September 20, 2013

Perspective: I Miss Writing...But Also Kinda Don't

Thank you, Professor Dumbledore, for the reminder.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been planted in front of the Mirror of Erised, unable to tear myself away, much like Harry when Dumbledore found him and said those now-famous words to the left. I can see the life I want and the fact that I don’t have it yet (might not ever have it) is a constant source of frustration and stress. I hear about everyone else’s successes, and while I’m happy for them, it’s way too easy to take a look at myself and see all of my failures in Technicolor. I promise you, I'm not trying to be a whiner about it, but frankly, I’m a bit exhausted from having my head in the clouds, consumed with what-ifs and it’ll-be-better-whens. I want to feel complete with what I have now. That’s not to say that dreams are bad (I still have plenty of them), but a healthy dose of perspective is ALWAYS a good thing. I want the dreams, but I don’t want to dwell on them to the point of distraction or even depression.

Rewind to Summer 2011: 
I started writing and couldn’t get enough of it. I would plunk myself in a chair, guzzle far more coffee than was healthy, and write from early morning until around suppertime with very few breaks in between. I was on fire, consumed by a need to get this story out. All dreamy and hung up on getting published.


Fast forward to Summer 2013: 
I now have a completed story, 90% of another story drafted, and 50% of still another first draft done…and a complete lack of motivation and inspiration to press onward to show for it. My life has somehow gotten cluttered up with all of this STUFF that, while sometimes pretty awesome, is also sometimes pretty draining. (I’m looking at you, Social Media. In all of your many dazzling forms.) I haven’t been blogging much, I’m very seldom on Twitter, never on Tumblr anymore, and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t missed it much at all. A large portion of my life feels virtual right now, and that’s virtually crazy-making, to say the least.

I’m not giving up on writing——no way, no how——but this time away from it has shifted my perspective. And necessarily so. While I’ve been avoiding writing, I’ve been doing other things: traveling, reading a lot, drumming, visiting with family and friends, hanging out with my husband, and just living life. And while I’ve missed writing, sure, I’m not shriveling up and dying inside because I’m not doing it. *gasp* Instead, it has reminded me just how important all of that LIFE STUFF actually is. Writing is a very important part of my life, but so is remembering to simply live, to enjoy now. And here’s the takeaway: This doesn’t make me any less of a writer.

I spent over a year, holed up inside, connecting with people via social media, but not making a whole lot of connections in my real world. It first hit me when our pipe and drum band was selling raffle tickets that I had nobody to sell tickets to. Nobody. Um…that’s humiliating and disturbing all at once. Sure, writing is a solitary business, but unwittingly turning myself into a hermit hasn’t done me (m)any favours. (I don't pick up flu bugs, so there's that.) And while I love all of my online friends (yes, you’re friends even if I haven’t met most of you IRL), I need to be making more face-to-face connections with people, to be leaving the confines of my home office. Hermit lifestyle is NOT a healthy lifestyle. Nor is it inspiring. There’s very little to write about, in my opinion and experience, when you aren’t actually out in the world absorbing all of the things that make for great writing material.

There is more to life than writing.

There. I said it.


45 comments:

  1. Well, you already know how I feel about this since we've discussed it a lot. I think it's great that you're trying to find more balance and that you enjoyed doing things besides writing this summer. I tend to get a little too obsessed when it comes to writing and that usually results in everything else being off kilter. Then there's the whole emotional roller coaster that really can't be avoided with the writing process. Toss in social media and the writer portion of life becomes all-consuming. It really is a good idea to step back and recharge. I loved Anne Lamott's perspective on this when she discussed writer's block in BIRD BY BIRD. Remember how she said that you're not so much blocked as empty? Even if you don't have writer's block, it's good to fuel your writing process with real life experiences. Anyway, I get where you're coming from on this, and I could really use a break myself. :)

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    1. For me, it's so hard getting past the guilt of not writing. It's crazy because I should feel guilty about everything else that's not getting done, but instead it's all focused on the fact that I haven't written in weeks now. What I need to do is get back to scheduling my days, leaving chunks of time open for the other life stuff, you know? I love that Anne Lamott discussion of writer's block. So true. While I don't have writer's block, it does still apply to my motivation to sit down and get writing. Empty is an excellent way of putting it. So I guess I can just say that I've been filling myself up for the past month or so. Oddly, that makes me feel much better about it all. :-)

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  2. I love this post Jaime, thanks for sharing how you feel. I was in exactly this mindset last summer with regards to writing and my online/offline balance.

