Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stress, Focusing, Impostor Syndrome and Other Adventures

I haven't written much lately. Life is sort of beyond stressful. Laughably stressful. I'm working a ton and writing all day for work just drains me.

Why not write at the beginning of your day, Laura?

Excellent question. Complex answers. 

Brevity is not a strength I possess and neither is being vague. I'd rather just say, "I'm struggling with [insert weird condition here]" and be done with it. For privacies sake, I will say instead that any given day I have a limited number of hours in which I can focus, which greatly depends on how well I've slept, whether I've been eating right, and the amount of physical activity in my week. Since most days I wake up tired, even if I've slept enough, eat pasta and cheese all day, and a walk down and back up two flights of stairs to get the mail causes my heart to race, my focusable hours are really at a premium.

The other problem with my writing life is that I don't do anything. I don't go anywhere or see people. When I have the chance to go somewhere and see people, I often make myself sick with anxiety over it (that's a whole other post). Having just recently come to the realization that I am both an extrovert and an introvert (ambivert?), I have a better understanding of my needs. I need both time with people and time alone to feel balanced. I've got the time alone racked up for years. If only it worked like that. This lack of general eventfulness in my life has made whatever I do write fall into the "Pit of Despair and Obsessive Navel Gazing" - which is bad, in case that's not obvious. In terms of writing material, I'm at an all-time low. 

Whatever focusable hours my stress level and natural tendencies afford me these days, I spend it on work. I have been getting things for Weave in order, which feels wonderful. And my chapbook sales went well. But not producing any new work right now has given me a nasty case of Impostor Syndrome. My general stream of thoughts when attempting anything bordering on poetry-writing or editing consists of:

This is crap. Why try? Get a different career.
How many times have you used the word "feel" in this poem??
OMG I'm annoyed by my self. 
You call that poetry?

It's actually much worse than that, but I'll leave those lovely thoughts for me and me alone. I know I'm just in a rut and I'll eventually get out, but it's really no fun feeling like a fraud of a poet everyday. It makes it hard for me to further promote my book, write reviews, or even take joy in reading the poetry of others.

I think it just boils down to the fact that I'm profoundly lonely these days. I've been in California for a year now and while I have friends, I have no close friends in the city. The kind of friends you can be a mess with. Maybe I do have those friends here, but I feel too embarrassed to risk breaking down in front of them. Depression is clinical. Loneliness is just embarrassing.


Shawnte Orion said...

At least you don't have to feel alone, about that whole Imposter Syndrome thing. I'm sure we're not the only ones who wallow in that quicksand.

And I'm not even consistent about that. Sometimes, I look back at stuff I wrote a little while ago and wonder why I was ever dumb enough to share that with anyone.
Other times, I look back and wonder how I managed to accidentally write something so decent and why I can't attain that kind of competency anymore.

Laura E. Davis said...

Thanks Shawnte. I know a lot of writers and artists who struggle with this, especially if they come from a more blue-collar family. We constantly feel the need to "prove" that we're artists, when we really only need convince ourselves. Isn't it funny how brains can manage to make a positive thing a negative one (re: will I ever write a poem that good again?!). I worry about that a lot. I wonder if I've written my best poems because everything I've written since has just whimpered and flopped. I have hope it will get better though.