How We Write: When our soul is tired…

Ever panic, thinking you might never be able to do what you love again?


Me? I love writing. It’s my job,  but also my passion; how I enter the world. And after a season of not feeling well enough to do much of it, I was on a roll in 2012. That is, until the great crash of early 2013.

Hello, my name is Anna. And I haven’t been able to write for over two weeks. Not even a blog post. Me–and I LOVE to blog. Three, sometimes four times a week,  blogging is my morning writing exercise.

It’s how I prime the creative pump. It’s the blood that flows first, engaging my creativity, helping me smile or think or dig a little deeper  until I’m ready to tackle my daily pages. But ever since I turned in the final developmental rewrites for Three Days on Mimosa Lane the first week in February…nada. The well wasn’t just dry–picture a bunch of two-by-fours nailed across the opening, daring me to rip through them and face the big, bad ugly lurking beyond.

But why? Have the two and a half weeks been about being lazy? Giving up? What about the month before that, when I barely had the energy to complete the TDOML developmental edits and didn’t blog in January, either?

You’ve heard of bone tired. I think I’ve stumbled across the state of being I’m going to call Soul Tired.

soul tired

Overwhelmed. That’s where we sometimes find ourselves, whether its about writing or family or friends or other commitments that we love but realize we can’t face. Not right now. Not with a smile on our faces and a I’m so glad to be here hug.

When you’re soul tired, you’re disconnected. Sometimes, you’re overwhelmed. But always, always, you’re looking at the world around you and realizing you no longer know or feel your place in it. This happens to me after every manuscript is completed, in some form or another. But the crash this time, the emptying of the determination and drive and excitement of my creative life, was deeper and had lasted longer than anything I’ve encountered before.

And yet, I have another book due June 1st (Love on Mimosa Lane, which I already love ;o), and travel planned (to teach, which I also love ;o), and a family who’d like to get to know me again (more Love!) and good friends patiently waiting for me to dig myself out of my funk. Life is good. But how do you feel that, when you’re soul’s running on empty? How do you feel enough to get back to the writing that’s supposed to feed all the rest of who you are?

It’s easy to say you need to recharge. But be careful with that. Trying to force juice back into a drained system can be tricky business.


What I’ve discovered over the years (and had to re-learn this month) is that sometimes a creative system needs to run on empty for a while, with no direction and no rejuvenation and no demands taxing its depleted resources. Sometimes we need to just be, without direction or goals or productive output. Sometimes, lazy is the best medicine of all.

Take this blog post. I’ve tried to write it every day for over two weeks. I’d open the draft each morning (which I’ve lost more than once, btw, through some computer glitch or another) and stare at it, get distracted by a half a dozen things, and it would still be sitting there uncompleted at the end of the work day. Take the emails that have piled up since I dove into heavy developmental edits in January, which I’ve prioritized and have a task list for, but I can’t seem to whittle away at any but the most critical of them. Take the recipes I’m dying to try (not that I’m dairy AND gluten and soy free), but the thought of making a grocery list, shopping for ingredients, and following basic cooking instructions without setting my kitchen on fire takes feeling overwhelmed to a panic that leaves me in a flop sweat just thinking about it.

There’s no recharging when you’re that drained. When you’re soul’s that tired and overstimulated and wired, there’s no medicine for what ails you, except for a few weeks of doing absolutely nothing. Keep in mind that in those two weeks we’ve celebrated my teen’s 17th birthday (sniffle and YAY!), hosted my in-laws in town, dealt with half a dozen other minor watershed moments in my and my husband’s professional lives, as well has helping the teen face through his final round of Governor’s Honors interviews, prepping for SATS, beginning to strategize for college and scholarship applications, and the list goes on… Restful, no. But I could deal with those moments, as long as I didn’t have to plan or monitor progress or be 100% responsible on my own for the outcome of anything.

So it’s been two weeks of no expectations. No gauging results. No consequences. No labeling anything a success. Just living…

Just Be

So how do we write when we’re soul tired? My advice is, we don’t. We live. We revel. We experience. We re-fill that well, without focusing on recharging energy. We don’t place any demands on time for a change. For just a little while.

If we do, the writing and the creative and the determination will come back. But the longer we try to force the mending of an over-taxed mind, the weaker and more delayed the recovery–and the soul that returns.

These last few weeks, I’ve been planning both Love on Mimosa Lane as well as a four-book continuation of the ML series. In my mind. Nothing on paper. But…I’m suddenly in love with the ideas that are beginning to take shape.

I’m excited about the possibility of diving into my fourth novel in less than a year. I’m beginning to sleep again at night. Just a little. I can almost believe the pressure won’t crush me this time, as I launch back into new writing, while I wait for more edits on Three Days on Mimosa Lane, while I plan promotion for it’s July 23rd release (as well as for the first three books in the series, since for around 6 months from July ‘13 through next year this time I’ll be promoting something from Mimosa Lane pretty much non-stop), while I help coordinate the 2013 RWA Conference workshops, while I prepare to travel and teach other writers about the craft I love so much…

These last few weeks, I’ve turned off the fear and expectations and learned how to just be again. A person, an artist, a writer, a wife and mother.

Try it, the next time your soul feels to numb to deal with the next thing on your list.

I promise…sometimes doing absolutely NOTHING is the very best medicine of all.

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23 Responses to “How We Write: When our soul is tired…”

  1. Emily Sewell says:

    Glad you’re back with us, Anna! Kudos on taking the time you needed to restore your creativity. :)

  2. Hi, Anna!

    Ok, I’ve started this comment three times. Let me just say that I appreciated your help recently, and now I really appreciate it knowing you were in an energy hole. It’s one of the hazards of the creative life, that we ebb and flow, and sometimes the ebbs and flows are stronger than other times. I’m glad you had the time and opportunity to recharge, and I look forward to revisiting Mimosa Lane.

