Pre-Menstrual Dystrophic Disorder. I’m fifty years old, and I only figured the former out a few months ago. The latter I ran into some time in 2019.
Why did I not realize I had those problems? Well, first of all, I’d never even heard of PMDD until I was doing some search about perimenopause symptoms. Second, I thought all people who suffered from anxiety had panic attacks.
Nope. Not an arbitrary symptom. But depression is. All these decades, I’ve believed myself to suffer from mild to moderate depression. Turns out, anxiety has been at the root of it.
What does all this have to do with writing novels? When you have anxiety, everything pressures you. Including your own goals. It’s difficult to impossible to walk through life, living in the moment and being content with whatever life hands you. No. You’re constantly worried about the future.
Add that to a choleric temperament such as I have, and you get absolutely driven to finish projects as soon as possible. Because if you don’t go fast enough, you might run up against a barrier that keeps you from reaching your goal.
So while I’ve always been excited when beginning a new story, it only takes ten or so chapters before I start pressuring myself to race to a deadline. And all the joy goes out of writing, and it turns into a tedious job instead of an enjoyable calling.
Along with a lot of other nutrition tweaks I’ve made to improve my mental health and eliminate most perimenopause symptoms, I very recently discovered I was deficient in iodine. Supplementing with that for the past month and a bit, I now actually feel happy and at peace most of the time, for the first time in my life.
For ideas on other things I’ve done to eradicate mental illness, check out this article. I need to update it, though. It’s missing a piece or two besides the iodine.
#3: Torn between two callings.
I’ve always wanted to write stories. Ever since I was a little girl. But a few years ago, I developed a passion to help wannabe homeschooling parents. After finishing the “Rock Star Husbands” series, I felt like the Lord was urging me to start a blog to this end.
I didn’t see how I could possibly write novels and do a blog justice, so I decided I’d focus on the blog for a while. At least a year.
I don’t know why. I’ve blogged long enough to know that one-topic blogs start boring me after about a month, if not sooner.
Then I realized: God wasn’t calling me to try to build a money-making blog with tens of thousands of visitors every month. At least, not the way the experts tell you to do it. I’m not supposed to be a “full-time blogger.” I’m just supposed to share my knowledge and experience with the world, and trust that whoever needs it will come.
So I’m going to write and publish one post a week to that blog. Build it slowly. Do it as a ministry, rather than for money.
I said all that to say this:
I’m back writing novels. That is to say, I am now editing the Christmas novel that I wrote before I started the “Rock Star Husbands” series, and planning the second book in what will eventually be a four-book series entitled “Little River Village Christmas.”
And I feel good about it, because I’m no longer anxious.
I’ve given myself permission to take breaks or pursue other creative projects when I want or need to.
Allow me to pay that forward: I give you permission to take breaks from projects as you can and as necessary, so that you don’t get burned out on life. Or your calling. 🙂