An Immature Rant About Older People Criticizing 20-somethings

As I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed last week, I was blessed with the following image posted by one of my older coworkers:

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Mmm. It was gonna be a good day.

When I was done cringing that the “l” in “life” was capitalized for no reason, I begun thinking why this was a great example why anxiety-ridden 20-somethings don’t share their feelings with people, particularly older people that may hold some kind of advice that could help us with life. Was I thinking too hard about this? Probably. Was this directed towards me specifically? No. (Although funnily enough, it was posted by someone I had opened up to about a recent issue after struggling with it for a week. Seemed very supportive and sympathetic then, but now who knows if she was being genuine or not?) But as someone who’s not really liking a lot about his life lately, I couldn’t help but get a little defensive.

And then a couple days ago, someone else (also older) posted the same picture.

… Ha ha. Yes. We get it. 20-somethings have never experienced life before, and should therefore refrain from voicing our made-up problems and concerns.

I hate to bring out my inner teen rebel that never grew up, but it’s comments like these that make me wish older people would stop trying so hard to convince the world that their problems are worse than everyone else’s. Sorry that we haven’t had as much life experience as you, but to be fair we’ve only been around half as long. Holding it against us that we haven’t “gotten fucked” by life through paying mortgages, becoming bankrupt, being in shitty marriages, raising children, and working jobs we hate seems a little unrealistic, though (by the way, we do work jobs we hate, but I guess since you’ve been doing it longer that doesn’t really count, huh).

I really hate that I can’t talk about life to someone who’s gotten 15 or 20 years on me without it coming back to how I haven’t experienced it yet. Conversations always seem to circle back to them:

“You think you’re getting older? You’re young. What do you have to worry about? Wait until you see what it’s like at my age.”

“You think you have money troubles now? Just wait until you have a house and family.”

“What do you know about love? You haven’t felt anything yet.”

These are the kind of responses I expected to hear when I was a teenager. At 26, I’d like to think I’ve earned a little more respect. Sometimes it honestly feels like I haven’t. I feel like nothing I ever say or do will compare to what an older generation says or does. Because let’s face it, I’m a 20-something. What the hell do I know about life?

To every 20-something who actively has their problems ridiculed by older people on the grounds that you haven’t had enough life experience yet, I’m sorry. It really sucks, and I hope you at least have a couple good friends around your age to talk things out with. It’s a strange, transitional time for us, and it’s too bad we can’t get better guidance from people that came before us. I know it’s sometimes tempting to have an older person give us life tips, but it’s probably better that we rely on each other for comfort and share things we personally found to have worked or not worked. Having people walk with you in the cliched path of life seems to be better than being led by someone that hasn’t been at your particular place for 20 years, anyway.

Dealing With House Guests When You Don’t Want Visitors

This weekend, my grandparents came to stay with us for four days. I love them. I really do.

But my god, how I hate having people stay over.

I’ve come to value and appreciate silence and space over the years, and whether someone’s coming to visit for a day, staying overnight, or staying for a week, these two things tend to become disrupted when you have visitors. Under normal circumstances, I might be able to handle myself a little more maturely than I did this weekend, but due to the frustration of dealing with many personal issues lately, having company over for an extended period of time wasn’t something I particularly wanted to add to my plate.

I told myself I was really going to try to be a good sport about the situation, too. When they visited last year, I was dealing with the tail end of a frustrating depression and didn’t present myself very warmly. And when most of my family went out of state to attend my cousin’s wedding a few months ago, I stayed behind, which nobody was happy with. I know I haven’t left a great impression with them, even if I am genuinely nice towards them when we talk on the phone, and I wanted this visit to go differently. I really did. I put on my A-game and was so nice welcoming them in, helping them bring in luggage, making small talk, making them tea, etc.

That lasted two hours. Max.

