If not block/burnout/depression - then what? THE ANSWER.



*Full disclosure: all Amazon links used/posted on BK's blog, website, and newsletter are affiliate links through the Amazon Affiliate Program. BK earns a small commission when you buy something through the link, and it costs you nothing.  


My initial title was funnier (and better) but my hubby's silent judgement made me change it. 


More on that later.


Sometimes, I wake up and decide I just don't want to write. The second I think those words, the day is lost as far as any writing work is concerned. It's not a bad thing, and for me personally, it's what I needed to learn how to do at the absolute worst time in my life. 


I had to learn this because when I would have periods of time that I thought I couldn't write, what accompanied those spreads of writing-less days were intrusive thoughts of never-ending you should be writing; you'll be behind; what happens when/if - which lead me into catastrophizing situations months and even years down the road that I couldn't possibly predict with any sort of accuracy. 


The anxiety was real (and still is sometimes in that regard).


Those spreads of time left me paralyzed because I absolutely needed to be writing. But I just couldn't, and I hated myself for it. I also struggled with the constant questions that plague all writers when they find words hard to come by. Is it writer's block? Burnout? Depression? 


Some of those answers were easy. Obvious. 


It's never depression. Well, fuck. Come on, it is depression. I'm always sitting with that monster; he might as well be a fifth kid. My point is, it couldn't be depression when depression was what fueled this entire mess of my career - every bit of this, the hundreds of thousands of words per month, the release years with more titles than there were months to give each their own without doubling up - all of it came from my depression because early on, learning how to read and write was the only thing that helped me to cope. 


Nothing else ever presented itself to me as relief and therapy and self-care quite the way writing did. 


So, what's that leave? 


Writer's block? Right. 


I am almost positive that my backlist of books, a constantly growing list that has been consistently added to since the day my first book was published puts up a decent enough argument for me that I don't have to get on a soapbox to make the case. I'm not blocked. I never was - I might never be if the folders upon notebooks upon binders of ideas I have sketched ideas and plots and characters into over the years have anything to say about it. 


That met me at the end of a long road with burnout. 


I hated that word. I still do. Burnout comes with an acceptance that a part of you no longer likes/loves what you do; that creatively, this thing that fulfills and brings you joy is now a source of stress and other negative connotations. This was never the case with me, but burnout felt like the closest thing to describe the way I could finish a spread of five to six books and then hit a wall for a month or two where no words shall pass


That's what it felt like my brain said, anyway. All those intrusive thoughts, mental berating, and anxiety every time my body decided it did not want to write stepped in to tell me all the reasons why I should. Not that it ever mattered. I could hate myself daily for never writing a single word, but it never changed the fact that I couldn't start writing again until one day my body decided it was ready to.  


This happened many times. 


Enough that I noticed it. 


That my husband did, too; even my friends. This happened so often, on what could have been a schedule for 4-5 years if I thought to keep track, that eventually I couldn't ignore it. These spreads of times where I couldn't stand the idea of sitting at a computer to write became longer. It took fewer projects and books to get me to that place. 


It got to the point where I needed to figure out and deal with what the real issue was - or really, I might not write again. At the very least. At worst, I'd rather not go there. 


In the end, I had to accept that not wanting to write was okay. Because when you go long enough telling yourself something, you start to believe it whether it's true or not. I'd spent so much time getting joy and pride and pleasure out of sitting at my computer producing thousands of words every day that my brain didn't know anything different except those things. So when something different was presented, like the rest of me having the opposite reaction to what stimulated and made me the happiest ... 


Well, shocker, the wires misfire. 


Circuits need reset. 


It's as sad as it is freeing to me that I woke up today and said I didn't want to write; so I didn't. And I felt absolutely nothing about that choice. Not one thing one way or another. Despite it being Wednesday and I made the goal to have at least three posts a week over here. No matter seeing the fully sketched out idea ready for my next book (a Beast of Moscowstandalone for Nov/Dec) that I am so excited to write because I know how hyped readers are going to be for it. Not even the fresh idea, an angsty contemporary romance that should be told, could get me to pop open my laptop and type my comfortingly familiar Ch 1. 


(every unedited document I start begins with that)


Instead, I got the kids off to school and Pre-K with the hubby, made a trip into town to do some errands that he couldn't after an injury at work this past Monday, and then I settled back at home in my heated shed and smoked a joint. 20% THC. 14% CBD. 


It hit the right mark. After all, here I am writing. Literally, this. Mind you, half of this came in the morning, and the other half after dinner, but it's here because I wanted it to be. 


Initially, I was going to title this blog "I get the best ideas when I'm high." Which, FYI, is not a lie. Why - when I told my husband I planned to write a blog today with the above title - did he look at me sideways with more than a little squint in one of his eyes? 


Well, I know why. 


And how it sounds. 


Maybe I should jump back a second. Like way back. 


In 2014-15, when I wrote and released books like The Arrangementand Lucian*, I worked full-time on the night shift of a big box retail store in the receiving room where I managed incoming and current inventory. I was basically a team of one doing my thing all night long in a huge inventory room and barely had to see anybody else while I did my job except for the occasional break or when someone who worked the floor would come back to get rid of their garbage and cardboard - which I greatly liked.


