Learning –Should I Take the Plunge?

On the heels of my annual spring slump, which I discussed in my last post, comes my dire need to shake things up and find meaning. Post-slump, I start to get itchy in both my personal and professional lives –I feel like I should be doing more, challenging myself more… Needless to say, a lot of feelings of inadequacy come out of it.

The only answer I really know to all of my problems is learning. However.

I have no desire to get an MFA; I never have. I don’t think having a degree in Fine Arts necessarily makes you a better a writer, unless you’re looking to get into the academic politics of creative writing. I don’t have the patience or the energy for such a world. Maybe that will change, but not in my immediate future.

Neither am I at the point of wanting to go to graduate school for anything in English because I don’t have anything to add to academia at this time. I can be part of the conversation, sure, but I want to start a conversation, not merely participate.

As for going back to school to study anything else, my heart’s not in it. Not to mention I’m still carrying a swack of student debt that I don’t need to add to simply on a whim.

Thus, I’ve been leaning towards more life-applicable courses in a field I never thought I’d have any interest in: business. Even writing that down gives me the heebee jeebees. But I work for a large corporation, and there are parts of it I want to understand better, and I want to have the knowledge and skills to put my feet in other doors because there are days I feel like I could be easily walked past. Plus, being a writer nowadays is akin to owning and running your own business, so any base in that area will be a boon for me.

I love the abstractness and critical thinking that are part and parcel of academia, but those outside of that world don’t have a clue that those are the main skills cultivated, or that those skills are important and widely applicable. Thankfully I am a person who can pick up almost any skill and apply my knowledge in a lot of circumstances; but sometimes people don’t want to take the gamble with me. I’ll admit I feel a bit vulnerable in the real world sometimes.

Then of course, money is an issue. As is time. I know if push comes to shove I am a good saver and a good prioritizer. So, do I take the plunge where learning is concerned? I’m still thinking, but I do have a course in mind and I’ve been looking at my budget.

Getting Through My Spring Slump

Upon reading all the literature out there and watching the people around me, spring truly is the quintessential time for growth and new beginnings.

The days are longer, warmer. People are coming out of their winter hibernations to do all the stuff. There’s energy in the air.

What says spring more than daisies?

What says spring more than daisies?

And here’s about the time I admit that I seriously struggled to get through spring. Every year it’s the same thing: I start to feel heavy and exhausted as April rolls around, and I lose sight and motivation as far as my personal goals go all the way to June.

Every spring, without fail, this happens to me. It used to require my the-end-of-school-is-almost-here-just-keep-going mantra. Now there’s no school, no ending to be celebrated, no break to embrace. Just a continuous path of just-keep-going.

This spring has been particularly bad since I’ve had additional stressors and energy-sucks added on. I’m only now coming out of the fog and I am woefully behind everywhere I look.

I don’t know if it’s the longer hours of sunlight messing with my night owl tendencies

I don’t know if it’s the influx of allergens that make my body require more adjustment time.

I don’t know if it’s the increased activity since winter does tend to make me much more homebound, and hence more productive, whereas spring requires me to get myself out there.

I don’t know if it’s the increase in temperature –this May and June have been the hottest I have ever experienced. If they’re any indication of July and August I may be a puddle by the time September rolls around.

Perhaps it’s a mix of all of those factors and other entities I’ve yet to identify. All I know is that I need better coping strategies because losing three months of discipline and words is much worse now that I have less free time because of work and family.

Setting myself a reminder about my usual slump time as the spring season rolls around might be a good start for next year, but I’ll definitely need to do more to lessen the impact.

If anyone out there has any strategies now is the time to share them!

An Epiphany and A Facepalm

From the day I started blogging on Anxiety Ink to my initial planning for E.V. Writes, I have tried desperately to pinpoint the theme that connects all my stories together. Well, a “marketable” theme that I could put in a single line.

Early on, when I thought of going the indie publishing route, not that that is off the table by any means, a lot of veterans noted that it was important to have a specific theme or a brand. An author brand is essentially the themes and messages that connect all of one’s work, which determines what a writer wants to be known for. A brand sets you apart and helps you could connect to your readers right from the get go.

I’ve posited a lot of ideas to myself that lacked specificity and direction. I can’t even share my poor examples because they are atrocious grasps at flimsy straws.

