The Rut. Population: Me

Steam of consciousness, coming at ya!

I’m not sure how I get into these messes, but I have this cycle where I’m really, really motivated, followed by getting lots of stuff done. Then I reach this point where I’m overwhelmed and not sure what to do next. This leads to slipping back into bad habits and eventually not being productive.

It’s a weird kind of self-sabotage. I don’t mean to do it and I’m always so sure that “This will be the last time I ever do that again!”


Makes me feel like I’m headed down the path of Guy Who Only Talks About What He’s Going To Do. I do not want to be that guy.

And this goes far beyond writing. There’s all sorts of life things I want to do, but the up and down of progress is frustrating. It’s rather silly to think I’m stopping myself from doing the things I want and even more embarrassing to admit it.

I’ve read plenty of ways to be organized, but they’ll only take me so far unless I’m consistent.

I know I can do it.

I’ve had the same job for almost a decade and I do it very well. Is that my problem? I need a “boss” to tell me what I have to do? I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that if I just found a way to be more consistent with my goals, nothing could stop me.

So, what does that mean? Maybe I don’t want it bad enough? I think I do, but that lands me in the evil circle of “Well, if you did want it bad enough, surely you wouldn’t be writing this post.” Maybe there’s some truth to that, just don’t call me Shirley. Maybe I have a ways to go before I hit bottom. Maybe . . .

As you can see, there’s much confusion going on up here. Felt good to let it out, though. As I proofread this, it’s nice to see it on the screen and not in my head anymore.

But getting back to the point . . .

How do you guys do it? How do you stay on track when it seems like everything is working against you, yourself being the worst offender of all? Am I overthinking all this (again) and all I have to do is do it like the sneakers say?

19 comments on “The Rut. Population: Me

  1. I don’t think it’s as simple as wanting it or not wanting it. We each have our pitfalls. It’s just a matter of learning about ourselves enough to figure out how to work with those traps we set for ourselves.

    Like I’ve suffered through low self esteem. It’s something I’m confident I’ve overcome it, but there’s still a learned pattern of behavior there for me. Plus I’m lazy. It’s SO easy for me to go, “Ah, not today, tomorrow. I don’t feel like it.”

    I’m at a point now where I know myself enough to know when I need to push and how to push. I sort of have to trick myself into stuff. Usually it’s little things like knowing what times I’m at my strongest and knowing what little things I can do to get myself going. I’ve also had to reteach myself some behaviors, such as ignoring the voice that tells me I’m horrible and I stink when I sit down to do things. (Weirdest feeling ever to have my brain thinking these horrible thoughts while I ignore it and keep writing like my hand is its own entity.)

    This even means that I have to know when to stop and take a personal day (or week). It also means that I have to accept that I move at a certain pace that may be slower than others because that’s what I can stand without being overwhelmed.

    I don’t mean to make this about me, but I use myself as an example. The best tips are to accept yourself, don’t fight it, work with yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Work at your pace, but don’t be afraid to try out different tricks and see what works on yourself. Maybe even make some new ones. See if you can outsmart yourself, lol.

  2. Andrew, I’ve totally been here before! And, like with you, sometimes it resurfaces without warning. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed when you have lots of things on your mind, lots of goals, lots of ambition. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what you’re feeling. One good thing is that you’re aware of what you’re doing — the self-sabotaging. That’s a bit of a harsh, dramatic term, but it’s essentially true. Nothing is keeping you from reaching the goals you want to reach other than yourself.

    When I get like this, usually the best solutions are a) vent about it to all of my loved ones until they probably want to tear their hair out and kick me in the rear, and b) yeah, as sucky as it is, just do it. It’s like when you’re feeling exhausted and maybe kind of depressed in the morning, and it’s cold and dark, and the idea of getting out of bed feels physically painful, physically impossible. But once you actually set your teeth and go through the painful motion of dragging yourself out of bed, once your feet are on the ground and you start moving toward your coffee or the shower, it isn’t so bad anymore. You’ve taken that first step. You’re just doing it. Most of the time, at least for me, it really is just about sucking it up and making myself start.

    Things that can help you make that first step might include a) the abovementioned venting to everyone under the sun, b) regularly exercising (I always feel MUCH more capable when I’m regularly exercising), c) in moments of particularly vicious I-can’t-do-it-tude, BRUSH YOUR TEETH (sound weird, but always gives me a zap of energy), and d) make a list! I think Kait would agree that one should never underestimate the power of The List. What are the short-term goals you want to accomplish? What are the long-term goals? What are the steps you need to take to accomplish each goal, and what are the priorities of these goals? Seeing it all written out on paper can make things seem less overwhelming, or at least put everything out in front of you, in plain black and white (or purple and white, if you are, like me, partial to purple pens).

