I released a book this past Friday, entitled Visions of Vanaheim (PDF), which I previously released in 2009 under the name Svartesol – I began to work on a re-write in late 2013. The re-write of the book – culling a significant portion of older material, revising what older material I kept, and writing a lot of new material – took a lot longer than I expected, for a lot of reasons. During the re-write I wound up changing living situations and began to get some long-standing medical issues addressed, including finally going on medication after years of untreated depression and anxiety from PTSD. Not being in survival mode (wherein I had mentally shut down) and having to start working on getting better dredged a whole bunch of personal issues out of the woodwork that were extremely painful to deal with, and went in tandem with my work on the book, which was a piece of painful life history between remembering a long-term relationship gone pear-shaped with a major contributor to the book, and the multiple factors into why my path – while still Vanatru – had changed significantly from when the book was first published in 2009, which included severe community burnout and a rather bad case of impostor syndrome.
In March, I hit a very frustrating period of writer’s block because of the above. Then I got gluten contaminated (I have celiac disease) and was sick for the better part of April, when the book was halfway done, and I couldn’t work on anything for a few weeks. At this point I started to wonder if I should even bother. Then in May when I’d mostly recovered from the gluten reaction, I got some encouragement from my non-corporeal squad to keep going, and the first draft of the book was finished at the end of May, and edited and formatted in June.
Following the completion of the book, I considered taking a vacation from writing for awhile, but my writer brain decided I needed to jump right in to the next thing, so I’m currently working on a followup to Visions of Vanaheim, entitled Voices of Vanaheim, which will be out towards the end of the year if things go according to schedule.
When I talk about my writing projects with friends, they are impressed by the fact that I can write blog posts and work on books; at any given time I have some major project I’m working on with at least a few more on the table for later. What I tend to hear the most often is “wow, you’re really motivated/driven/etc”. And you know, I’m a Capricorn with Aries rising and a few planets in Virgo, which helps, but only accounts for so much. My little secret (which I guess isn’t a secret anymore) is that as someone who chronically has a shortage of spoons due to the physical and mental health challenges I live with (where medication helps but is more of a volume control than an off switch)… staying motivated with writing is hard. Really, staying motivated with anything I do regularly can be difficult on my bad days, and this includes the outward expressions of my religious practise.
Writing is, actually, one of my spiritual practises – it’s specifically a spirit-work duty for me, my non-corporeal squad has been pretty adamant that This Is What Wyrd Wants Me To Do With My Life, being a public resource of information, particularly on the Vanir and Vanaheim. When I write, it’s for a higher purpose, and that includes blog posts like this one, reaching out to fellow disabled pagans and trying to be a voice of encouragement, “you are not alone”. And as a discipline with a higher purpose, writing is a form of self-management for me with my mental health issues. Writing is something productive that helps keep me distracted from what I call “brainweasels” – self-defeating and self-loathing thoughts, most of mine programmed into my head from years of abuse. Besides the distraction factor, when I am able to write, and can see progress I’m making on different projects, it helps to reduce that feeling of impostor syndrome.
So writing is something I do to cope, and thus for me, plowing through the days when I am not particularly motivated is mandatory. This doesn’t mean that I write every day – I am better at practising self-care than I used to be, and I take at least one or two days a week where I am not writing much if at all and will do other things instead; on days where I do more intensive writing, I take breaks. This helps keep me fresh, so I’m not overdoing it and making a lot of glaring errors or losing coherency.
But even as I plow through, finding motivation can be hard, especially if it’s a bad day where I am having a brainweasel attack and wonder why I bother, feel like “everything I write is crap”, and so on. The thing that I keep coming back to is that writing gives me a sense of purpose. In writing about the Powers and the Otherworlds and developing right relationships with Them, in writing to help inspire and encourage others, I feel like I am making a difference in my little corner of the world, doing the best I can with what I have. Writing about the things I write about helps remind me that it’s not all about me, there are other worlds than these, things other than my problems, my issues… and that helps to remind me that not everything is hopeless.
This is absolutely not to guilt or shame other people who struggle with motivation to do things, not at all. What I’m just saying is that finding a sense of higher purpose can help. My brainweasels have given me a hard time about writing being that purpose for me because a lot of people think writing “isn’t a real job” and “anybody can write books” (then why aren’t you doing it). But the truth is, whether you write or paint or garden or listen or something else, whatever it is, it has a place in this world. This world needs beauty, this world needs compassion, this world needs truth. When we pray, make offerings, celebrate our holidays (if applicable), we are bringing the magic of the Old Ones, the Old Ways – or the New Ways – into this world. It’s not just a waste of time, it’s not in vain. It’s OK if you are not doing well and can’t… but I truly believe that when you are down, and you still find a way to press on, it is a greater act of power than someone who has lots of things going for them and can keep their important things going pretty effortlessly, and the Powers That Be will honor that.
And in continuing to forge that trail and keep going, even if it is at a snail’s pace, one step at a time… we grow stronger for it. Shining with whatever you do, even something you would consider “small” and “unimportant”, is still a light in the darkness – the stars may look tiny so far away, but each of them is larger than we can see, and so it is with what we do in this world, whatever we can do. We are all little lights, greater than we know.
Stars light your path.