An Inconstant Mojo

For a while now my mojo has been on the wane. I’ve still been working hard and getting things done but I had this sense of something lacking. I’ve been less present online and while I was doing lots of editing work, I felt quite dry creatively.

This was odd because I have projects I want to write, a whole queue of them actually.

I’d also noticed I wasn’t running as much. I told myself this was because of the cold but that was nonsense. I’ve run in snow and storms before (I’m a bit mad like that) and only icy conditions actually put me off.

One of the things I love about running and writing is that they’re things that feed me in some sense and I find I just go and do them, even when I’m tired or out of sorts. Afterwards I feel better. Also, if I don’t do them, I start to get grumpy. So it was alarming to me that the instinct to ‘do’ had diminished.

And *cough* the blog had been a bit neglected too. I’d actually written a couple of posts but decided against posting them. They seemed to be lacking something too.

Luckily my mojo has started coming back. I’m back to running regularly again (despite the cold!) and my productivity is climbing back to old levels. Now I’m not one for muses or mysticism but I did feel a little at the mercy of moods on this one.

Anyway the reason I wanted to write this post is that there was a hint of depression around the whole thing and I have this niggle to explore it.

This is hard.

Hmm.

Still hard.

When my mojo had gone it was like a mini depression. I was functional and enjoyed work and other aspects of life but I had a blind spot in the places that I normally like to inhabit.

I had no idea why.

Now, having come out of the other side I have more insight as to what happened but when I was in it, I was blind. And to be honest, I don’t think a rational understanding would have made a jot of difference.

So what’s my point?

Good question. Not sure. I think there are a couple of things though…

Thing 1.

There’s a school of thought that says when you’re struggling the only thing to do is get back on the horse. Man up! Knuckle down! Stop wasting time!

Those thoughts really didn’t help. What I needed was permission to do other things and be gentle and to trust that I’d return to normal.*

 

Thing 2.

I know myself well enough now that I can tell the difference between being afraid of doing something and hiding from it and there being a problem. That’s not to say I don’t forget sometimes 😉 .

 

Thing 3.

I think there’s a shadow side to creativity. It’s exposing and personal and ultimately I think we all want people to love our stuff in a full on cheerleader kind of way.

It can be hard to get criticism and it can be hard to see other people ‘getting it right’ when we’re not. The problem I had was that I wasn’t just looking at one person; I was looking at the internet and creating a kind of Frankenstein’s super writer out of it. Then I’d compare myself to the super monster writer and find myself lacking.

Somebody would tweet having written a thousand million words in an hour and I’d think ‘oh, I’m not that productive.’

Then another person would talk about having got a book deal and I’d think ‘oh, I’m not that successful’.

And so on.

‘Oh, I’m not that popular.’

‘Oh, I’m not that funny.’

‘Oh, I’ll never be able to pull off prose like that.’

Ugh! Just writing this makes me squirm. But I am sharing it because I know we all struggle sometimes and it’s not talked about enough. Feel free to share any of your own thoughts in the comments, although if you want to keep stuff under your hat, I’ll understand. 🙂

 

*And a tummy rub, which I asked for and received (I’m just a cat really). Thanks Em!

21 responses to “An Inconstant Mojo

  1. I feel very much the same of late. The editing stage of writing can be absorbing but its so disciplined it's hard to remind yourself you're still being creative. I get twitchy and want to throw words down on paper with abandon, then when I do I wonder if it was worth it. I guess the only way, as you say, is to keep on keeping on. Everyone doubts themselves, if they didn't they wouldn't bother trying to improve, they would stay the same. Forcing yourself on until it fits and feels right – whether that's writing, running, fencing, blogging . . . yes guilty too – is probably the only cure. So yeah, have a kitty treat.

  2. "What I needed was permission to do other things and be gentle and to trust that I’d return to normal."

    I actually needed to hear this today. Thanks.

  3. Oh gosh yes, the monster super writer. I've certainly had run ins with that bastard 😉 It's so easy to get into a panic because everyone around you (and let's face it, 99% of everyone I know on twitter is a writer) is being more productive and generally kicking more ass than you. It can be very hard to draw back from that and remind yourself that you're on a journey, not running a race.

    I've just come out of a big section of editing too, and thanks to my head being stuck in hyper-critical mode I find it always takes a while to get my confidence back. Glad to hear yours is on the mend!

    • Thanks Jen, me too! Must say it's really nice to hear so many other people having had the same thoughts. I might be crazy, but at least I'm not alone! 🙂

  4. I'm guessing you saw that Gareth Powell (I think it was he) posted this:

    http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/03/26/25-ways-to-be-a-happy-writer-or-at-least-happier/

    of relevance is 5. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
    However it's easy to say stop doing x or try doing x to make yourself happier and another to actually do it. I was speaking to a writer friend (actually an "aspiring writer") and they told me that they only wanted to write "good things" and therefore were procrastinating on actually writing without realising that the only way to write good things is to practise and that probably means writing bad things and learning from their mistakes…
    fear of failure can be worse than actual failure

  5. Oh good, it's not just me who sees the Frankenwriter. Sometimes it feels like he's this monstrously intimidating Snuffleupagus.

    I've been on this sinus infection treadmill for at least four weeks, and it's been frustrating because it seems like all my energy had been going into maintaining the status quo instead of moving forward.

    I think you're totally right about the "keep going!" advice being, for the most part, useless. Sometimes it's applicable, but usually it's just a good way to get exhausted and burnt out.

    I'm glad you're mojo's coming back. If it counts for anything, this post reminded me of an interview I read once about Kate Bush. She talked about how after every album she had to have some time to recharge her batteries. She said she'd sit at the piano, wanting to write, and nothing would come at all. I figure if it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone.

    • Being compared to Kate Bush makes me feel rather wonderful!

      And what you say about maintaining rather than moving forward really resonates with me. Hope the sinus infection clears up soon.

  6. I'm glad the mojo is coming back for you, Pete. Send some my way, won't you? I've been feeling much the same as you've described.

    • It sucks, it really does. I love the idea of being able to bottle mojo and then pass it on. Until we develop that tech you'll have to settle for an e-hug. 🙁

  7. Thing 3 is a pretty interesting area that I think gets a bit under-explored. It's made worse by the fact that success in creative fields is very self-reinforcing. Get a big hit and you're "the person who wrote X" and everyone wants to talk to you and people want to read your stuff and you get lots of compliments and retweets and so on… All of this makes sense, but it's unfortunate in a way because the people who could most do with that external support are those who haven't yet had their first big hit.

    Re: "I don't think a rational understanding would have made a lot of difference" – I suspect you're right. But at the same time I feel rational analysis of these things is critically important, because on days when things aren't going well we can't trust our feelings and have to make decisions by the numbers. If I'm going to do that I want them to be the right numbers, IYSWIM.

    • Absolutely. Feelings can be treacherous devils at times. But although my rational brain can save me from a bad decision, it doesn't make me feel any better about it. If only it could!

  8. I've been feeling a bit off the curve myself lately, thanks for sharing so I know I'm not the only one! I've run into the Monster Super Writer loads of times, and I'm not secure enough in myself to know if what I'm feeling is self-doubt or depression or just plain laziness 😉 I needed to hear this today.

    • Looking at that quote, perhaps I made that sound easier than it is! Glad it helped. I've found people's responses (yours included) incredibly helpful, so thank you. 🙂

  9. I recognise point 3 – I don't have any problems with productivity, just finding time to be productive, but whenever I see other people doing well I always look at my own pitiful writing career and think "I'm glad they're doing well but…why not me?" I know a lot of people jump about throwing pixie dust going "Oh do it for the love of it! Do it for yourself!" but to me, a writing career is no different to any other career – you want to get established and you want to be successful. It's not surprising you'd therefore feel bad when it doesn't happen for whatever reason.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Icy. Speaking as a writer with no career, I experience a duality of euphoria for my friends when they have success and hunger to get what they have. Sometimes that can be depressing, other times it fires me up to do more.

      I don't know if it helps, but you have been published and not only have I got a copy of Guns of Retribution but I really enjoyed it. Admittedly, it's not the same as a mansion and worldwide acclaim but I think making a story that somebody else can immerse themselves in is an amazing thing and you gave that to me. 🙂

  10. I'm glad you voiced some of these thoughts Peter. I think it very hard not to compare ourselves and I think to do so only leads to feelings of inadequacy. I try very hard not to do this, but if I am honest I have black moments where I feel I have failed, that maybe my book is not doing as well as the next persons etc. or that my writing lacks. But I shake these off and I keep on writing, because you hit it on the nail when you said: "One of the things I love about running and writing is that they’re things that feed me in some sense and I find I just go and do them, even when I’m tired or out of sorts. Afterwards I feel better. "

    Writing, creating makes me lose myself, forget my anxieties and just be in a space that makes me happy. So keep on writing Peter, don't compare yourself with anyone else because you are unique and your writing is your writing as mine is mine. ^_^

    • Absolutely! And thanks for stopping by Helen. What makes it tricky is that when we're in the depths of the struggle it's hard to keep perspective. That's when it's important to have cool people around us.

  11. Everyone on the internet conglomerating into a Frankenstein Super Writer makes sense to me. I think much of my shadowy dread about my work doing more comes from conglomerating great writers and thinking they all share every single strength – which, thankfully, isn't the case. I just need to focus on logically analyzing them to convince myself of it. It also leads to a much more profound appreciation for the greatnesses they actually do achieve, and how one might pursue them.

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