Anxiety or Burnout? The mystery of my missing motivation

I am normally a self-motivated person. I know what I want to accomplish and I get it done. All my life I have been a workhorse, churning out whatever work I needed to do—homework, work work, video production, writing. But for some reason, I have been highly unmotivated lately.

All I’ve really wanted to do is retreat into my genealogy hobby and shut out the rest of the world. Forgetting all my other responsibilities sounds good, as does sleeping for a week. I have projects I want to write, but apparently not enough to actually sit down and do them. I’ve been reading very little as well. I just feel exhausted inside and out.

Sounds a lot like burnout. Unfortunately, all of those symptoms are also signs of my anxiety. So which is it?

It could be anxiety. I have plenty of social and political stressors in my life right now—stressors I haven’t had before. My overall anxiety level has been higher than usual—I lay awake at night with crazy scenarios of catastrophe running through my head. Professionally, I am in that place where the last writing project is complete and I need to start a new one. That spot can be thrilling—but it can also be scary. Which project to pick? What if it doesn’t go well? A novel is a long-term commitment, I want to be sure I’m putting my time into the right project. I’m also querying, which in itself is not too stressful, but…what if someone actually wants to represent me? Wonderful, of course, but it would be a new chapter, a big change—and sometimes the fear of success is as paralyzing as the fear of failure.

It could be burnout. I haven’t had a real vacation in almost two years. What do you mean? I hear people saying. You’ve posted beach photos. You’ve been on vacation! I hear you. But that’s not the type of vacation I had in mind. A “real” vacation, for me, is when there’s nobody around. No husband, no child, no deadlines, no nothing. Just me. Now, I love my family, and I enjoy my work, but I am a classic textbook introvert. I need absolute solitude to truly recharge myself. My husband is wonderful and tries to get me some alone time on the weekends so I can relax, but it’s never quite enough (especially because I often spend it working, LOL). I am fast approaching the point where I have no social reserves left—and that saps energy from my creative well.

So which is it? I don’t know. The truest answer is, perhaps, both. I need to dig out of it, but am not quite sure how. I have joined a book club just to get myself reading (and reading outside my usual genres). The answer may be as simple as just making myself write. Just sit down and write something. Anything. Or maybe I need some outside accountability. After all, I submit my blogs on time.

I will slog through this morass as I have every other one, because I am nothing if not persistent. And I know all things come to an end, this slump included.

How do you re-motivate yourself when you hit a motivation desert?

The Internal Saboteur

We all know about the “internal critic” or “internal editor.” You know, the one who keeps telling us things like, “That comma doesn’t go there.” or “That’s the worst sentence ever written.” or “No one’s going to want to read the trash you’re writing.” And there are many blog posts out there dealing with how to turn him off or shut him down.

But what about your “internal saboteur”?

What? You’ve never heard of that one? Then pay attention, because he might be why you’re not moving forward as fast as you’d like.

The internal saboteur is not loud like the internal editor. Like most saboteurs, he prefers to work quietly and unnoticed. Subtle. Insidious.

The internal saboteur is why you stop working on a manuscript when you’re getting close to the end. He’s why you put off sending out those query letters. He’s why cleaning the bathroom suddenly seems more appealing than doing the final polish on your short story.

In short, he is every reason you procrastinate when you could actually be accomplishing something.

The internal saboteur is fear made manifest—but not fear of failure. He is fear of success.

That’s right, fear of SUCCESS.

Why would you be afraid of success? Because success means change, and change is very hard for a lot of people. Success in writing can mean a huge amount of change in a short amount of time, too, robbing us of the ability to ease into our new world slowly. The internal saboteur doesn’t want to deal with the change.

How to I know about the internal saboteur? I live with him every day. It’s no secret I wrestle with an anxiety disorder. This means everyday things can be incredibly difficult for me—just talking on the phone can break me out in sweat. My fear rises up every time I try to step out of my sheltered routine—to see a movie or go out to eat or see a concert or visit a friend. Simple things. Yet my fear will grab me, try to convince me that I am too ill or too tired to go out and do these things. That I don’t really want to. That it would be harmful to go. I must fight the physical symptoms of this fear and push ahead anyway. Live my life in spite of my internal saboteur.

Since he is so prevalent in my daily life, it comes as no surprise that my internal saboteur is hard at work in my writing life as well. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with me writing, per se (he leaves that to the inner critic). But once I have a piece written, he fights hard to make sure I never do anything productive with it. It becomes too great a chore to finish revising those last few chapters. I’m too tired to research agents to query, and I definitely need to nap instead of researching markets for the short story I wrote. I procrastinate, playing Solitaire over and over, finding other chores to do, or simply escaping into the rabbit-hole of genealogy research.

I know my internal saboteur when I see him. Sometimes it takes a few days, but I know the signs. And when I finally recognize him for what he is, I have to rally myself, kick him to the curb, and get on with the things I need to do to further my career.

One of my goals in 2013 is to recognize him earlier, to loosen his grip on my career. I spend my whole life beating him off with a stick so I can enjoy my life—I refuse to let him steal my writing career from me.

Take a look at what’s holding you back in your writing career. Are the obstacles real—or are they the constructs of your internal saboteur? Is it the OBJECTS that are insurmountable—or the FEAR?

Don’t let fear of success hold you back.

No matter what your internal saboteur says, you deserve success just as much as everyone else. Go and grab it.

GoosesQuill FB

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien