Confession: I’ve been floundering lately.
There are a few factors I credit/blame:
- After working my arse off to rewrite my script for Bluecat’s Fellini resubmission, I ended up with a version of it that I knew was, once again, not would I felt it could be.
- Literally the very same evening I submitted that, I had to dive straight into Round 2 of the Cyberspace Open.
- The very next week, I attempted to start looking over another script for a quick polish before the Nicholl deadline.
- My calendar tends to work in mysterious ways, being crammed full of events for about a week and a half straight followed by a completely dead three- or four-week period. Guess which phase it was in during all this.
These elements combined to induce the following behaviors/emotions:
- I began to hate the script I was reading, despite the fact that it’s actually my favorite thing I’ve ever written.
- The idea of going back to the script I submitted for Fellini actually made me feel a little physically ill.
- Because of those two things, I essentially stopped working — I just couldn’t bring myself to do it — instead choosing to watch episode after episode after episode of Sex & the City. I think I’ve watched four seasons in the past two weeks.
- I began suffering some pretty severe mood swings, going from feeling very happy to extremely low. I’m generally a pretty even-keeled person (the Golden Mean has long been my motto, sometimes infuriatingly so), and it distresses me when I’m not — especially if I can’t pinpoint why. Which of course does not help matters in the least.
Last week I finally hit a breaking point that can best be envisioned as me shouting to the heavens, “What the hell is going on with me?”
So I did what any normal* person would do. I started tracking my mood and any factors I thought might affect it in a spreadsheet.
As part of that endeavor, because I know I feel crazier when I’m not writing, I challenged myself to write 500 words a day 5 days a week. They could be on anything at all — blog posts, journal-style pieces, travel memoir, fiction, whatever — but I needed to get back into writing in a pressure-free but consistent way.
In a week I’d written 6,321 words, and on Sunday I suddenly felt compelled to pick up my script again. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to find I didn’t hate it anymore. On the contrary, I feel positive about it**, and with maybe an hour of polishing, I’ll still manage to have it ready to submit to Nicholl this week.
And I’m beginning to see some patterns emerge regarding my mood that will help me going forward. I’ll know more as the weeks pass into a month or two. The one thing I’ve learned without a doubt, though, is this: If I neglect to give myself a break, I will break.
This all may seem a little nutty (I’ve never denied my nuttiness and could never hope to), but I’ve found no greater tool for life than self-awareness. Learning what makes you tick and what knocks you over is integral to creating an atmosphere in which to do your best work and to live your fullest life. Not everyone needs a spreadsheet to do this (though I’m hoping I’m not the only person in the world who resorts to such methods), but if you, too, ever find yourself floundering, take some time to step back and examine yourself.
This can be kind of a scary thing to do, because it involves acknowledging all your feelings — uncomfortable ones included and perhaps even highlighted — along with your shortcomings. But in doing so, you get the opportunity to figure out how to work around or even use those things to your advantage in the future.