My Love Letter to Writers: To the burnouts

It’s the middle of summer here in the northern half of the planet, and the third coast has no scarcity of surf, sand, woodlands, and all the amazing things that make life, well… amazing. Unfortunately, I’m a full time employee of a company whose busiest times of year are the summer fair/festival season and (you may have guessed it) Christmas. And if you’ve read me at all in the past three years, you’ve heard my lamentations regarding my sleeping arrangements, housed as I am with a 90-year-old dementia patient, a toddler, his working and stressed out parental units, my over-worked hub (see parent with dementia), oh and now the spare to the Boehm fortune is dating. And you’re murmering about writer stuff? PU-LEASE!

Truth is, I get it. Even if you do what you love to do as often as you can, relationships—all relationships—ebb and flow. We humans need periods of rest, even from the things we love, and if we don’t give ourselves permission (or more often, life itself gets us over committed) we burn out. And then? Everything is a drain on our spirits.

There is a person in my life who is dear to me, who even at the passionate beginnings of her career as entrepreneur/editor/author is experiencing a bit of burn out. She would deny it, selfless and committed as she is, but I see it. And even though my own needs for validation rise up because, well… she gets me like no one else does, the voice of experience, of wisdom, and of empathy today is a little bit louder.

Dear One, I get it. I know where you are. Surrounded by the very thing you’ve fought and cried for and right now? You fight the urge to get up and walk away. You force yourself to digest one more paragraph. One more page. And it’s like? It’s like… being dipped in acid. So move closer to the screen while I whisper an itty bitty exhortation: it’s okay to walk away.

Burn out is a real thing and requires real attention. It’s not like powering through a bout of boredom or a pesky bit of writers interference (because writer’s block is a lie). Burn out is a killer. Just like a fire out of control, it sucks up all the fodder in the room, chokes the light, and destroys the oxygen. And it will take your creator soul with it.

So give yourself permission to get up from the desk, put the project down, and walk away. And if you are able to do so, don’t sit back down until you’re itchy and twitchy and bursting at the seams with ideas and thoughts. If you’re overcommitted in the rest of your life as I am, put a time limit on your hiatus. Maybe you just need to go get a waffle cone full of chocolate studded, caramel drizzled, hard serve ice cream. Or maybe you need to pack a change of clothes and indulge yourself with a road trip. Or maybe you just need to curl up with your resident feline/child/underappreciated spouse and binge watch something on Netflix.

Whatever the escape route, take it and don’t apologize. Unlike powering through, stopping to breathe deeply is the best fix I know for burn out.

My friend will probably struggle with this concept. Even her “down time” is planned to the nanosecond, because she is a dynamo. I’m a hot mess, and I struggle with it. But dear ones, if we do not learn to give ourselves the break we would never deny those around us, we will come to resent the very thing for which we are so passionate.

Your “gift” should not be your “burden.”

A special thank you to Kristina and Rani for trusting me with your writer hearts these past few weeks. If I’ve imparted nothing else, I leave you with this: You are deeply loved and treasured. Now go take over the world!

Peace.

Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

My Love Letter to Writers: Dear Anthropophobia

It seems that all my life I’ve been under the authority of those who primarily used me to fulfill their own agenda, caring little about my own small dreams and aspirations. I remember specifically, as a child making cards for my mom, carefully choosing a color palette, writing a few lines of stilted poetry and drawing a pastoral scene on the cover. It was only natural for me to try to please a parent. It is what kids do.

Unfortunately, my mom’s taste was more discriminating than anything my small hands could produce. She admonished me that she wanted a “real” card with real poetry. I complied. And I delayed my foray into writing for another eight years.

As I age, my mom has been replaced by potential editors who recommended radical changes to my writing style and genres for which I had no interest. I’ve frequented social writing groups who politely skimmed my flayed emotional innards, and as I joined the “legitimate” workforce my creativity has been relegated to the occasional process flow or informational email. I have conformed to the needs and expectations of so many other people that sometimes I lose my own identity in the morass bosses and coworkers and needy family members.

I know I could write if it wasn’t for all the people…

Dear one, the truth is, as much as I desire to exhort you, to inspire and encourage you, I must be honest with you. The people who malign you, who misunderstand you or who just plain seem to irritate the stuffing out of you until you can’t even think of picking up a pen—as much as you’d love to wave a hand and mute them all for an hour or a day—people are not going to go away.