My grandmother is a chatty woman. A very, very chatty woman. Unfortunately, she’s the kind of person that talks a lot without ever having much to say (sorry Granny, I really do love you ❤ ). And after a couple of hours of being bombarded with conversation that, sadly, I honestly had little to nothing to contribute towards, I was exhausted. I was getting a little agitated. My mother was supposed to be home shortly after they arrived, and she was showing no sign of pulling up the driveway anytime soon. I was praying she would walk through the door at any moment to take some of the attention off me. Negative thoughts about my personal shit kept bubbling up inside my head, and I wanted to get out of the house and breathe.

And then my grandmother hit one of my sensitive spots: how’s the job hunt going? I could feel myself tense up as soon as she began the question. I knew it would be coming eventually, but I was hoping to be in a better frame of mind when it happened.

For those that don’t know, I graduated two years ago with a B.A. in literature, with a focus in creative writing. My long term goal is to get published; what comes in between then and now, I don’t know. I’ve looked into several areas of interest where I felt I wanted to be, but regardless, I still only have my part-time retail job. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I particularly like talking about, especially now when I’m honestly not sure I want to do what I thought I did anymore. I’m lost, to be honest. And it’s very frustrating to be lost and have people try to force advice on you when they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

I’ll leave it to your imagination on what happened next.

My grandmother can come off a little critical, as well. I know she doesn’t mean it; I know she doesn’t have a filter when she speaks, and she says the first thing that comes to her mind. But I criticize myself on this matter enough as it is. I really don’t need to have another person do it for me. And sure enough, this turned into an extensive, criticizing conversation. At some point, I knew I lost my ability to fake smiles and be polite. I knew I lost whatever mental energy I’d saved up to enjoy their visit. I knew this visit was going to suck. And now all I wanted was for them to leave so I could have some fucking peace and quiet and space again.

I really do love them. I really do. But I can’t handle house guests. I really can’t.

Well, good luck within bad luck, I got sick the day after they arrived and remained that way until today (still kind of sick actually, but at least now I can function). I had an excuse to stay up in my room for most of their visit, and an excuse to not be particularly outgoing. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but with the way I am right now, I needed a legitimate excuse to keep some distance.

But maybe you don’t have an excuse and need to deal with house guests. How do you deal with them when you don’t really want to? Well, even though I completely failed to do most of these, here are some things that have worked for me in the past when I’ve had stressful visits.

Don’t feel solely responsible for entertaining them. If someone’s visiting for a day, this may not apply as well. But if you have guests staying for a couple of days or a week, don’t make it your sole responsibility to spend every minute of the day trying to entertain them. You have your own life to live, and while you need to make time for your guests, you can’t stop your life to please theirs. For example, you all don’t have to go to bed at the same time. Say you’re going to bed a little early and let them watch TV or whatever. After you’re done with work, take a little time to do some grocery shopping or errand running to give yourself a little room to breathe. Try designating a specific time you’ll spend time with your guests so you don’t feel like you’re ignoring them.

Don’t take things personally. I know. I’ve got some balls to be telling you this. This, coming from the guy that recently found a hand-written note taped on his mailbox that said “Smile You Are Healthy 🙂 ❤ ” and immediately texted his friend, asking her if she thought this was a random act of kindness by some kid or the universe mocking me (yes, this is a thing that actually happened).

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She convinced me it was a random act of kindness, and now it’s taped above my desk :3

My grandmother didn’t mean to hit a nerve with me. I know that. I knew that when it happened. I just didn’t have the patience to deal with it. Be patient with your guests. Unless they’re people you talk and actively open up to on a common basis, they probably don’t know everything that’s going on with you. Your guests may be people that honestly don’t know you nearly as well as they once did, especially if a lot of time has passed between visits. People change, and sometimes others may not notice. If your guests are saying or doing something that’s starting to offend you, try to remember they’re most likely not doing it on purpose. (Unless they are. There are some genuinely rude guests that live to get a rise out of people. But you can usually tell the difference between these people and the ones that don’t mean any harm.) And if they keep doing it, try gently letting them know what they’re doing.