    It took me a while to make real life connections again (we'd just moved back from the US to the UK) that were beyond superficial smiling and a bit of small talk at Mums & Tots. I'm still working on it actually. But I feel so much better and I'm writing again. I still want to be published and it's a very definite goal I'm working towards. But the complete stress of it seems to have gone, hopefully for good :)

    I love my online world, but as an introvert and anxious person it's easy to retreat to it and not live.

    Glad your having fun and living and thanks again for sharing :)

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    1. I've made some great friends recently while I've been out living, but the introvert in me finds it hard to initiate doing stuff. Far too often, I'd rather sit around at home reading. But I know how lonely that can sometimes make me. It's like I'd far rather be an introvert, but I need to not be for my own well-being. Does that make sense? As for writing, it's far too easy to feel guilty about not doing it every single day, to feel like you're somehow less of a writer if you step away for a while. I'm really trying to get past that feeling while at the same time trying to recover the motivation to write. I need to get to the point (where you are) where the process of writing to get published doesn't completely stress me out.

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  3. I know what youean about living in a strange haze of dreams that may never come true. A dose of reality is definitely a good thing.

    Thanks for sharing this post. It's such an important issue we all need to consider.

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    1. It's funny because so many things you can plan for and for the the most part they happen. You plan a trip and you take it. You go to school for a particular career and odds are not terrible that you find a job (not always, but often). There's so much about writing that doesn't work that way, especially when you're hoping to get published. You can do all you can to make your story the best it can be, but ultimately so much is still out of your hands. I think that's what makes me crazy, you know? That's why making sure the rest of my life makes me content is so, so important. Then the disappointments that come with rejection and so on don't level me. I'm still trying to find that balance.

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  4. I can absolutely relate to this post! Although, I do feel a bit guilty about not writing, blogging, tweeting, etc. You know, it's funny... When I started writing in late 2010, I did so because I found myself with a ton of time to fill. I had finally found the space in time to do what I had always dreamed of doing. Much like you, I was consumed by my story and it was rewarded with a high I have since tried to recapture. It was a magical and fleeting moment in time. Now, I can't even find a moment to squeeze in a page or two of writing. And, when I do find a moment, I usually use it to catch up on sleep or to watch reruns of Doctor Who. Life is funny.

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    1. I'm so happy I'm not the only one who feels this way, though I wish everyone could avoid this problem with finding balance. I totally feel guilty about not writing. All the time. I want to get to a point where I write when I want to write, but don't beat myself up when I don't want to write. You're so right about that initial high when I first started writing. I'd love to reclaim it, too.

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  5. Excellent, relate-able post. It's dangerous to get too caught up in dreams of being a publisher author. It sounds like you're doing the right thing.

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    1. Thanks, Emma. I had a feeling I wasn't the only one who felt this way, but you never really know. I think I'm getting to that point now where I have healthy expectations of this writing to get published thing. My head isn't nearly so much in the clouds anymore, and I think that's a good thing in my case. Now to find the proper balance between writing and not writing...

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  6. I also can related to this post! I feel like I spent the summer attached to my keyboard, and recently I realized that a lot of the real-life things I wanted to do this summer did not get done. In fact, most of them didn't. I hope to finish up revisions in the next week, and when I do I'm going to try to take a little break, or at least set up a realistic writing schedule that forces me to take entire days off. More and more, I see that it's unhealthy--and ultimately unproductive--to not do that.

    Good for you for realizing what you need to be a happy writer and a happy person away from the page! And thanks for the reminder that as satisfying and fun as fictional and online worlds are, we still need to live in the present.

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    1. It is so hard to strike the right balance between writing and not writing. I think I'm getting to the point where I'm able to slot in all the things that matter, but now I just need to work writing back into that equation. Definitely take a little break! Maybe not as long as I've been taking, though (not sure I'd recommend that). I'm all about the realistic writing schedule, too. I was doing okay with it for a bit and then sort of got derailed. I need to reclaim that this fall. Because then during the scheduled non-writing time you feel much less guilty! I would love to be a happy writer + a happy person away from the page, as you say.

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  7. I think part of the problem is that we listen too literally to all the writer advice. "Writers love to write and will not want to do anything else." "You must spend at least 3/4/5/10 hours a day working on your novel if you want to be a writer and be published." And so on. The truth: there's more than one way to be published, and writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some writers churn out books every 6 months; some write a book every couple of years. Some have other interests and write novels on the side.

