Performance Pressure

It’s 1st November. It’s almost ten to eleven – pm. That’s 2249, for the militarily precise. Just 61 minutes to the Witching Hour on All Saints’ Day. And I’m feeling the pressure.

As both my regular readers will have no doubt observed, there’s been a bit of a dearth of posts on this blog over the last couple of weeks. Something of a desert. Let’s be kind and call it a hiatus. The truth is – it’s here at last.

Four months into my six months of unpaid leave and I’m feeling stressed.

You see, I thought a rugby metaphor might work well for this post - being at the bottom of a ruck or something. And then I found this picture of Mike Philllips and his bicep... I know, it's cheap. Just cheap.

You see, I thought a rugby metaphor might work well for this post – being at the bottom of a ruck or something. And then I found this picture of Mike Philllips and his bicep… I know, it’s cheap. Just cheap.

Now, before any of my former colleagues spit their coffee over their keyboards/ collapse in hysterics in the midst of the open plan/ create new black holes as they pulverise their stress balls, let me explain myself…

I realise I have no good reason for this.  No good reason.  But I do have some fairly rubbish ones. And together, they’ve given me a Crisis of Confidence.

At times like this, there’s only one thing to do. I must reconnect with my inner bureaucrat.  I must make a list.

So here it is: my Fairly Rubbish Reasons for Feeling Stressed.

1.  Last week, one of my blog posts appeared on Freshly Pressed.  Of course, I was thrilled when I got that email from the lovely Benjamin.  He’ll be on my electronic Christmas card list until the end of time.  And I was even more thrilled when up popped my post and my visitor numbers shot up by a multiple I’d be prepared to share with you if only it didn’t demonstrate how feeble my usual stats were.  But here’s the thing…  You get all these wonderful, shiny new visitors, posting comments and being witty and interesting and just plain nice and you think: how the hell am I going to keep them?  Even some of them?  What if they read my other posts and think, “What on earth was I doing hanging around on this loser’s page? Quick, get me back to How The Light Gets In where I can read something that’s actually good!”

And the post that was freshly pressed wasn’t even categorised as “Writing”. Oh no. In fairness, there was a very good reason for that: the writing element was pretty tangential.  Instead, it was categorised as “Spiders.”  The thing is, I’ve now got a lot of visitors who are very interested in and knowledgeable about our eight-legged friends.  A couple of them are even following me on Twitter.  Maybe I should get out some library books on arachnids?  I just don’t think that’s going to cut it though.  My spider-loving chums have only disappointment ahead.

So anxious was I about what I was going to write in the week after I was “freshly pressed” I managed one post. One.  This is now the longest I’ve been without posting since I started my blog.

The answer, of course, is simple: Get Over It.

2) The same day I got that email from the brilliant and incisive Benjamin (you never know, he may be reading this…) I received an email from my brilliant and incisive agent (ditto). She was back from the Frankfurt book fair and sending me her eagerly-anticipated ideas for the rewrite of my novel – for which we had lots of knee tremblers from various publishers, but sadly none prepared to go all the way.

“Hurrah!” I thought, “Time to get back to work!” And then – I didn’t.  Instead, I spent two days worrying whether I had it in me to do it. I mean, it feels like taking a hammer to my lovely, completed jigsaw puzzle of a story, chucking in a pile of extra pieces, and then trying to put them all together again in a way that miraculously creates a more beautiful picture. Honestly, I just don’t know if I’m up to it.

I think the answer is probably just to Get Over It.

3) As anyone frequenting any website with the vaguest connection to writing won’t have avoided hearing about, November is National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo to those in the know.  The idea is to write a novel of 50,000 words between 1 and 30 November.

I had plans for this. Oh yes.  In line with best practice in behaviour change theory, my post Composting and NaNoWriMo put them out there for the world to see.  My pledge was to make a 50,000 word sized dent in my second novel.  Of course, this is now on hold as I focus on the rewrite of my first. But how do you compare your progress on revising and adding to and moving around your existing text with the clarity of a daily word count target?  I can’t do it.