    Anyway, I’m not sure if any of this is helpful, and I apologize for the word vomit, but this subject really rings true with me because I struggle with mild depression, which frequently leads to this sort of overwhelmed, self-sabotaging situation. I hope you manage to drag yourself out of the metaphorical bed soon! We all believe in you! 😀

  3. Andrew, I know how you feel. I’m kind at a point where I’m not loving my WIP. I was so far ahead in the last round that I thought this was easy. Now I’m behind and I feel crappy. My motivation is terrible right now.

    So this is what I do. I just DO IT. I know that sounds simple and easier said than done. But it’s the only way I can do it. I just sit my butt in the chair and write, whether I want to or not. Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect and ALWAYS do this. But that’s what gets my motivation back. I write until I start liking it again. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but that’s all the advice I can give you. Be strong, be your own boss, and work likes it’s a real job. Because it is.

  4. You are not alone. We all get lost in the frustrations of our life’s to do list. I want to write, but some days blow by and I haven’t had the chance to sit down and type any words. I want to get ahead on my blogging, but before I know it, it’s the day before my publishing date and I have nothing.

    The only thing that keeps me sane is keeping a to do list and crossing off the items as I move through the day. I put everything on this list, including: comment on blogs, reply to the Ooo factor blog comments, reply to emails, check new Twitter followers, write blogs, write 1,000 words, research, etc. My list is insane and I never cross everything off in a day’s time.

    I don’t think you’re overthinking this. We all experience it. On the really bad days, I close the laptop and watch TV and/or a movie. I know you’re shocked to read this!

    All I can say, is take the good days with the bad. Take a break where necesssary, and just keep moving forward. Skip a blog – we’ll understand. Need to vent – hit us up. There are some of us out here who love to hear Mr. Mocete Speak. 🙂

  5. I am just like you Andrew. I do really well and they get so enthusiastic I end up filled with much self doubt. Right now I am super happy about my writing but stressing out beond belief about sales and my platform.
    I asked myself the Do I reaaly want it question the other day too. My answer was yes I do, I just don’t know how to get it.

    I think it is important to know you are not alone, everybody has periods of doubt. The key is to not let them get you down.

  6. I’ve definitely been there. But I wonder – are you looking at this as all the things you’re not accomplishing? Do you pause to congratulate yourself when you do accomplish something? I’ve found that’s been helpful for me – setting small, manageable goals, feeling proud of myself when I accomplish those, and using my bolstered self-esteem to escalate the goals. It’s sort of like, do you try to eat the whole elephant or just the foot? Don’t know if this has been helpful or just grossed you out because now you’re imagining eating an elephant foot, but like others have said you’re certainly not alone.

  7. Everyone gets burned out and looking at what hasn’t been done is overwhelming. Take it a page at a time, but don’t expect to work hard constantly. That takes years of practice. I’ll let you know if the self-sabotaging and fear of success things ever let up. 😀

    The cycles you mentioned? Pretty much normal. When you work super hard during periods of motivation, it only makes sense that the downer comes straight after. You have a few choices including (but not limited to) letting the frustrating phase run it’s course and jump back into a fierce schedule again, balancing out the highs and lows so they aren’t so extreme, or forcing yourself to do something (anything) when you really don’t feel like it. There’s no right or wrong in this, you just have to figure out your very own method. Trying to figure out what to do based on what everyone else says is fine, but it doesn’t always fit the role you’re in right now this second.

    If you look around the blogosphere, I’m sure you’ll see PLENTY of frustrated writers. Comes with the territory. Doesn’t mean you don’t want it, just means wanting it isn’t always enough. You still have to get through tough times emotionally, never mind all of that hard work, too. At least we get some periods when it doesn’t feel hard or frustrating. Live for those days, but learn to live with these kind of days. 😉

  8. @Nina- I guess I’m still at that knowing myself/trial and error stage. I like the idea of outsmarting myself which I could probably do by making microscopic goals. Then maybe I won’t get these periods of feeling overwhelmed.

    @Claire L- Thanks for the suggestions, Claire. The brushing your teeth one especially. I like the idea of doing some quick, everyday thing unrelated to my goals to get me going.

    Oh, and I like your word vomit. It’s very pretty.

    @LL- Yeah, it’s like how the hardest part of exercise is the first ten seconds. I’ll figure this out.

    @Tiffany- List are one of the things I do then get overwhelmed and then completely stop. Perhaps what I listed was too big and I need to go smaller. One of my main issues is time. Some days, after work and other responsibilities, I don’t have much free time. I just have to find a way to work with it.

    @Alex- Sales. That’ll be a new adventure whenever I get there. I’ve been watching what others have done and having a backlist to increase visibility seems to be a common factor. Aside from that, I suppose you just keep tweaking your method until you’ve got something that works. And, of course, write awesome books.

    @Annalise- That’s the thing, I get so overwhelmed by everything, I don’t know where to start. So, I guess that’s like trying to eat the elephant whole. I have to keep playing with my goals until I find the right fit.

    @Claire F- I’d like to get to a point where I’m always productive even if it’s not at the same level. Just want to get stuff done.

