Losing the Psychological Battle

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I pride myself on being pretty upbeat and resilient most of the time, but now, I fear I am losing the psychological battle as I try to get some major revisions complete on my current WIP. I have a revised chapter outline, so I know where I am headed, and I even have the first 150 pages revised and polished…but now I feel as though I have psyched myself out of being able to finish the manuscript on the timeline I had planned. To be fair we have made a rather major move to a new (or should I say old) country but the transition has had a greater psychological impact than I expected – it’s made me question my ability to juggle my writing with being a mum.
Don’t worry I am not about to embark on a whine-fest or a ‘woe-is-me’ blog post but I am finding that I no longer have the confidence that I can find the time to get the revisions done before school holidays arrive. So what’s the big deal about the holidays, you ask?

Let me explain…The long summer break here in Australia falls over the holidays (duh! That’s when it is summer here) and this means my twin boys finish school on December 7 and do not return until February 2nd next year. Given the total absence of the concept of summer camp in Oz, this means I will be looking after my boys pretty much 24-7 – which mean writing is limited to the ‘after bed-time’ hours. So, as you can imagine, I really, really, really want to get the bulk of my revisions done by December 7th.
Normally I would view this kind of thing as another challenge and I would just tell myself to slather on the bum-glue and get down to it…but this time I suddenly find myself immobilized by the prospect. I’ve convinced myself I cannot get it done and the prospect of the manuscript revisions stretching out into February next year is depressing as hell.

So I could really do with some advice on how regain the upper hand in the psychological battle (with myself!) to get the manuscript finished. Any tips on how to un-psych myself out of this hole?
Otherwise, I fear you may be hearing a two month long scream of frustration all the way from Down Under…

12 thoughts on “Losing the Psychological Battle

  1. Wow, I’ve been in spots where I feel exhausted as such. There is no magic and the resolve isn’t the same for everyone, however, I think you need a break. It doesn’t have to be a long break (a day “thing” or a mental week thing may be just fine). Put it aside, go have a massage, read a book you’ve been dying to read, but had bum to seat, something to let you relax. Try to forget the book, the time line, the upcoming holidays and give yourself at least a mental break. I find that when I get that out of whack, something isn’t right and I need to take a break and let my subconscious just stew and figure things out while my upper-conscious is on holiday. If you can truly give yourself a break and relax, you can come back renewed, and usually I find my subconscious has been working back there the whole time. Over all- time off, well spent.
    PS- You can do it!!!!

  2. Don’t look at the mountain, Clare, but at the footpath in front of you. One step at a time. Ann Lamott said to write in “one inch frames.” You might even consider getting a one inch frame for your desk, to remind you. Once you get going on that one inch of territory, you’ll keep working and you’ll be further up that mountain. Repeat daily.

  3. Clare, this is one of those rare occasions where I would propose a different approach than Jim. I suggest you definitely look at the mountain. But from the top down. Imagine yourself at the top of the great Mount Manuscript. Look down and envision that your book is done, complete, in the can. Now, ask yourself, “What series of events occurred that got me here?” There’s no right answer, because it’s different for each of us. Your issue is with time management. I would start with, “I found the time to finish, and it was easier than I feared.” Now, what was the second event that got me here? Keep the answers general at first. Then get more specific, more refined. Don’t languish on “How will I get to the top?” Imagine you’re already there and then work backwards to the point you’re at now. The steps will start to fall into place. Here’s a post I did back in 2009 about my Mountain Top theory. Hope it helps. http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2009/05/start-at-end.html

  4. Clare, moving is known to be one of the major stressors in life (along with other major stresses that might sound worse, such as loss of a job, divorce, etc.) Add to that the fact that you’ve got energetic young children to care for, and it’s no wonder the energy well is low right now. Don’t worry about feeling less psychological energy. It’s normal, and to be expected under your circumstances. Set yourself a structure of daily writing, and don’t kick yourself if the structure framework is more modest than you’ve had in the past. Give yourself major credit for handling all the changes with grace and good humor, as I know you have. If at all possible starting Dec. 7 (Pearl Harbor Day for us), find an au pair who is dying to visit Down Under. And be sure to take lots of naps.

  5. Hi Clare,
    You’ve already received great advice. It all depends on what works for you. I’ve found that when I’m near paralyzed for one reason and another it helps me to read some of the advice in this book: 100 Ways To Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever – Paperback (Sept. 2004) by Steve Chandler.

    I like it because I don’t have to read the whole book. Just pick a page. I like the idea of chewing the mountain up in chunks myself. Chunk it down, kind of like Jim suggested.

    And Kathryn is right. Moving is a HUGE adjustment. Look at what you’ve accomplished. Incredible! Now give yourself a break and do it your way with maybe a little help from your friends here at TKZ.
    Do something nice for you today.

  6. My wife and I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old so I can definitely relate to the after bed-time writing hours.

    You’ve got some excellent advice in the comments so far. The only thing I can add is this: talk to you husband. Let him know the stress you’re under. Maybe there are arrangements he can make over the holidays to take the twins and give you writing time. You could even suggest it as father-sons time.

    Until then, take a Thursday to paint a picture, read a book, and complete the crossword. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else or anything else either. Plus, the sense of accomplishment you’ll get from indulging yourself can carry over into confidence and motivation the next working day. Just don’t forget the bum-glue.

  7. I like Daniel’s advice to “paint a picture.” I actually got my hands on some pastel color sticks (aka chalks). I like the chalks because the creation process is more physical and personal for me than working through a brush.

    Anyway, when I feel stressed I push those feelings out onto the paper. I limit my “kindergarden time” to one hour so I don’t get lost in the art. But I love it! I feel more relaxed and it seems to stimulate my brain for the writing process.

  8. Thanks everyone and some great advice – I will chew over some of the terrific options (though I have to admit the massage sounds pretty nice:)!) Normally I am really good at getting the one inch at a time down and setting managable writing goals each day etc. – so it is strange for me to feel out-psyched. I think being in a new place (which is a rental – we actually just bought a house and move in on December 11th so that has its own stress too!) and having to spend nearly 2 hours a day driving the boys to and from school has just weirded me out. I will get myself on track I know…eventually! But keep the advice coming – I need all the help I can get:)!

  9. I just went through this recently, Clare. Our daughter was off school for all of August and the first two weeks of September.

    I’d like to offer hope, but the truth is that since she no longer naps, that entire interval was basically a wash for me. Barely found time to deal with email and blog posts, never mind writing. Of course, I’m also not someone who has ever been able to function early morning before she wakes up, and after putting her to bed at the end of a long day I’m completely knackered.

    So I decided not to be too hard on myself. And since school re-started, I’ve been relatively productive. Life tends to get in the way sometimes, whether it’s moving, family, etc. Realistically, I won’t be able to write 365 days of the year at least the next few years.

    I think the important thing is to buckle down when you can, and not to berate yourself for the times when you can’t. Life (with twins!) is challenging enough, you certainly don’t need any added guilt. So enjoy the break, and get as much done as you can without being too hard on yourself.

  10. Ah Michelle – your comment is so very familiar! I just had almost a week at home with one sick little boy too so no writing got done then either (which probably made me feel like I was digging the hole even deeper!). I also find I am knackered in the evening after a day of total mum duty – and when I do write until late I am then one grouchy mummy in the morning (with the 6:30am wake up bounce x 2 on the bed!) I know I should just accept it all but sometimes I do long to be supermum – able to juggle it all!

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