    I'm all for people having purpose and direction in life, but it should never be dictated by external expectations. You need to do what you think you do best, what you believe you were created to do. That might still be writing, but it may not be 24/7-butt-in-chair writing. Whatever, it'll be Jaime-style writing, not Stephen-King-style, or JK-Rowling-style, or Cassandra-Claire-style, or anyone-else-style. And if Jaime-style writing involves playing in a pipe and drum band, going out with friends, spending time with the hubby, and working on the novel as time and inspiration permit, then that's what it is. End of discussion. :)

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    1. I think you're right, Colin. There's so much talk about "needing to write" or not being able to survive if you couldn't write, that it makes those of us who don't do it all the time feel like we're somehow lesser writers. Like you say, whatever writing style suits you is the way to go. Thanks for the encouraging comment, Colin! :-)

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  8. I think it's really easy to get burned out on writing and not realize until we stumble blurry-eyed into the great outdoors. It's so hard to find the balance between the pretend worlds we create and the real world. Glad you've been enjoying yourself IRL!

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    1. I really like the way you put it about balancing pretend worlds with the real world. Yes! That's exactly it. I only wish I could figure out that balance. :-)

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  9. I can totally relate to your feelings, Jaime. In most cases, I'd rather be home writing (preferably by myself) than doing anything else. Of course, seeing as how I have a child who needs fresh air and new experiences, I have some pretty decent motivation to get out and about. But then, I'm left feeling guilty because I'm enjoying life and having fun instead of writing, writing, writing. I wonder if I'd feel the same way if I was getting paid to write? Anyway, you are not alone, and I fully support your desire to live life to its fullest, even if that means putting writing on the back burner for a bit. If you don't live, you'll be left with nothing much to write about. Here's hoping your inspiration returns soon, but while it's away, enjoy your break.

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    1. I find I would more often than not like to be at home reading than out and about, but I'm trying to make sure I branch out a bit more. I suppose the same could be said about writing, too. I could sit down right now and work on my stories, but I worry that I'll do damage or write something extremely mediocre or meh just because I wasn't really feeling it. At some point soon, I'm going to have to see how it goes, but I don't want to force it. Like you say, here's hoping the inspiration returns soon! :-)

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  10. A healthy life is a balanced life! You can be a writer, but that doesn't mean you and your writing have to have a scandalous, destructive affair and run off to a private island together, leaving a trail of devastated personal relationships and pastimes in your wake. ;)

    What I mean is, balance is a tricky thing to find...I don't think anyone knows the secret to it, but you can be happy and passionate about multiple things. I hope you find the balance you're looking for.

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    1. Balance really is a tricky thing to find. When I'm working regularly on writing, other things suffer, and when I'm doing other things, my writing suffers. I need to figure out some way to work it all in, but in a way that doesn't feel draining or suck the enjoyment out of any of these things. :-)

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  11. I love this. As you know, I've been away from my writing for a while, too, and I recognize a lot of this. I am especially right there with you on questioning myself when I don't feel the burning need to write at every opportunity. Writing is part of me; it is not my whole self. But you're absolutely right--that doesn't make either of us not a writer. (And yes, friends where you are are important. I'm enjoying starting to have those. I imagine we're approaching the point where it's just assumed that like, half a person's friends are local and the other half are from the internet. It's a nice way to do things!)

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. Not that I want anyone to question their commitment to writing or anything, but it certainly makes me feel a bit more normal. And you're right when you say that writing is only a part of us. I remember feeling horribly bummed out not that long ago about the fact that almost all of my friends were online and that I couldn't just go for coffee with any of them. Sometimes you just want to go out and hang out with a friend, you know? Hard to do when all of your friends are scattered across the planet. You raise an interesting point about how friends are now split between real life and the internet. Very interesting. :-)

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  12. This is great to read from another writer who's faced it too. Not that your struggle is great, of course, but it just proves we all fall prey to these feelings from time-to-time and have to step back and get perspective. I've had a horrible time with it myself this past year, trying to balance, always feeling I've failed either online or in RL. I can't seem to have both without one slipping a little. So I have to choose what fits for the moment. I've just decided to do what makes me happy (blogging at least once a week is a goal I'm aiming for at the moment).

    Glad to hear all the living you've done and good things you've experienced. If you only wrote and blogged we wouldn't get to hear about these things. I love to know about the lives writers have outside their writing!

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    1. It's amazing, because I start beating myself up for not being committed enough to writing because I'm not doing it every single day. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one struggling with this. I think balance is like some kind of mythical creature in the mist, but I don't think we should stop striving to attain it. You're so right about one thing slipping when you spend more on the other. That is the story of my life.