    And I like ” . . . wanting it isn’t always enough.” I’ve never really liked the “you have want it bad enough” philosophy. It always seemed a simplistic way to call anything short of total success a failure. It’s nice that you and others in the comments agree.

  9. Staying “on track” is really hard, partly because it’s hard to know which track is the “right” one. I’ve decided there is no single right track for writers. And I totally agree that the “you have to want it bad enough” is simplistic. It completely ignores a thousand other little factors that can derail you (there’s that track analogy again).

    I tend to take on too much because I underestimate the time suckage of various activities. Most of those activities are totally worthwhile and necessary and even fun, but I have to learn to evaluate them better so that I don’t take on so many. Right now, I ended up with so many other things that I haven’t even looked at my WIP for weeks. Well, I’ve opened the document and glanced at it, but not worked on it a bit. This lack of progress is largely a result of getting myself into too many other things.

    I do find that when I’m overwhelmed, I’m a lot more likely to get a visit from the I Suck Fairy, like today. Usually, she visits when I’ve just read something else that’s mind-blowingly awesome, and I’m thinking, “holy CRAP! I SUCK as a writer. Why the FRAK am I even trying to string words together?” Often, the other thing doesn’t even need to be mind-blowingly awesome. It just has to be not mine.

    Clearly, perspective and balance are things I need to work on…

    I have no advice for you. This is just one of those days when I’m sharing your pain. Hang in there. One day, you’ll have a brilliant, productive day, and you’ll wonder why you ever doubted anything.

  10. I have years of experience with this, plus a collection of nametags and hairnets.

    My inability to get things accomplished stems from a variety of factors including but not limited to: perfectionism, low self esteem, depression, ooh new shiny, spin the wheel of which creative pursuit to obsess on today, procrastination, why bother/no one will ever care about this/why am I wasting my time, guilt….

    So, one thing that has helped me is to have a cheerleader. Someone who acts like they care about whether or not I finish the story, urges me to keeping going with it, and makes me feel like I don’t totally suck and it’s worth pursuing. When there’s someone waiting for pages who always asks What’s next? it can make it more exciting to get on with it and tell them.

    • Susan, I can identify with the cheerleader thing and think you’re onto something. Sarah, god love her, is always on me about getting stories done because she’s always the first to read them and she’s got two jobs and is a SAHM. So, when I feel like I can’t do it for myself, I do it for her. She always rewards me with enthusiasm about what I’m doing and that gets me excited about my projects too.
      Cheerleader buddies for everyone!!!

  11. @Amy- I think the taking on too much is also a problem for me, particularly, because what’s too much for me is average for others. And I know comparing to others is bad, but in that sense I thought I wasn’t applying myself correctly. So, making my goals smaller is definitely something I’ll do.

    @Susan- Okay, you’re hired. Feel free to ask me throughout the day what I’m learning, how that scene’s going and if I can see my floor yet.

  12. Like you said, it’s a cycle. And the pendulum will swing the other way soon enough…
    As for me, when I’m in a rut, I like to take a mental health day (or even moment if that’s all I can pull off).
    The last one was this summer, going stand up paddleboarding (which I’d never heard of before) in NY harbor.
    Who does that? I did. And just the memory of that is enough to get me through all the drudgery since then…

    • Ah, a total location change. A great way to take your mind and body out a bad situation. And you come back with something positive to throw at The Rut. Great idea, El Guapo. Thanks!

  13. […] Come Out and Play Andrew Mocete, Urban Fantasy–Witness the freak become a hero! HomeAbout MeThe NewsletterWork in Progress Twitter Facebook RSS Feed ← The Rut. Population: Me […]

  14. […] much to report. “Hey, guys, I still suck. ‘Til next time!” I got stuck in The Rut for a while, but I’m out for now, thanks to my buddies, and I come with […]

  15. […] the sales from, I am very much in – as the one and only Andrew Mocete puts in – The Rut when it comes to sales. It is annoying me a bit. I mean I don’t write my books with the sole […]

  16. I followed your link from your ROW80 post today and wanted to leave my thoughts on this.

    I go through the same thing – in fact, I’ve been dilly-dallying with this current revision for weeks now. I finally realized that my mind is telling me “Take a break! For the love of creativity, show mercy to your muse!”

    I have a full-time day job, come home and work on things for the family, for my publishing company, for the free e-zine we compile, for my writing. My mind goes into lock-down sometimes because I’ve pushed it to the point of paralysis and it simply gets tired of thinking. I find if I take a day a week where I do nothing -no day job, no writing, no e-zine, no publishing, just chill with the fam and watch mindless sitcoms or listen to music or go for a drive in the country, then things are much better when I sit down again. 😉

    • It seems we’re in similar situations. Your life might be a little crazier than mine, but the burnout sucks the same. Like you, others have suggested to just get away from the crazy. So maybe some days before I get down, I should shut off the computer and not think about anything I have to do with it. Even if it’s only a few hours, it’ll probably make a difference.

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