The visit isn’t going to last forever. Sometimes it seems like it is, but try to keep things in perspective. They’re not going to be living with you, even if they’re setting up their own station in the bathroom and you suddenly need to share counter and shower space. They are going to leave, and you’ll have your space back soon enough. Remember all those times when you found a day or week to pass by very quickly? Try thinking in those terms. The visit will be over soon, and the sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can deal with your guests a little better.

Try to include other people. I went out to dinner with my grandparents and parents on Saturday night. We invited my sister, who doesn’t live with us anymore, and her boyfriend. During previous visits, we’ve also invited my other grandmother (who is unfortunately no longer alive) and my cousins. Your guests may be visiting you, but chances are there are some other people you all mutually know and they want to see as well. Try to get them in on the visit for part of the time. It will help break up the repetitive nature of taking care of your guests and alleviate some of the unwanted attention on yourself.

Try to appreciate visits while they can still happen. Some visits will be one-time only situations, or just plain unwanted, whether or not you actually like the people that visit. But if you do like the people and you don’t get to see them often, even if you’re not up for it, try to enjoy the company while you can. I live in New Jersey. My grandparents live in Florida. We keep in touch regularly, but we don’t get many opportunities to see each other. And while they do make the drive back up here to visit their kids every year or so, the truth is my grandparents are getting up there in age. My mother has been saying “this might be their last drive up here” for years, and perhaps because they keep doing it I take for granted that they’ll always end up visiting. But realistically, I never know how many more visits they’ll make. They’re getting old; they may not have it in them to drive up and down the coast within the next few years. Even though I really haven’t enjoyed myself during the past couple of visits, I hope that they’ll come back again when I’m in a better frame of mind and can appreciate the company. You don’t want to come off like you don’t want your guests to visit when you still want to see them. You might make them feel unwanted and they may never want to visit again.

It’s not just family, either. As you’re getting older, chances are you’ll have more friends that live far away. They may need to crash at your place for a night if you want to see each other. If you make their time with you feel awkward, they may not want to make the drive to see you. It’s hard enough to keep up with friends that moved; you don’t need to make it harder.

Don’t forget about the bathroom. I’m sure different people from different ages and situations will read this, but if there’s one piece of universal advice I can give about dealing with house guests, it’s to use the bathroom! When you need a break, when you need to breathe, when you need everyone to shut up for five minutes, go to the bathroom. Keep a book or mp3 player hidden somewhere in it. Take your iPhone in and check a news feed from a social media site. Just sit on the toilet, turn the fan on if you have one, and breathe. The bathroom is, like, the one place you should be able to go and not be interrupted.

Should be. Life ain’t perfect. But take advantage of the bathroom. Trust me. It’s a lifesaver.

Hope this helps. Have a good week, and happy first day of fall! 🙂

How to Get Back Into Writing

As a writer, you’ve probably heard a lot of people say that you should write every day. This is more or less true; even if it’s not for a long time or if you barely write anything, the practice of making time to sit down and write is critical to make writing part of your natural daily routine (because let’s face it, as much as we love it, it is work, and we don’t always feel up to it).

However, there’s going to be a point when you have to take some time away from writing. You’re going to sit down for the nth time, stare at a screen for 20 minutes, and realize that you’ve got nothing, and returning to your computer time after time isn’t going to change that. So take a break. It’s healthy. It’s necessary.

However, there’s also going to be a point where your break doesn’t seem to end. You keep telling yourself you’ll start writing again tomorrow. You keep convincing yourself you still have nothing to write about. You scare yourself into thinking you don’t have what it takes to write well.

Getting back into writing can be tricky. It’s a lot like getting back into a regular exercise routine. You want to do it, but you don’t want to start small and build yourself back up to where you were before you stopped exercising. After all, you were pretty boss on the elliptical’s highest setting. To start on the lowest one again can be demoralizing, especially when you want to get back to where you were.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been away from writing for a while you might have to ease yourself back into it. Unless you’ve been struck with inspiration to write about something in particular, you could be as lost as when you stopped. That’s fine. We all get lost sometimes. The important thing is you want to at least get back into the habit of writing. To start things off, you can try some writing exercises. They might seem a little beneath you, especially if you’ve been a writer for a while. But remember that you’re also reading a post on how to get back into writing after a frustrating break, so hear me out.