      I like to hear what others are doing outside their writing, too! :-)

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  13. Balance is HARD. I run an in-person once a month meetup of writers and that's helpful and I have a few friends that I try to meet up with, but it's hard! I try to write at nights after I get home from work or early in the morning or on weekend days... I also try to take time off of my writing and not feel bad...I mean my writing will always be there. Friends and family won't. People move, etc things change. I think it's perfectly okay to take a step back from writing/reading/internet-ing and go into the wild (aka real life :)) worth it!

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    1. Like I said to Donelle, I think finding balance is pretty near impossible, but it doesn't mean we should stop trying to attain it. There are just so many things I want to do in a day and there's never enough time. Which means that something has to go, and lately that's been writing. I hope that changes really soon, but I'm worried that something else I love will end up suffering. Gah! So hard to do everything. You're so right about how friends and family won't always be there, but writing will. I think that's an important point to remember. Thanks! :-)

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  14. What a great post! And you certainly summed up where I was and where I am occasionally about a year and a half ago. The trick for me was finding balance (and now, quitting the day job) and that meant that writing and social media had to hit the back burner for a while. And even now that I'm writing and being a mom full-time, I still have to limit the social media (which I too love, but it is fine by me :) ) Anyway, good for you on your assessment and reflection and yes, perfectly healthy (and wonderful) to stay PRESENT. PS - I LOVE that Dumbledore quote. LOVE. IT.

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    1. Thanks, Alison. I think if I was to seriously limit the social media in my day, I'd suddenly have a whole pile more time. I mean, I have been limiting it to a certain extent, but I really could do that more. It's amazing how much time we lose on these things without necessarily realizing it. I'm looking to possibly start subbing again, so I'm going to have to become an even better manager of my time.

      I have that Dumbledore quote printed out and stuck to my bulletin board above my desk. A great reminder about perspective all the time. :-)

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  15. I swear, Jaime, every time I come to your blog I feel like we're the same person. You express things I've been feeling very similarly about! (But much more eloquently--generally my thoughts take on a rather nebulous tone of "meh, something's wrong, whatever.")

    You know, social media has its good points, but it can be really hard, too. We're SO CONNECTED to everything that's happening in the writing world which makes it a lot easier to make unhealthy comparisons (and oh boy have I made some since I started this craziness.) Like you, I definitely haven't missed it since I've taken some very large steps back. ;)

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    1. Haha! We certainly have a lot of the same interests and thoughts these days, don't we? I think you could sum up how I've been feeling for the past few months in one word (which you've actually done): MEH. Yep, that's it. I'm trying very hard to dig out of the meh, and for right now that means doing other stuff that involves getting my butt out of the chair and my hands off the keyboard.

      Great point about how connected we are and how that causes us to fall prey to comparisons. I hadn't thought about it, but it always THERE, reminding you of everything you haven't accomplished yet. I need to keep reminding myself that generally people don't splatter their crappy days and bad news across social media. What they're presenting is their good days, their good side. (Not that I'm accusing people of being phony, but generally speaking, you keep the crummy stuff close to the vest.) I'm hoping that I can find some semblance of balance over the coming weeks so I can get back to writing without sacrificing other things I love or becoming all hermit-y again. :-)

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  16. This is a very thoughtful post Jaime. Sometimes over the past year or so, I wondered how you did it all and actually felt like somehow I was falling behind on the writing, social media, etc. track. I'm not glad that it's drained you, but I'm thankful for your honesty. I hope you find the balance you're looking for.

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    1. Thanks, Liz. I don't have the same stuff on my plate that most of you folks do. I've been unemployed for a bit, so I've always been amazed by what people like YOU have been able to accomplish while working full time. I suppose I have no reason to complain about balance when I have more time on my hands, but I think I've just filled my time with STUFF that doesn't need to be there, you know? People who work tend to become better managers of their time. I'm looking to start subbing again in the school system, so my time will be way more limited, and I can't decide if that's good or bad. I guess you just end up weeding out what doesn't really matter and stick to slotting in what does. And can I just say that your progress on your WIP this summer has been truly inspiring. I'm not sure how you do it, but I'm very impressed! :-)

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  17. Haha, so true! You have to live your life, or you're never going to have inspiration. And sometimes those long writing breaks are absolutely necessary. I hope when you come back to writing, you feel refreshed and back in love with it.