    “Doctor C.”

    • I had to take the time, I think, PARTICULARLY meeting with friends and authors younger in their careers than me (I had a blast last weekend at the GRW meeting, too, AND taught at the Atlanta Writer’s Club). I needed to feel like I was part of something bigger than my little world and the next book. You know?

      Thanks for being part of that!

      And I’m SO excited about your new venture ;p

  3. susan meier says:

    I should have read this the first week in February when all I wanted to do was vegge, but I stared at a computer screen instead. One novella, one short story and one novel all written in about eight weeks drained me.

    Now I feel a tad more able to write, but still don’t want to! LOL

    Maybe I need another week.

    susan meier

    • Yeah, I’m staring too much still, too. But the looming things on the calendar are too daunting to veg for much longer.

      How to balance the guilt/fear and the resting…THAT’s the trick of our trade!

  4. You, go, Madam Author. I’m cheered to think of my writing life as an iceberg. It’s easy to think the words on the page are the measure of my writer-ness, but they’re only what’s sticking above the surface. To float along as a whole writer, much more has to go on. I must rest, I must observe, I must have the mental white space to watch my world and my thoughts. I must eat, sleep, slog, read, walk, research, and sometimes drive coast to coast to germinate a single idea some times.

    Productivity is what we’re hammered with in many of the writer’s advice blogs: Write every day. Hone your craft. Don’t wait to pitch until it’s perfect. Ramming speed!

    Better we should hear more often about patience and self-acceptance. The books that come from THAT process, I want to read.

    • I think discipline is key. And, yes, productivity is as much a part of our job as it is in any other career. But creating is also a deeply personal, internal thing. And an exhausting one. Sometimes we need to get out of our heads and live a little more outwardly. Without feeling as if we’re failing because we’ve stepped away from our computers/notepads.

      I’m still exhausted and panicked about the TONs of work facing me in ‘13. But I don’t feel I’m going to burst into tears anymore, every time I look at my schedule…

      So that’s progress. Right???

  5. Eden Mabee says:

    Sometimes we just need to stop running and enjoy the scenery…. before we hamstring ourselves. I certainly can see that. This was exactly what I needed to read today… the day that I realized I kept making one little mistake on an envelope and each time I tried to fix it, I made another–more obvious–mistake.

    Thank you, Anna. I needed this.

  6. Skye says:

    I’m glad you’ve been able to start filling up your reservoirs again. Being that emptied out can be so exhausting and overwhelming. Good for you for having the patience to figure out what you needed and give it to yourself! And I’m glad you are back at work on another Mimosa Lane novel! Yay!

    • Thanks, Skye!

      I’m in love with Three Days on Mimosa Lane–it takes place over 8 months on the lane, but I show you only 3 days. Well, three days and another morning (in the epilogue, which I know some feel should never be included in a novel ;o)

      I know it’s going to be worth all the hard work, as will be the travel and teaching and promoting to come. Plus the work on Love on Mimosa Lane, which is only in the planning stages for now. If I can just rest up enough to dive back in with enthusiasm (instead of a long, wistful sigh), that would be a dream dome true!

  7. Ella Quinn says:

    Lovely post. I’m learning that I have to take a little time off sometimes. Glad you’re recovered.

  8. You’ve been sorely missed, Anna. I’ve become addicted to this blog. Now don’t take that as more pressure, just know that when you aren’t around, many do think of you, and we all wish you well.

    I loved Christmas on Mimosa Lane and look forward to reading more ML, even if reading only gets to come in spurts.

    • I’ve missed everyone here, too, Roxann. I’ve missed the fun, safe, sometimes emotional place we’ve made for ourselves here. And I’m happy to say that coming back has felt like coming home, finally, instead of pressure. I’m thrilled with TDOML and what I’ve started of the next books in the series. I’m starting to find myself thrilled with my publishing life again. Thanks for waiting for me!

  9. Well said.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Very wise. It’s important to remember that even the Lord rested on the 7th day. In the Internet age, everybody is expected to work like a machine–grinding out work on a never-ending schedule. But we’re not machines. We have souls. And they get tired. Thanks for this.

    • Tired souls are happy souls, IMHO. But they do need their downtime, too. Make sure you make some for yourself as often as you can–so you can be happy and tired some more, once you’ve rebounded ;o)

  11. Pat Cochran says:

    When I find myself in a similar situation, it’s
    religion and music for me! I’m a member of our
    parish choir, so I just get out my music and pro-
    ceed to immerse myself in hymns. I sing my little
    heart and soul into peace!

    I’m so glad you are doing better, will keep you
    on our prayer list! God Bless!

    Pat C.

    • I’ve immersed myself in my family and friends, this break. Catching up and spending simple, quiet time with the people I love. Meeting up with writer friends and other friends, and taking the time to meet new friends, too. So important, in the feeding of my soul. And now I get to connect with all of you again! Thanks for waiting until I stumbled my way back…

  12. JeanneC says:

    I love your holistic understanding of life. Do you teach online courses? I’d love to learn from you.

    • Thanks, Jeanne. I teach a lot–writing coaching and motivational speaking. And I write as much as I can into these motivational blog threads. And I write novels that say the same sorts of things, because this is how I try to see the world and the healing thing I’d live for my books to become for readers.

      Alas, I don’t think there’s time right now for online courses. Though I’m working on pulling together my past HoWW posts (and new ones)into shorts I can indie publish.

      I think I get as much or more out of writing them as my followers do reading them!

      Thanks for letting me know how much they’ve touch you ;o)

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