Needless to say, I was overcome with anxiety because my current body of work is small and I could not for the life of me determine how all of the pieces I have created connect to one another. Saying I write about women who are independent and strong-willed does not exactly set me apart.

My epiphany isn’t as bright as it could be, by which I mean my theme still lacks a certain directness that I need to determine by writing more stories but I finally feel like I’m on the right track, the end of which I cannot wait to get to!

What I write are survival stories. No, I don’t write tales of outdoor adventures about humanity versus nature. Survival doesn’t have to as extreme as all that. I write about the different ways people survive through the struggle of life. Everyone suffers trials and documenting how people get through some of the worst things and come out the other side still roaring to live is what I do. Survival under all its definitions and nuances is what I document.

And now that I’ve written that down, I realize that’s EVERY. SINGLE. STORY. OUT. THERE.

Damn.

Alright. Back to the drawing board. Again. It sounded good at midnight…

Double damn.

untitled by Julia via Flickr. Looks like a classical facepalm to me.

untitled by Julia via Flickr. Looks like a classical facepalm to me.

Developing Resilience

Between work and my personal life over the past few months, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress. I’ve also been taking a lot of work stress home with me because I’m extremely frustrated with certain team members. I’ve always done my best to leave work at work, but it’s been spilling over a lot lately.

Last month I had a little sit down with our district vice president, and he asked me what my happiness level is at work on a scale of 1 to 10. Sensing yet another mini-lecture if I said what I really thought (a previous answer to a different question had led to a long reply), I gave it a 9.

Later that same week in my monthly one on one with my manager, she brought up my 9 grade, and because I’m much more comfortable with her, I told her I’m really at about a 7. It’s the highest I’ve been at over the past year, since at one point I was dreading coming to work and got stomach pains thinking about aspects of it. Thankfully, that problem has been resolved.

Still, I’m not as happy as my manager and I know I could be –and the root of this problem is not going to go away. So we discussed me developing better coping mechanisms –like focusing on positives and letting things go. I do my best to practice both in my personal life so it makes sense do the same at work.

A little while after our conversation, I came across this tip sheet on my company’s newsfeed called “Build Your Personal Resilience”:

Building Resilience

This is an amazing list of ways to help people build themselves up so that they can better cope with stress. It’s all about making a positive foundation so that when stressful changes occur, one is ready to be flexible and better able to manage. It’s all extremely obvious, but when you’re floundering in an emotional lake, having those points in front of you is the best life preserver.

life preserver by gabe popa via Flicker

life preserver by gabe popa via Flicker

I don’t like change, but I would normally call myself a resilient person. Lately, not so much. I’m constantly stressed and on edge, which is making itself very obvious to me by the fact that my sleep is off, more often than not I am frustrated no matter what I’m doing, I haven’t had any desire to write, and I feel absolutely zero motivation to do anything. I’m just going through the motions of life.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is part of a cycle. My personal stress –which has been extremely high since November due to some significant life changes– is feeding into my work stress which is in turn spiking my stress levels when I’m away from work and on and on it goes until it is completely out of hand.

The worst part is that it is robbing me of the things that make me happy and relieve/reduce my stress because I am sucked dry of all mental energy.

I hit my breaking point on March 25th. I was jogging and pulled a muscle in my leg. Again. I’m mad because I have been working so hard on upping my physical endurance and I take great pains and precautions to prevent injury.

Obviously, I was ignoring the warning signs because this injury doesn’t just happen (unless you’re an athlete); it’s the product of cumulative stress and strain.

Sound familiar?

Instead of taking it easy and letting my body heal from its minor stress, I pushed and pushed until I can’t even walk on the treadmill without pain, let alone run.

As mad as I am at myself, I’m looking for the silver lining –I’m taking this as a sign that if I don’t get a grip and practice my mental coping mechanisms instead of pushing everything back without dealing with it, my psyche is going to snap and that will require far more care and rehab than my poor leg.

While I’m taking it easy on my abused body, I’m also taking steps at showing myself positive progress. I’ve created a fitness binder full of data and useful quotes to keep me motivated while I grapple with my inability to jog for the foreseeable future. See, creating a positive foundation here!

Next I intend to sweep away all of the physical and metaphysical detritus keeping me away from writing and all of the other things that make me happy.

I’m relearning how to cope with the things I cannot change instead of letting them chip away at me because my foundation is currently not up to snuff. That is changing.