The answer must be to Get Over It.  Or possibly to tell myself that whatever revisions I’ve managed for the day are equivalent to far in excess of 2,000 words of spanking new prose.

4) I’m now officially two thirds of the way through my unpaid leave.  I have 8.57 weeks left.  60 days.  1,440 hours.  And that’s before you take out the festive period when, let’s face it, the only writing I’m likely to be doing is Christmas cards.

I’m due to meet my line manager next week to discuss what job I’ll do when I come back. That’s next week!

I’d tell myself to Get Over It, but honestly, I’m giving myself a bit of leeway with this one.

So how a bit of group therapy, people? Let me have your ideas for taking the strain.  And if you’re feeling a bit under the cosh yourself right now – let me know. I’ll do my best to come up with some advice.  Either that, or you’ll have someone new to tell you to just Get Over It.

13 thoughts on “Performance Pressure

  1. Richard Wilson

    DON’T PANIC! (See also –

    8 weeks is still a decent amount of time but it sounds like the tricky part is that there is a fair bit of unexpected additional editing for book number one which is threatening to eat up all the time you’d wanted to spend getting rolling with book number two. Too much to do in too little time is a classic recipe for stress and if there’s no way to increase the time available then the only other option is to be hard-nosed and pick just one big task that you can still realistically achieve in 8 weeks and try to put the other one on hold for the moment?

    1. yakinamac Post author

      I’m buying that towel – if only so I’ve got something to throw in at the end of December… Your analysis of the situation is spot on, my friend. Book two is definitely on hold for the foreseeable.

  2. sueslaght

    Here are a couple of thoughts….tell that negative voice in your head to give it a rest already. Stay away from your stats page for awhile. Some posts are going to be more popular then others. Bloggers with huge followings appear to have worked long and hard to capture their audience. Believe in yourself! If at the end of your leave from work and the book isn’t published….what is the worst thing that is going to happen? You have already succeeded in going after your dream. Most of all….try to remember why you love to write and the next thing you type out do it because you love it. Ok ….that was long winded. Sorry if that was more than you wanted.

    1. yakinamac Post author

      No, not long-winded at all and very wise. Thank you.

      I read a great quote the other day attributed to Thomas Edison: “Most people don’t recognise opportunity when it knocks because it’s usually dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” Think that’s one I might have to stick on a post-it above my desk.

      1. sueslaght

        That is an excellent quote. I think I will keep that one handy too 🙂 Keep writing and looking for the joy in it. All the best

  3. Just a Little Background Noise

    Looking on the bright side – can’t help can it? Four rubbish excuses must be worth at least one really good one? Huh, huh? I can’t tell you what to do, but this is pretty great. Put on your Nikes and just do it! 😀

    1. yakinamac Post author

      Thank you! I’m trying to learn to love the process – but I think that might be easier when it’s actually over… 🙂

  4. psyren

    I think you are brave and brilliant! So many people talk and dream about taking time out from the daily grind to pursue a passion, but you are actually doing it! That’s quite a feat in itself.
    I’ve never done anything as mind-bogglingly committed as writing a novel, so I feel like a bit of a charlatan offering you advice. Nonetheless, for what it’s worth, I am often assailed by fears and doubts and frustrations when I write. If I kick myself up the bum and tell myself to get over it, I usually end up feeling smaller and more cowardly. But when I tell myself it’s okay to feel these things but I’ve got to keep going despite the feelings, at some point the sheer act of ‘doing it’ starts to feel like something valuable in itself and the uncertainties gradually recede.

    1. yakinamac Post author

      Thank you so much for the supportive words. I’m not always very good at giving myself permission to feel a bit negative – and then, of course, I find myself caving in and wallowing self-indulgently in the slough of despond for far too long! Thinking of the fear as a necessary part of the creative process seems a far healthier approach. And, of course, it always helps to know you’re not alone!


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