Writing exercises aren’t meant to be long-term projects, and that may be exactly what you need at the moment. Maybe you’re frustrated because you can’t write anything that you want to perfect in the long run. So why not work on exercises then? They start and end in the same session, so there’s no commitment or emotional investment involved. They’re simple prompts used to work your writing muscles. Think of them like warm-up exercises. They’re meant to ease you into a much bigger challenge, not replace your exercise routine completely. You can find plenty of daily writing prompts if you search online. Some are even presented in your news feed if you follow them on social media.

Speaking of writing exercises, have you ever considered writing shit? You might have thought you’re already writing shit and that’s why you needed a break, but you were probably trying your best. Have you ever considered intentionally writing shit?

One of the best exercises from my college workshops was to write the worst thing I possibly could. Write 1-2 pages of the worst you can possibly do. Drown your exercise in cliches, poor dialogue, overuse of caps and punctuation, not enough punctuation, misspelled words, and anything else you can think of. It’s a lot of fun, and it will help you see what makes bad writing. It may even make you feel better about your own natural writing.

You’ve also probably heard of the egg timer technique. If you haven’t, it’s when you set an egg timer or another device to a specific period of time, and you do nothing but write during that time. No checking E-mails, no social media, no bathroom, no distractions whatsoever. This is a really good way to get back into writing without getting too intimidated. Set a timer for 20 minutes, 10 minutes, hell, even 5 minutes and write something. If you feel like writing after time’s up, you’re more than welcome to, but the point is to give this dedicated amount of time your undivided attention. Again, it’s like regular exercising. You can start small and build your way up as you grow accustomed to the routine.

Once you’ve gotten back into the swing of things, try thinking about what kept you in your extended break for so long. Did you get bored? Frustrated with what you produced? Try mixing things up a bit. You probably have something you specialize in. For me it’s fiction. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you feel like if you can’t write in your own zone, you can’t write at all. If that’s the case, try writing other stuff. Try poetry. Nonfiction. Write descriptions of things you notice outside your window. Keep a journal and write about your life. It may not be what you want to write, but it does help you continue writing, and you’ll still improve your craft along the way.

Don’t forget to read different stuff, too. If you find yourself writing the same thing again and again, maybe it’s because you’ve gotten too comfortable with reading the same stuff again and again. Go to the library and pick out the first thing you see that you would normally never glance at. (Yes, I’m encouraging you to judge a book by it’s cover. Don’t pretend like you never have.) At best, it’ll make you a more experienced reader. At worst, you’ll hate it, but at least you can still learn something from it. You can analyze it and see what made it a bad book. Again, that helps you as a writer.

At any rate, the fact that you want to start writing again is a good start. Just don’t forget to act on it. Start small and work it back into your life. Don’t focus so much on writing stuff you want published, focus on getting familiar with writing again. Then you can go back to hating what you write. 🙂

How Do You Know When You’re Done With a Short Story?

Last summer one of my friends E-mailed a list of contests Glimmer Train has every month for short stories. This is pretty convenient; it helps keep me focused on writing and gives regular contests that provide opportunities for both publication and payment. I told myself I would write one short story a month and send it in.

Here I am, half a year later, and I think I only sent something in once. And now my college’s literary magazine is taking submissions for this year’s publication, and I don’t think I have anything I’d like to submit.

So what’s up? It’s true I’ve had some big obstacles get in the way of my writing this past year, but really? I haven’t produced one short story I’m actually proud of? What happened?

Well to be fair, I’ve finished a ton of drafts. I’ve written short stories, I’ve rewritten them, I’ve rewritten those, but honestly, I think I’m at a bit of a loss. I’m having trouble determining when I’m done writing a story.

I realized this a while ago, actually. Without writing workshops, I feel less pressured to have drafts done on time and to move on to other pieces. At first this was nice; I felt like I could finally pour my concentration into one piece at a time and make better stories.

