All Work And No Play Makes Kait A Neurotic Mess

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

I take myself too seriously.

I know.  This is a complete an utter shock to you.

I’ve always been that way, from the time I was little.  When I was a kid in elementary school, I didn’t understand other kids my age, and instead of playing on the playground I sought out my teachers to hang out with them and have grown up conversation.  Yeah, I was that kid.  Total loner.  Socially awkward.  Because I was lousy with social stuff and sports stuff and dance stuff and lots of normal kid stuff, I tended to retreat to academic stuff.  I was really good with academic stuff.  Books and learning stuff were logical.  They made sense.  People didn’t.  Which may be one of the reasons I went into psychology.  To try to make them make sense.  (In fact, they just became a bigger, more interesting and fascinating puzzle).

College totally reinforced the seriousness with lectures and seminars and honors programs and guys who thought I was hot because I was smart (and wasn’t that a delightful change from high school where boys were terrified of me for the same reason).  I always imagined I’d marry some guy who was equally serious.  And in fact, I married a comedian.  He’s equally smart, but he’s a total ham and joker and, most importantly, he makes me laugh and generally forces me not to take myself too seriously.  This is absolutely vital to my mental health.

Since I attack, well, pretty much EVERYTHING I do with serious determination and study, it’s no surprise that I approach writing the same way.  Once I made the shift from hobbyist to professional mentally, I wanted to work smarter (I can’t say “not harder” because I really don’t know what that’s like), so I began learning about plotting and ultimately story structure.  And it was a God-send.  Suddenly I could see where stuff wasn’t working, what I needed.   The map to fix it.  I have worksheets and blueprints and so many copies of story structure stuff, higlighted and underlined and sticky tabbed.  And religiously using it to figure out my plot on the front end has been GREAT, up to now.  It meant that my first draft of Red was, but for a few small revisions and cleanup, the final draft.  It meant I could see the problems in Devil’s Snare before I got too far in and had to start over.

And it means I’m so caught up in the seriousness of Getting It Right The First Time that I’ve completely lost the ability to accept that something might not be right, that it might suck, that it might be A Waste of Time.  This whole notion of Wasting Time is, quite possibly, one of my biggest neuroses (along with Babies Will Screw Up My Life So Stop Telling Me To Hurry Up And Have Them Just Because I’m Over 30, but that’s another story).  I have such limited free time and the idea of spending it on something that isn’t going to get me one step closer to quitting a job and being able to finally do what I want–it just doesn’t compute anymore.  Every single thing I do is for a purpose (even the things I enjoy, like cooking).  I don’t know HOW to do something for no reason.  For no purpose.  I’ve forgotten how to PLAY.

After a completely necessary mental bitch slap from Susan last night to make me realize that I have fallen into the totally ill-fitting role of neurotic drama queen, I’ve been ordered to 86 all my personal deadlines, stop worrying about my series for a while, and go write something fun, like a used to.  My brain circled around that for a while before coming back with a: Does Not Compute.  I can’t remember what that’s like anymore.  But I’m going to try to figure it out.  I’m not going to get another book out in 2011.  Fine.  So I’m going to stop breaking my neck over it and find something that interests me, that doesn’t make me break out into hives with planning.  And we’ll see what happens.

13 thoughts on “All Work And No Play Makes Kait A Neurotic Mess

  1. Good for you, Kait. Working so hard is wonderful, but sometimes we need to take a break and remember WHY we started writing in the first place. You do so much for the online writing community, and I’d hate to see you get burnt out. Glad Susan was able to straighten you out.

  2. Big realizations here. Good stuff! Personally, I can’t wait to see what your brain comes up with as “something fun.” Red was really amazing, and your first YA? I’d love to see something short from you. And you could always publish something short — maybe not in 2011, but that’s an artificial deadline.

    I have been through similar bouts of anxiety this year. I made the mental switch to “author” from “writer,” as a nice compliment to the job and family including two tiny daughters. My husband keeps saying, “Hell of a time to find yourself, babe.” 🙂 But it’s good for me, so I keep at it.

