Treading Water: When the work seems futile

Perhaps it is the artist’s temperament, but I sometimes feel down for no real reason. Not depressed, just as if I am performing exercises in futility—like I’m treading water.

There are days, sometimes weeks, when I feel simultaneously overwhelmed and like nothing is happening. I tried to explain this to my husband the other day, and the best analogy I could come up with was treading water. I’m not drowning, but I’m not moving forward, either.

Usually this suspended feeling happens when I combine too little sleep with too many projects, with a healthy dose of my-daughter-is-giving-me-a-stroke-itis. Almost always, this feeling grabs me when I am working on many projects that have no immediate payoff, such as working on social media stuff or blogging or at the beginning of a long novel. When these things happen all at once, it creates that feeling of working hard and getting nowhere fast.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the type of person who insists on instant gratification. But sometimes I wonder why I’m doing all this. I start to wonder why I blog. Or write a short story. Or even work on my current Work-In-Progress. I work so hard and then wonder, so what? I mean, who cares, really? And what does it matter, really? Who is ever going to notice if I just stop it all right now? And sometimes it gets so overwhelming that I actually do think about walking away.

But I know I won’t.

Because people have told me that they read my blog and it helps them. Because I learn so much from the blogs I write for. Because people have told me that they read my latest short story and it moved them. Because I am excited about my current WIP. Because I know I will not always be exhausted and have a preschooler underfoot to make writing time a guilty pleasure. Because I have my debut novel coming out next year and am crazy excited about it.

Because I will never stop writing until I am dead. It is who I am, not what I do. And if even one thing I write helps one person, then I have changed the world.

That is no small thing.

Do you ever feel like this? How do you shake out of your funk when it seems like all your work is futile?

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