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  • Cate

Permission... or overwhelm revisited

It is early morning after a day of fiddling around with my author facebook page, which I have just changed to ‘shop’ format so that I can link my books to The Store at Scholastic, updating the look of my website and adding some out & about notes from the last couple of months, putting together a newsletter of sorts, and generally getting a sore back from spending too much time on my behind. Note to self: get up and move more today.

Outside, it is just getting light, clouds are moving across a pinked-tinged grey sky, and the valley below is swathed in mist. A couple of the birds that treat my garden as their favourite breakfast restaurant are sitting around outside the window requesting this morning’s menu, and the resident teenager is playing a cover of ‘Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed in the background (and it’s not often that I say that a cover is better than the original, but the way it is performed by David Draiman, it could have been written for his voice).

I’ve got a busy day in front of me, but I’m feeling more inclined to writing than any of the other things I should be doing. In a little while, I’ll drag myself away from the keyboard, don some suitably warm clothing and go for a walk, and, when I come back, I’ll work on setting up those reports for my class and start going through the work samples I’ve brought home.

They will not be finished, or even started necessarily, but they will be all set to get going on, and once my head is in the right place, they’ll get done quickly.

I recognise this stage. For me, this apparent procrastination is actually an important step in the process. It is thinking time.

For a long time I have beaten myself up about not getting things done until the last minute, but recently I’ve started to realise that I am doing things. Somewhere deep inside my brain, I’m arranging the information, sorting out what I know and what I need to know.

I do it when I’m getting into a new piece of writing, too. For a while, I will play out thoughts in my head, go for walks, have conversations with non-existent people. The beginnings of a story will start to develop some depth. Questions will arise, be answered. Characters will start to seem real and whisper ideas quietly in my ear.

Then it will all be too much to hold inside and I’ll start to write. And then I might organise my plan on paper. Um. Yes. The wrong way round, I know.

Anyway, this morning I feel like writing. Not a story, I’m between stories at the moment, having just finished two, one of which is awaiting an acquisitions team’s judgement, the other the time for me to find a different publisher. And I still have a couple of big stories that I want to rework.

No, I wanted to write a blog post.

This blog post.

Inspired by a talk on social media given by Aleesah Darlison on a dark and chilly Friday evening at a Library far, far away (or that is what it seemed like as I spent a long, lonely hour on the road on the way home), I have (as per my first paragraph) embarked on a social media frenzy.

Which also means that I’ve been going through and re-reading past posts. And I have just read one that could have been written for me. Oh, wait. It was. It was called When Things Get Too Much... or, some advice to give myself when feeling a little overwhelmed and I wrote it in November 2015, when I was feeling, um, a little overwhelmed.

And here I am again.

It is my own fault. I see shiny things and, like a magpie, collect them.

In this case, shiny things = commitments. Stuff I feel passionate about and just want to be part of. Interestingly, it has once again been my health that has triggered a reassessment of what I want to do, and what I can do, and I was already in the process of trying to rebalance by divesting myself of some of the things that have piled up like a dragon’s treasure around me.

There are things I can’t let go of, like my teaching job, which pays the bills, managing the homeschooling of the resident teenager, because going to school just ain’t gonna work, and there are things I don’t want to let go of, like my writing and growing as an author. Then there are things that I’m going to have to let go of, because I can’t do everything. I’m passionate about all of them, and want to give them all the best of me.

Hence, I’m downsizing. Finding time to take the walks, go to the exercise class (I am so loving pilates... why didn’t I do this before?), treat myself to some quiet time. Get well.

I just thought I’d write this in case you are here, too. Because, although I am overwhelmed again, this time I am breathing. I have given myself permission to be overwhelmed, and given myself permission to let the dragon’s hoard of shiny things go. I’ve got a way to go yet, but I can already feel the fog lifting (and, co-incidentally, as I write this a beautiful day is emerging outside my window), and I just need to keep focused on not letting the hoard build up again as I feel stronger.


I can’t give it to you.

Give it to yourself.

And don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. The first step is to be kind to yourself, and sometimes that is really difficult to do.

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