However, without the workshops and other people looking over my work, my drafts are just left with me and my constant barrage of harsh criticism. As a result, I’ve locked myself into this cycle of never ending drafts. And I tell myself not to worry about it, to put one story aside and start working on a new one because I can always just return to a previous one. And the cycle continues, and now I have a bunch of short stories “in progress” that I’m just not finishing.

And at the end of every month, I convince myself that whatever I’m working on isn’t good enough, and I don’t send a submission out, and I keep saying next month. This past month was the most disappointing. I finally took one story I’d been working on since October, rewrote the whole damn thing, loving how different and better it felt than any of the previous drafts. It finally felt right. And then I read the whole thing over and just wasn’t crazy about it. Even though I said I would have it finished on January 31, even though I said this was going to be the last draft, even though I said it was going to be done whether I liked it or not and take it off my desktop… I told myself next month.

How do you know when you’re done, then? All my professors have said “when it feels right.” Which is great and true, but what if you keep working on it and it never feels right? That’s something I never asked. Well, maybe they’re not right, then. I hate to say that, I hate saying that something you’ve worked so long on was all for nothing, but if a story’s not working after several revisions then it just might not work.

The thing about short stories is, as much as I love them, and as much as I believe in their potential to be as good as longer pieces, they’re still short stories. I don’t think they’re meant to be mulled over for months at a time. I think they’re excellent practice for condensing words and ideas so that our future novels don’t turn into 600 page stories that only look deep on the outside.

So maybe that’s one way to look at this question. Think of them as practice. Even if a short story doesn’t work out, at least you have the experience of writing one and learning what wasn’t working, and both of these will help in your next one.

Okay, so now they’re doubling as exercises. How long should they last?

I think this depends on your writing experience and time available to work on them. Personally, I’m going to still try for one short story a month, but now I’m going to give myself another deadline of one finished draft a week. I’m hoping this will help me continue focusing on one story at a time while simultaneously leading up to a finished piece.

What if it still doesn’t feel right, but it feels like it still has potential?

Keep going for it! If you think you’re making actual progress, keep it up! Readjust your deadlines and see where you end up. And if it doesn’t feel right but you still want to work on it, keep it in a separate folder on your computer. Start a new short story, and after you finish that one, go back and see if some time away from it has helped.

Try not to get discouraged, though. And try not to juggle too many stories at once. Just keep at it. Eventually you’ll get to that point where you know when your final draft feels right. Happy writing! 🙂

Shitty Moods

Sometimes someone asks you, “Hey, you all right? You seem like you’re in a bad mood.” To which you reply, “Why yes, I am in a bad mood. Someone was really rude to me at the grocery store, and it just got under my skin a little. But thank you for asking. That alone already makes me feel better.” And you hug, and ice cream falls from the sky, and golly, things just perk up.

Then sometimes when someone asks, you say “I don’t fucking know why I’m in bad mood, so just leave me the fuck alone!” Then you flip a kitchen table, get a carton of ice cream from the freezer, lock yourself in your room, and eat the whole thing with your bare hands.

Granted, both scenarios may be slightly exaggerated. The point is, I’ll be talking about shitty moods today.

Shitty moods are different from regular bad moods. With regular bad moods, you usually have an understanding of why you’re upset. Someone said something really mean to you at school. You worked really hard on a project that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. A friend cancels plans with you, plans you were looking forward to all week. Something generally happens that disappoints you or makes you mad, and you can easily explain why.

Shitty moods appear to be more irrational. They’re more personal, and usually require a little more digging or understanding to explain yourself. Of course, reasons don’t really matter when you’re in a shitty mood, all that matters is that you’re in one and you usually don’t want to deal with anyone or anything. And it’s hard to be around people, even people that you genuinely like and want to help you, because you can’t just give a reason for why you’re so upset. The best thing is usually to just wait it out somewhere by yourself until you settle down and can think more rationally, because when you’re like this, everything seems far worse than it really is. And when you’re combining shitty moods and an onslaught of negative thinking, your day is bound to end in tears.

