As I sat down to work on my writing projects this week, I found myself distracted and diverted at every turn. My normal routines were broken; instead of working on my novel during my lunch break, I surfed the internet. Instead of writing blog posts after work, I caught up on my favorite vlogs.
I felt weighed down, burdened. So I wrote down all my responsibilities for the week and was surprised to find that I’d committed to more than I realized. And, staring at the list on the page, I also realized that my initial enthusiasm for all these projects had begun to wane.
Everyone’s gone through this gradual declension at some point. As a kid, I started and stopped a dozen different after-school activities (much to the chagrin of my mom) simply because I became disinterested. After the first few days or weeks of excitement and novelty, things really start to set in and become more difficult. You’re not just a beginner anymore—you progress to the harder levels. You get frustrated when you don’t improve; you have to continually dig down deeper and deeper to keep moving forward.
I feel the same with the writing projects I launched earlier in the year. Once so thrilling and invigorating, they’ve morphed into deadline-driven, time-consuming chores that must be completed each week, awakening the forgotten ghost of academic dread. Like in my school days, I find myself more prone than ever to avoid my projects with mindless procrastination.
And I think I can partly blame the time of year. There’s something about fall that just feels—cozy. Completely unhelpful for doing any kind of work.
In this autumn season, as the year is turning, the leaves are falling, and everything is tending toward winter, I’m challenging myself to keep returning to my projects with faithfulness and attention.
It’s not easy to write a book—everyone knows that (or quickly finds out when they try.) And there are days when it feels as though I can’t possibly transform all this lead into gold. I look at all my scattered notes and thoughts and ideas and feel completely overwhelmed. At this time of year, I’d rather curl up in bed and watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or re-read some of my favorite books.
Things just start to weigh on you, don’t they? After so many months of working diligently, my body wants to go into hibernation like a bear.
Here’s my challenge to myself (and to you) to gently call ourselves back to attention and engagement with our work. For me, it’s sitting down and writing this blog post, then opening up my Google Docs file to struggle on with my character work for my book. Whatever your work is, whatever you’ve made a commitment to, don’t let it go. Return to it faithfully and do the work that you can.
Give yourself permission to be a little bit sloppy for a while—we’re all human, and anyway, the most important part is showing up. Show up today, and tomorrow, and the days when you don’t really feel like it. Be consistent and build on yesterday’s achievements.
And be smart about giving yourself a break. If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by your work, take care of yourself. Avoid black holes like YouTube or Netflix or Twitter, but otherwise give yourself permission to be still and cease your striving. Take a walk through your neighborhood, call an old friend, read a favorite book, paint your nails, do a face mask…do what you need to in order to give your mind and body the rest and peace it needs, then show up to do the work that needs to be done. The work you’ve already committed to.
Writing is often a marathon. We become weary on the way, especially in that time of year when everything tells us to stop, rest, enjoy a hot apple cider and read a cozy book. If you’re in the middle of your work, I want to honor you for what you’ve done and the commitment you’ve made. I want to encourage you to continue showing up and pouring into the work, day by day. Let’s agree to fight the autumn blahs, to overcome our distraction, and to return to our work with faithfulness.
Because writing is a little bit like magic: you scribble down your half-formed ideas and scattered sentences and blurry images, and it’s enough. It’s the loam, the earth, the manure, and it’s a start, and it’s enough. It’s where you’ll plant your garden and watch it grow, and for now, the dirt is enough.