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    1. I've taken writing breaks before, but none have been this long that I can remember. I think the summer was just kind of a bit much between blogging and writing, and now I just need a breather. I am starting to feel like I want to get writing again, so I guess the break helped! :-)

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  18. THIS. I completely relate to everything you've said. I haven't really written in weeks either and it's been hard not to feel guilty about it, even though I'm enjoying the break. By no means do I want to stop writing, but the process of trying to get published was taking its toll. To be honest, I miss the pre-querying days when I felt more hopeful about things and could enjoy writing more because I wasn't thinking about whether an agent would like it, etc. I plan to get back to writing soon, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying taking the time to recharge and spend time with my husband and friends. :)

    Thanks for sharing this. It's nice to know I'm not the only one feeling this way! I hope you find your way back to writing soon. xo!

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    1. I think you raise a really good point, Ghenet. It's not so much the writing that's hard to sit down and do, it's all of the stuff that comes along with writing to get published that starts to bog you down a bit. I feel much the same way about pre-querying days and the hopefulness I felt then. I'm not currently querying, but I am currently feeling guilty about not taking advantage of an R&R I got while querying. That's where all the stress comes from, in my opinion. Spending time recharging is something I think we all need every so often. And thanks for reminding me that I'm not alone! :-)

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  19. Writing is part of your life, not your life itself. Yes, well said.

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  20. First of all--pipe and drum band? LOVE it! And yes, I agree with you, especially with the *social scene* that comes along with writing. I was pregnant last summer and had no energy for blogging or writing period! I mostly just laid around, trying not to feel sick, and spending time with my kiddos. And it was a nice break! Granted, I've had a tough time getting back into the blogging scene, and I haven't fully immersed myself the way I used to be, but both of those are 100% okay! I love writing too--but it's definitely helpful to have a balance! Go you!

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    1. You're so right about the social scene aspect that comes along with writing. You feel like you need to keep up with all of it because so much of your social life exists through blogging, tweeting, instagramming, tumblring, whatever-ing. I think sometimes taking a break is a great reminder of all the good things that exist in your life apart from writing. I fully anticipate getting back into writing soon, but I think the way I approach every interwebz-related will be a bit different from here on in. :-)

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  21. AMEN! Being a writer gets super complicated, I think, because it really is a solitary thing. I've had days where I'm out with friends and feel guilty because I'm not at home, alone, writing. But it's okay! You need to get out there and experience that life stuff sometimes. We can always be slaves to the blinking cursor of a Word document.

    Writing is comforting for me, something I know I'll always have. I can fall back on it when I don't have fun plans (and when my professors make me write for, you know, that pesky homework stuff). But I think it's important to balance writing with socializing and hopefully having the best of both!

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  22. Balance is tough but I think it's important for you to feel like you're living your life and if that means writing goes on the back burner for a bit, then be it.

    And you enjoying your time with your husband, with outside-the-computer activities are memories you will hold on to with a smile. This doesn't mean you're less of a writer (and a talented one at that), it just mean that you're trying to figure out what you need to do for yourself at a particular moment of your life. Writing is a creative outlet but it's a facet of your personality and I also believe that finding people in your area you can simply have coffee with helps when the going gets tough. And if you need, you know you always have a ear that's willing to listen to you all the way across the Ocean.

    And a happy Jaime is important! <3

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  23. Oh wow. Yes. All of this yes. I can completely relate (especially to the feeling like you live the majority of your life virtually part). I've been reevaluating too and trying to take a step back from Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and.... well, you get the point--and trying to focus more on real life things.

    Just remember: you are a writer if you write. It doesn't matter if that is a little or a lot or consistently or at day or at night or in a box or with a fox. :)

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  24. Thank you so much for being so honest with this post. A lot of what you said is stuff I've felt before or am feeling right now.

    "I can see the life I want and the fact that I don’t have it yet (might not ever have it) is a constant source of frustration and stress." Oh man can I relate to this. Sometimes that focusing on all of that stuff makes it impossible to write. I've been trying instead to focus on the story. And I find that when you forget all that other stuff you can get back to the place where you're writing because you love the story, not because of some end goal.

    And I think it's perfectly acceptable to step back from writing and social media to get out and enjoy life. I really think our best writing happens when we're enjoying it, and I'm betting some time away and some new experiences in the wild will give you back that love for writing. I hope this break from writing and less time spent on social media enriches your life in both writing and non-writing ways. :)

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  25. Thank you for sharing this. I love writing but I'm trying to forge connections with people that are around me and sometimes it means that I don't have any time left over for my writing. I end up feeling guilty. I know that I want to write and that I want to be published but I'm not willing to sacrifice time with my friends and family, not all of it anyway. Surely life has room for some of both.

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