    Here’s what I think about wasting time: you take a certain road to figuring out the plot for a book, and you just can’t get there without some trial and error. So if you ever want to publish a book again, you have to say, “Not a waste of time; a learning experience.” And move on. Worrying about wasting time…wastes time.

    1. I know, right? That’s the great irony. All this worry about wasting time has made me a neurotic mess who has wasted two months.

      I’ve done the short thing in my adult paranormal romance (two novellas and a short story last year). So I know I CAN do it. I just really feel like working on something longer and more substantial.

  3. I can often get way to hung up on the details and seriousness of life. Hubby definitely helps me balance that we plenty of play and laughter. Without it, I think we bog ourselves down with worry, deadlines, and anxiety. Letting go from time to time is sooo good for the soul and the gravy will be a better you all around! ENJOY and have some FUN!

  4. I want to offer you advice, but I get stuck in the “have to get something new out now!” cycle all the time. I think that’s why writing this TV pilot has been good for me. Writing scripts is something that I enjoy doing and the fact that there isn’t any pressure to finish it NOW and get it published makes the experience of writing it fun. I can do whatever I want with it. No one is waiting for it.
    I’m trying to get back to that place where writing makes me happy, too and it’s not just another job I have to stress over.
    Good luck chilling out!

  5. I went through a similar process recently. In part because I felt like I should write something longer than a novella. But then I realized – you know this whole “must write a really long novel” is only a side effect of the end of the physical publishing world.

    I think Kindle/Nook has completely re-opened the Novella market back-up. And we shouldn’t forget many classic books (like Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and of course The Old Man & The Sea – not to mention some of Stephen King’s best works) are novellas. I would argue that The Hobbitt is a much better piece of work than the Rings trilogy – because it’s shorter, tighter and the action flows.

    I also don’t look at anything I write as “throw-away”. It might not be published in its current form, but it can often be re-used. Or re-written.

    And I do suffer too from “the need to write something else in middle of current project”-itis. Which I now solve by having trusted system of making sure I can capture these thoughts/bits in their own files. And come back to my work when I want to. I never worry about it going away.

    Just keep writing :).

  6. I always try to do ‘fun’ things to take a break from being serious, but I end up turning them into another chore as my perfectionist attitude just won’t let it be, any potential hobby/craft/leisure activity gets twisted into another thing I must excel at and I zap all the fun out of it – guess old habits really do die hard…

  7. I’m less productive then you are. I start feeling all type A and perfectionist, then after 30min of list making and planing- I get overwhelmed, I have writing which is about full time, a job which is 70+ hours per week where I care for 5 kids, 2 kids of my own, a hubby, you can see how the list can get overwhelming. Then I freak out know I’m going to fail, eat something I shouldn’t, and read in bed until I feel stable again- this can take much longer then I’d like to admit in public.

  8. Wow. I could have written this post. I relate to everything you said. Sometimes it’s really hard for people like us to remember why we started writing in the first place, because we’re so focused on the end result and not the journey. It’s been so refreshing for me to start a new project and just enjoy the discovery instead of pouring over page after page of my 100K epic fantasy. Best of luck with everything! You’ll make it through it!

  9. Good luck Kait! Everything you say sounds familiar to me. Heck, I take along knitting projects to family gatherings because God forbid I should just sit there and socialize.
    The only way I differ though is all that writing planning – just doesn’t work for me.
    Diana Gabaldon says her “walking pace” when she hits her stride on a novel is 1000 words a day – I can do that, and more. The only difference is, she edits as she goes and her 1000 words are pretty much final. Mine? They’re full of er and um and well and just and all kinds of other hokey lines that need editing, never mind plot meanderings that go nowhere. But I just have to write as the words come, and can’t plan…
    Maybe if you let yourself do that at least one day of the week it might lead to something interesting?

  10. Playing is SO important. Giving your brain a little room to stretch and explore without constraints can work wonders for creativity. I think you’re doing the right thing by working on a completely different project, just for fun.


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