So what can you do to calm your shitty mood before you feel even worse about yourself? The first thing you should do is find somewhere quiet where you can breathe. Go to the bathroom if you’re at school or work. Sit in your car if you’re at a noisy house or party. Just make sure it’s quiet. Then close your eyes and breathe. Don’t think about anything else but breathing. Focus on inhaling and exhaling. Take nice, long breaths, too. Short, quick breaths aren’t going to calm you down, so take it slow. And breathe through your nose. Breathing through your mouth tends to produce quicker breaths and sighing, and neither are going to help here. Just nice, long, slow breaths. Do this for five or ten minutes. You won’t be instantly better, but you should be at least a little calmer. You’ll hopefully start to think more clearly, too. Try doing this fairly regularly. Every hour or two, give some dedicated time to breathing.

If you feel like you’re going to be irrationally bitter to everyone, you probably need some time to yourself to cool down. Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to do some interacting at some point during the day, and depending on who you have to deal with, this can either make your shitty mood better or worse. If you deal with people you can trust or feel comfortable enough with, give them a head’s up. I have a friend and a couple of coworkers who know I can sometimes get into these shitty moods, and they understand and give me space. They help or show support if they can, but they know as well as I do that I just need some time. If you don’t have anyone like that around, just keep trying your best to make it through the day. Do your breathing and keep in mind that other people don’t know what’s going through your head right now, so try not to let your shitty mood make you take it out on them.

When you are able to get some time to yourself, you need to relax. Everyone’s different, but I’ll let you in on some of the things that help calm me down. Exercising is usually good. Chances are you’ll have a lot of pent up energy after being in a shitty mood, so releasing some of it through exercise helps. Regular exercise tends to help put you in a better mood in the long run, too.

Hot showers or baths can also help. Well, I can’t really vouch for baths. My bathtub doesn’t have a drain stopper anymore, so that option’s out. But hot showers are great for relieving tension. You won’t be bothered (unless you live with unusually obtrusive people), the hot water will make you feel better, and you can just stand there for as long as you need to while the water peppers your body.

Turn Facebook’s chat off. Even if you’re by yourself, you see all those people who are still online, and you can still feel the weight of not wanting to deal with people when you’re on it. In fact, just don’t deal with Facebook in general. I know, I know. The latest updates of which bars people are at or Instagram-imported pictures of food aren’t going to browse themselves. But honestly, my Facebook feed just makes me feel more overwhelmed when I’m in a shitty mood. Check it once a day until you’re feeling more like yourself, if you even have to check it at all. I usually like to separate myself from Facebook, Twitter, and my E-mails until I’m doing a little better. Focus more on you rather than what other people are doing.

Play some video games. I used to be a fairly big gamer in my teens and early 20’s. Now… ugh. I don’t know what happened to video games, but I’m just not interested anymore. I still like playing the old ones, though, and I usually play video games more regularly when I’m depressed or in these shitty moods. Bring out something you grew up with, something that you know makes you feel better on the inside. The Donkey Kong Country games for Super Nintendo usually help me out, as well as any Mario or Zelda game for Nintendo 64.

Drink something warm. Nothing alcoholic. You don’t want to mix alcohol and your shitty mood. No coffee, either. You don’t want to be more alert, you want to relax. Try tea. I’ll admit, I’m not really a tea guy, but I don’t know how many times I’ve read or been told to drink hot tea to calm down, so I’m trying to get used to it (for what it’s worth, it does seem to help at least a little). I’ve heard chamomile is great, but I’ve yet to try it. Hot chocolate works fairly well for me, but be warned: it can still keep you up at night.

Go shopping, but don’t go overboard. If you haven’t bought anything fun lately, go treat yourself to something affordable. I’m sure you’ve wanted some new shirts or pants for a while. Go buy a new set of clothing. At the very least, you’ll know you have one less thing to worry about doing.

