What I Do When the Creative Life is Overwhelming

Thursday, April 20, 2023


I’ve had an overwhelming past few weeks. Last week I traveled to tour some prospective colleges with my 17-year-old son, and we were on the road, staying in hotels, and eating out for every meal. By the end we were exhausted and ready to get home. While I was on that trip a podcast interview I did about a stalking incident I lived through in college aired. To be completely transparent, I was so scared of how it turned out I didn’t tell my family right away or listen to it! I waited until I got home before I quietly put my Airpods in and checked it out. I’d had a great conversation with the hosts but after I got off the interview realized I may have rambled on about too much. 

To my relief, the podcast did a great job with editing, and I felt comfortable with the way my story was shared. Then I told my family to listen! While checking emails for my trip, I heard from a local city magazine editor that had recently discovered my true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. She asked if I was working on anything that they could hook back to their audience, such as an investigation into a current cold case, local disappearance, etc. Again, I was excited for the possibility of exposure but also nagged by the feeling “I’m not doing enough” to be proactive with my podcast. (In my defense, I’m still a one-woman show!) 

I had exchanged pages of my current writing project (a suspense/thriller novel) with my writing accountability group. Their response and notes were so kind, I shed tears of both joy and fear. I’ve had a feeling all along that I may have finally cracked the code of planning and writing a book, after many false starts, and I froze. Their words of encouragement told me, "Keep going with this, and get it finished!"

With all three of these things swirling around in my brain, I took myself out for a long walk yesterday morning. I told myself this is what I do when I get close to succeeding at something—I let myself become paralyzed by fear and imposter syndrome. I immerse myself in other things as a distraction. I let myself stop and chat with a squirrel, inhale the scent of blooming roses, listened to the flowing water of a nearby creek, appreciated how green everything was, and even chatted with a man walking his adorable chiweenie. He called the dog their “grumpy old man,” and said whenever he gets mad, he goes into the master bedroom closet and poops. I told him I could relate—I have a spoiled dachshund and chihuahua mix at my house, too. 

By the time I returned home I was sweaty, but my anxiety had waned. I sat down to write this to get the creative juices flowing. I’m going to devote the rest of the week to making a few inquiries about a cold case I’ve wanted to explore for my podcast and get back to work on editing my novel. This is the life of a writer. 

What do you do when the writing life threatens to overwhelm you? Do you practice self care, indulge in a favorite hobby, or get out in nature? I’d love to hear about it!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas


Angela Mackintosh said...

I can't wait to listen to your guest podcast spot! I'll check it out this weekend. :)

You and I are so similar in a lot of ways. I just got an acceptance yesterday on a piece I've been trying to place for a year, and usually my first thought is, well, they can't be that great if they accepted my work! Lol. It's fear and imposter syndrome. But I didn't let that happen this time because I feel like this piece deserves to be published.

When overwhelm and anxiety hits, which is fairly often, I just have to take a deep breath and look around me and take inventory of all the good things, like being healthy, having a home, supportive partner, etc. and I take a nature walk. The reason I moved to the ranch is because there is nothing else in the world that calms me down and centers me as much as nature. I have a workout ritual I call "moving rocks" where I carry one rock at a time as I run an uphill sprint from the creek to the top of a hill and back. I'm up to 12 now and add two rocks a week. There's something meditative and primitive about the rocks. And I just realized something the other day. I don't see any advertising anywhere! I was so bombarded with ads in the city, and it's nice to be somewhere where I can think clearly.

Ann Kathryn Kelly said...

Doubts certainly come with the territory, Renee -- for all of us! And, I think along with the somewhat universal imposter syndrome is the urge for most writers to want to tweak their work, even after it's been published. I'm certainly guilty of that. Your walk sounds like the right medicine. I like to escape into my flower beds, at least in the summer, to clear away doubts or writer's block.

Ann Kathryn Kelly said...

And, Ang ...!! Congrats on your acceptance!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Renee and Ang,

Yes! Nature is definitely the way to go when you need to mentally and emotionally regroup. Funny thing? I talk to so many people who think that being unplugged is scary. Really, truly, terrifying.

Of course, they tend not to be very creative. I wonder if that's a coincidence?

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