I'm not a huge people person. Nightshift treated me exceptionally well as an introvert who didn't care to have a social life, preferred to sleep in the day, and had two kids to manage that I certainly couldn't afford to put into daycare so I could get a job that didn't leave me feeling like a vampire. 


Whatever, I didn't mind. Heck, I worked the job for over seven years. 


And except for the occasional dude who jumped in the backroom to bin (if you're not someone who's worked in retail, this is simply the process of logging overstock into a specific area it will be stored until the same program you use to "bin" then "picks" the item(s) for you take out because the shelf on the store room has the space to do so) those huge ass bags of 20kg dog food, I really was mostly left on my own. Even the managers who probably could have gotten more productivity out of me had they rode my ass a little more were happy to leave me to my cave made of tall metal shelf staging and drywall.


On the dog food thing - listen, no way was I, all five-foot-one of me, maybe one-thirty soaking wet, carrying those things up a ladder. They're almost as tall as me. Get real. 


Nonetheless, it didn't take people very long to realize that if you just left Kristen alone, what you needed done would be. It was also these hours as hours of seven days on, two days off, three days on, two days off schedules that bore my earliest books.


Maybe boredom was the cause - nothing was easier than forgetting my constant depression by losing myself in the vomit of words I could produce daily scribbling in a notebook in those ten to fifteen minutes before or after any given break. Add those few minutes here and there to the hour or so I would get at night after I put my kids to bed, and chapters poured out of me. 


Before I knew it, I had two - successful for me - series in the works between The Russian Gunsand Filthy Marcellos*, and I was pregnant with my third. An accident during my second pregnancy left me with lingering hip pain that only got worse the heavier I did with my third pregnancy. Put on sick leave for as long as I could take it, the year-long maternity leave kicked in once all those weeks were used up. Looking at a year of time off before I had to return to my nightshift job - now with three kids to manage in the daytime - all I could think was: look at all the time I have to write books


Ma'am, that is exactly what I went ahead and did, too. Bet on it. 


Except I had a problem. 


My books had started to make money. I know, that sentence probably seems confusing. It should be a great thing, right? It was. I just never thought it would happen, and so when it did - practically overnight, mind you - I wasn't at all ready. 


Now maybe I should have prefaced this with how much I was making. Not that I am one to discuss those sorts of particulars, because I'm not, but ... I wasn't making OMG money. Not life changing money. I was, however, making more money than the government unemployment was paying me for my sick/maternity leave. Which meant the government got me on the phone one day and said: hey, uh, you gotta pay most, if not all, of this money back


And for the life of me, I don't know how, but I did it. I made just enough money to pay back what the government said I had to, keep my home's head above water financially - my husband worked, too, but I think most people know it usually takes two for a family to live nowadays - and that was it. 


At the end of that first year of "good" money, I ended up with a tax bill nearing ten thousand that took me the entire next year to pay off because I had zero dollars left for anything else. Which took me into a third, even more successful year, where I got stuck with the exact same tax problem as the year before. 


At the end of the day, for the first three to five years of my writing career, I didn't have a choice but to produce words because doing so meant money. Something I desperately needed to catch myself up with the tax man and also to support my growing family. Wasn't it just my luck that I liked writing, loved the characters and worlds I was building, and every book that came out only pushed my income bracket higher? 


Yes. 


Absolutely. 


It also fed a habit. And a need for self-gratification because that's what I taught my brain it needed to be happy. ALL THE WORDS. Day in and day out; it means you won't fail, or lose everything, or crash and burn the way you secretly believed you would on the day you sent out your first shitty manuscript. 


The brain is sometimes an incredibly stupid organ. Or perhaps that's just the worst adjective my brain decided to come up with and I couldn't be bothered to sit here and stare at the screen until something better comes along. 


Nonetheless, the entire rest of me had to be confusingly repulsed at writing and creating for me to finally un-train what took me years to ingrain. 


I don't have to write. 


Not today if I don't want to. 


Not for a week, or a month, even - actually, for anyone who cares, I took September off; partly because quarantine forced my kids home for 14 days out of the month from school, but also because I had finished the 4 main books of the initial TBOM saga. 


I deserve a break. 


It's only been as the month neared its end that I started to get jittery. Maybe a little anxious. Definitely ready. I want to write again. I'll undoubtedly start something new, but it's looking like I might put two projects on boil for October just to see if I can squeeze in an easy New Year. 


 We'll see how it goes. 


Like everything else, too. 


Also, follow dinoandcomics on Instagram because you need it in your life like I did mine. 


Until next time. 


Xo,

BK


Current fave song: Remember This - NF


PS - please wear orange tomorrow for the National Day of Truth & Reconciliation, or even find a post to reshare for awareness. A day meant to honor the children lost, and the survivors, of Residential Schools, it is the tiniest step toward apologizing for what these people suffered. If you'd like more info on why orange shirts, watch this. For the history of the schools and the horrors that happened, this video will help. 


*Full disclosure: all Amazon links used/posted on BK's blog, website, and newsletter are affiliate links through the Amazon Affiliate Program. BK earns a small commission when you buy something through the link, and it costs you nothing.  

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