Relaxing music is always good. My mp3 player has different shuffle options for different moods, so sometimes I’ll put on the “mellow” selection to help me calm down. Everyone’s music tastes are different, so I’ll leave it to you to decide what works best, but some of my favorite songs to help me calm down are “Home” by Barenaked Ladies, “When You Were Mine” by Cyndi Lauper, “Name” by Goo Goo Dolls, “Through the Dark” by KT Tunstall, “The Background” by Third Eye Blind, and “Home” by Vanessa Carlton.

There are some YouTube videos I have in a playlist for this kind of situation, too. Some are for helping with self-doubt, some are for advice, but almost all of them do a pretty good job of helping me cool off. There’s one particular video about dealing with panic attacks and anxiety issues that ALWAYS makes me feel better, if for no other reason than it makes me feel like someone else out there feels some of the same things I do. It’s by Tessa Violet (aka meekakitty), and I’ll link that video here if you want to check it out.

Relaxajin is also one of my favorite YouTube channels that helps me calm down (it even helps me focus when I’m having trouble writing). It’s the second channel of Lucahjin, a popular Let’s Player. Unlike her primary channel, though, Relaxajin is dedicated to soft spoken, soothing videos meant to help you take a deep breath and ease your mind. When I was in a particularly shitty mood last week, I plugged my headphones into the computer, closed my eyes, and listened to one of her videos. This one is another of my favorites, one that I’ve returned to many times when I’m kept up at night with negative thoughts. This particular video is a Q&A; she answers submitted questions from her listeners that deal with topics such as acceptance, moving on, and relationships. I highly recommend checking it out here. If you’re in a shitty mood, she’ll probably touch on something you’re close to, and if not, it’s still a very relaxing video.

Hopefully some of these will help you comfort your shitty mood. I know it’s really tough being in one, but hang in there. Sometimes it can take a while. Last summer I spent two months trying to get out of a really shitty mood. Don’t let it overwhelm you. It takes some time. Time by yourself, time getting to know what’s eating you and why it’s bothering you so much. And eventually, time with other people. It’s hard, but after enough time try making yourself do something with a good friend or someone close that you can trust. Sometimes a good night out is the final push from shitty mood to good mood again.

And if you find yourself frequently getting into shitty moods, try seeking some professional help. I’ve spent a large portion of college seeing a few therapists on campus and reading self-help and psychology books, and I don’t think I could have made it to where I am now without them. Therapy can be expensive, but at least check out your options. If you’re in school, chances are you can see some kind of counselor for free.

Whatever you do, at least remember to keep breathing.

Creative Ruts

I’ve been involved in a number of creative projects ever since I was old enough to peel back the paper on a crayon, so I can confidently say, with no hesitation, that being in a creative rut sucks. It’s frustrating, it’s time-consuming, it’s not productive, and it often leads to questioning your self-worth (although for the purpose of this entry I’ll just focus on the rut itself and leave the topic of depression for another time).

One of the biggest issues is that you really do want to produce something, but you just don’t, for whatever reason. For me, it usually starts out with not knowing where I want a story to go or how one of my characters should behave. I end up having these staring contests with the blinking cursor while I try to figure out what to type next. Which is actually pretty normal for a writer, but then these contests last longer and longer, and I end up spending a couple of hours only writing one page. One page eventually turns into half a page. Then a paragraph. Then a sentence. And I’m not satisfied with what I wrote at all. Not just normal artistic self-doubt. True dissatisfaction and disgust with myself that this is honestly the best I could come up with in such a large amount of time.

And it just keeps going downhill from there. Eventually you go a week without making anything, then two, then a month, and all the while you keep having thoughts and ideas that you want to put into some kind of form. For me it usually happens when I’m unable to write, like while I’m driving, or in the shower, or at work (a lot at work, actually). You start getting overflowed with all this pent up energy, but by the time you get home and can actually do something, you just can’t. And it’s usually because you got into a rut and are out of practice, and now you’ve been overthinking and may or may not have a ton of new ideas but have no fucking clue where to start. And now there’s all this pent up energy and desire to do something but you can’t and you’re about to freak!