Unfortunately, the more you write, the more you will be compared, critiqued, and categorized. And unless you are fulfilled in creating for your eyes alone (and if you are, that’s okay) you will have to come to terms with the fact that other people exist and will exercise their free will regarding your work.

So what can you do? Do you give up altogether because you simply can’t deal with one more judge in your immediate vicinity? I can tell you that sometimes, when we lay down a gift, we lose it forever. But most of the time, if the gift is innate to us, it doesn’t lay silent. It doesn’t behave. It festers and busts out when least appropriate.

Giving up really isn’t an option and stifling it won’t help you. You simply need to set parameters for your creative endeavors. Settle it in your heart that your ability is as unique as your fingerprint, no matter how often you are compared to someone else. You are the only you there is. Steward the precious work of your hands appropriately. Share it only with those whose opinions and perhaps correction matter. And don’t allow yourself to be bullied by some editor with too much to read and not enough concern for you as a real writer.

Of course, if you’re sending writing in for publication, make sure you’ve edited and re-edited and that you are writing in line with the parameters of the publishing house. Beyond that, dear writer, to thine own self be true.

People and publication and any other form of external acceptance does not make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer. So be encouraged. Writing and creativity is organic. It ebbs and flows. It and you will change over time. You can share your work, cultivate your talent as you see fit. It is yours. An extension of you. So embrace it and walk out your dream.

Peace

Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

My Love Letter to Writers: Dear Anxiety

I remember it well. As far back as my memory goes, I was a bit precocious. Seeking attention from those in authority and admiration from my peers, my hand shot up to be picked for reading assignments, chalkboard writing, and the coveted spoken parts in class presentations. I was quick with a flair for the dramatic.

And then it happened. A well known poem. An easy presentation. An entire school. I got the first line out. And then my brain stopped. All my friends, my enemies, teachers, and strangers staring up at me as I desperately searched my mind for the next line. After an interminable amount of time, a teacher slipped me a notecard with the poem on it…and as I bent to pick up the proffered life ring I knocked over the microphone stand…and my performing days were over.

For the next semester, kids in groups of twos and threes would join up chanting the poem at me in the lunch room and on the playground. Even after I brought back a trophy for the school as an orator, the teasing was brutal.

Over fifty years later, I still experience moments of anxiety and even terror when speaking to someone I don’t know or facing something I’ve never faced. And now, my life most certainly half over, it is the thought of my very mortality that awakens me in the night, or stops me in the middle of my day causing my heart to race and my hands to sweat. It is a sinister and ever-present companion.

Dear one, none of us is exempt from moments of fear and anxiety, and perhaps a bit of adrenalin now and then can serve well to let us know we are still alive. But if that feeling crawls its way up your spine and down to your hands, effectively paralyzing you every time you attempt to write sentence, know this: you are good enough.

Even if you fail. Even if you forget the words for a moment. Even if others speak harshly the voices of those who would say cruel things to you in your moment of embarrassment, those people do not matter. Don’t place your own worth in their hands. You are good enough.

You see, as a creative soul, and even more as a human, we are not perfect nor are we really expected to be. It’s okay if the rhyme is stilted or the picture off center. It is so much more important that you took the step to follow the call in your heart, the whispering dream at your core and create something. When you take your eyes off others and listen to your own heart—this is when you will again experience joy in your gift.

Should you eventually seek an audience again, then of course preparedness can prevent a lot of embarrassment, but it’s no guarantee that as you put your art out there it will be accepted and understood. If you’re focused on fame and fortune, you’re focused on the wrong thing anyway.

Your art is an extension of you, and just like you pick yourself up after physically tripping, brush yourself off and keep moving forward, when your creation doesn’t meet the expectations of others, remember that the expectations of others are theirs. Your art is you.

Allow yourself to take a chance on yourself and as you continue to create, the anxiety will abate. If you give in and let fear paralyze you it will only bring a legacy of regret. And regret is a soul crusher.

So pick up that pen again and write. Even if your hands shake, put one word down and then another and another until the page is full. Keep writing until your heart smiles. I promise you, you will not regret it.

Peace.

Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

My Love Letter to Writers: Dear Anger

It’s getting late on the third coast. The sunlight shifts through summer foliage, gilding the leaves in a soft amber glow. Lake Michigan has rolled again in her earthen barrier, and the waves though benignly skittering along the shoreline are deceptively cold. Usually warm, even this mighty body of water shifts from warm to cold when enough wind and chaos churn her depths. I suppose the same goes for the best of us.

