September and October mark the onset of autumn here in south central PA. I love everything about autumn from the colors, to the smell of dying flora, to the invigorating crispness of the air, to the calming effects of shorter days. But as much as I love it, it is also a time filled with anxiety for me.
Recently I have been on a book-a-year schedule, releasing one new title each year and always toward the end of the year, or the holiday season. That means that for the months before its release I am functioning at warp speed. I think the book coming out this year is my 7th (published) novel and as with every one that has preceded it, it is causing me to second guess everything about myself as a writer.
The last two months before publication are always crunch time, so many details to check and double check before signing off on it. You’d think by now I’d be better at rolling with the punches and trust that hard work and experience will ensure all will end fine. But I’m not. Instead, I still worry I won’t be able to finish the final several chapters to satisfaction and end up writing utter crap just to be able to stamp “The End” on the last page in time to make my deadline. I worry (constantly) that there will be some kind of major malfunction that erases all of my work, not only on my computer, but my external and cloud storage as well. I worry that I will get lost in the final compile: TOC, font, formatting/trim size details leaving more work, my cover graphic won’t meet requirements, and of course, I’ll find major mistakes only AFTER it’s been published.
I’ve always managed to thrive under pressure and reach the intended goal (knock on wood), but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like my brain is eating itself from the inside out while doing so. I become flustered easily this time of year, I take in copious amounts of caffeine, and I get little sleep because my brain won’t shut off (or maybe because of the coffee? I’ll have to look into that.) It takes longer to get into the zone, but once in I resist being pulled out. My OCD nature goes into overdrive. I check, double-check, and triple-check every little detail and still worry myself sick when it comes time to send it off for good.
I’m not alone in this. Any creative I’ve ever met has their own set of anxieties and compulsions that either feed their fire or put it out. Some reach a new level of success after winning an award and spend the rest of their days (not writing) worrying they will never duplicate or surpass the success they’ve already achieved. Some believe themselves to be a failure, going through the motions but never quite reaching their self-imposed ideal of success. Some spend years circling their WIP on the tail of writer’s block, using it as an excuse to not fail. That’s right, you can’t fail if you don’t attempt. And then there are those who want to have written, but find the idea of writing crippling.
I’m at the beginning of my Sixty Days of Chaos, as I’ve nicknamed it, and just wanted to take a moment to shout out to any and every writer/creative who experiences the anxieties of creativity. Maybe it’s the fear, the worry, the self-doubt, and sometimes the self-loathing that fuels our drive. Don’t run from it, embrace it.
I tend to spend less time interacting when I have a deadline bearing down on me, so I won’t be around as much to offer encouragement and keep up with those whose journey I follow. I won’t forget you, and I’ll be ready to catch up on Day 61.
For those who reached the end of the post, a sneak peek at the cover of my upcoming release… (tentative cover) although I am pretty set on it. This is a view of both front and back cover, before binding text and back matter are added.