Well, first of all, if you’re reading this in a situation that will allow it, scream (if you can’t, make a point to do it later). Ready? One, two, three…

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, take a couple of deep breaths now. Feel a little better? You should. If not, try again.

There are a couple of things you should keep in mind as a creative person. First of all, it’s okay to be in a creative rut. This is normal. What’s that? You’ve been in a creative rut before? Lots of times? Good. That’s normal, too. I would be very suspicious of the person that confidently says that he or she’s never been in a creative rut and can regularly produce quality work.

Second, you’re not going to produce quality work most of the time. In no way do I mean this to be demoralizing, but it’s something a lot of us, especially myself, seem to forget. A big reason we stop producing content is because we try forcing ourselves to make work perfect the first time. Sometimes we do it because we can’t stand looking at ourselves do mediocre work, but like I said, we’re not going to make something great most of the time. The sooner you can truly accept that there’s going to be more crap than good, the sooner you can start regularly (and reliably) producing more work, which will in turn eventually lead to producing more good work. I mean think about it, do you really think those books written by what’s his face are the only things he’s written? Or the handful of albums by creative band name contain the only songs they’ve written? No. It’s easy to think the “pros” produce gold all the time, but they’ve got their shitty work, too.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, take a couple more deep breaths. Scream again, if you need to.

Keeping those thoughts in mind, there are some ways that may help get you out of that obnoxious rut. To start off, keep absorbing content. By this, I mean if you’re a writer, keep reading. If you’re a musician, keep listening to music. If you’re an artist, keep looking at other artists’ work. You can’t be a good whatever if you don’t know what makes stuff good, and you find that out by absorbing content. A lot of it. Don’t be afraid to branch out of your comfort zone, either. Read books by people you’ve never heard of. Listen to different genres of music. Look at a lot of crappy stuff and teach yourself why it’s crap. It’ll help you learn what makes good art. If you aren’t regularly absorbing content, start immediately. Do it every damn day. If you’re not producing your own work, you can at the very least say you’re doing something to help you learn more about your creative field.

Do something new. Like, with yourself, or in the world, not just creatively (although never hesitate to try out something new in your own work). Add a new routine. Go for a walk somewhere and get some fresh air. Or go walk somewhere new (and safe; let’s not walk through dangerous alleys at three in the morning). You’ve probably heard something like this before, but it can be very refreshing, especially if you haven’t taken one in a while. Do more exercise in general, too. You have all this pent up energy from being unable to express ideas anyway, so you may as well let out some steam through more exercise. Try working in a new place, too. I get so much more writing done when I’m at the library or a computer lab than I ever do at home. Don’t know why, but where you are can make a difference. And again, don’t be afraid to change it up, too. Don’t use one specific place as your savior for getting out of the rut. A lot of people like having a study or office or some other room in their house dedicated to being creative, but for me, it never helps if I limit what I do to one specific location. I’m a writer; I shouldn’t be limited to doing my thing in one place. I should be able to do it anywhere.

Do something nostalgic. Nostalgia can be dangerous, I used to be particularly prone to getting lost in nostalgia during depressive episodes, but if you can reliably handle it, go and revisit some old stuff. Go read the books that made you want to be a writer. Go listen to the music that first sparked intense emotions in you. Whatever media that helped your imagination grow, go revisit it for a while. Take a good look at your roots, see your beginnings with a new set of eyes, and evaluate how far you’ve come. Retrospectives aren’t bad, so partake in one every once and a while.

And finally, if you can’t do something right now, just don’t do it. At the end of the day, you may just need a break. If you’re really struggling with something, put it down and come back later. Give yourself a few days or a week off. While you do need to keep working towards something on a regular basis, sometimes you just need a little time off to breathe. You’re only human, after all. Just make sure you get back to work. Set a specific amount of time off. As soon as it’s done, get back to work.

So I guess that’s my thought on creative ruts. I need to get my ass up and back to work myself. Hope this helped out in some way. Just remember, you’re not the only artist that gets stuck, don’t be afraid to make crap, and always keep trying. Good luck.