Truth is, I’m angry these days. Never one to attempt to play the fair card because life at best is messy, even I am frustrated by the steady, inexorable barrage of insults to my ego and the tearing away of all I hold important in my personal and professional life.

Truth is, I want a win. I’m weary of my efforts falling short. Perhaps I’m selfish but I don’t want to waste my time on things that will never benefit me. Why create if no one ever sees it?

Dear one, we all experience frustration in our lives at all levels. The more life we live the more opportunity for hardship. Our health, our finances, and even those precious creative dreams morph into toothy sleep eating monsters, and we become angry. So angry that we stop the very thing that helps us deal with the chaos. We stop creating because we get it twisted, the very reason we create becomes about the “get” when it should be about the “give.”

You see, you are creator. You are writer and visionary. You are a weaver of words and a wielder of color and thought. Your dream is your weapon against the frustration and the anger that comes when we fixate on the things we cannot change or have little power over. We forget that our power, your power, is found in your ability to create, to write, and to dream things into this reality that change it for the better.

Don’t let your anger steal your creative dreams. Your unique gift, even if the world at large seems to look away is who you are. You don’t need the attention or the approval of others to be you. Your words are yours. Don’t worry if they mirror the anger and the frustration and the broken you may feel—even against the words themselves and yourself because you write them. Just write them.

Eventually, it will be like a spigot that hasn’t been opened. The creation will have teeth and nails and a cranky disposition. But eventually, the words will run clear. The notes will be clean and harmonious. The palette will reflect all the light and warmth of a summer day.

Best of all, you will find that you are no longer angry.

The frustration you feel will be replaced by that sense of peace and accomplishment when you allow the creativity to flow through you as intended.

When we allow ourselves to move in the giftings we have, our hearts open up. We forgive. We love. Anger diminishes. And all the other stuff in our lives gets a little easier.

Peace.

Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

My Love Letter to Writers: Dear Apathy

We’re in the middle of summer here on the third coast, soft sand, western winds and if you’re one of the beautiful young – beach life is the sweet life. Unfortunately, for those of us who are more seasoned and rounded, having Greenpeace try to push us back in the water when we’re sunning ourselves is unnerving. I’m under the AC, and my heart is on you.

Usually, when Rani turns the page over to me, there’s sass and snark and the snap of the cattle prod, but today? Today I write from that place called broken.

There are so many things, serious things, going on in my life that are probative on the creative process. I would give anything for encouragement. So, I am determining myself to give that very thing to you.

Over the next few weeks, I have a love letter for you, for you who are prohibited, blocked by apathy, anger or frustration, anxiety or fear, or perhaps the actions of other people who steal your focus, your joy and your inspiration. I hope that you read the following letters of love to you and that you are refreshed.

 

To the apathetic and the numb:

Dear one, I know the colorless gray of being lost in the blur of the mediocre and the mundane. The palette from which you painted your daydreams once vivid is now dull, muddied with responsibilities and rituals. Words that once breathed worlds now mechanical, turning and churning themselves in a repetitive loop. Your spark is now ash and you find yourself stifled by rules. By regulations. Creating is not beauty but burden, and so you stare at the blank page until you are distracted by something else that flits across your field of vision.

Perhaps you’ve bought into the lie that it doesn’t matter. That you can sink beneath the waves and disappear amongst the soulless masses and no one will suffer, but you dear one. You are suffering even as you deny it.

Apathy is a slow, slow creative death. Once we stop feeling, everything we are follows. And oblivion was never your intended destiny.

What would you give to feel the fire again? Whatever the deluge or the steady trickle of malaise that seeped into your creative core, stopping your flow, you must know this: You are in control. You can have the vibrance again.

Go back to the moments of joy, the moments when you felt alive, when your heart raced as you put pen to paper or keystroke to screen. Find that place and start again from there. Whatever the forces that stifled your creativity, dismiss them with a wave of your hand and allow the dream to bubble up until the fresh flow runs clear.

Writer, artist, creator of worlds and beauty isn’t “what you do.” It is who you are. So create, write and allow yourself to dream big. Embrace who you are, simply on the merit of who you are. Don’t worry about conforming, about playing by outside rules and regulations. Allow yourself the freedom of coloring outside the lines, of writing the words as they come, singing the song without auto tune or whatever fire within, let it spill out. Allow yourself the joy, the pain and all the amazing emotions that come with dreaming again.

Be who you are.

Peace

Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor