Tag Archives: Effort: Accomplishment Gap

INTJ and Self-Esteem

Friday at the office, I had another of those eerie INTJ conversations with the only other INTJ I know in non-internet space, a male colleague and work friend (who, in addition to being an INTJ, is, also like me, afflicted with self-diagnosed and highly functioning ADD). You know, the kind of talk where one of us starts describing our state of mind and the thought processes that led to it, and the other says “change the nouns and you are describing my brain right now.” We were talking about how right now, in our work and the sort of work that goes into your personal life (chores, hobbies, etc.), we’re battling anxiety and depression that are caused, in part, by the feeling of spinning wheels – of not accomplishing anything.

INTJs derive self-esteem from essentially two places: being good at things and achieving things. When neither of those are happening at a particular point in time then an INTJ essentially has no self-esteem, because they have nothing from which to draw positive feelings about their greater self.

For example, I don’t find it much of a compliment to be told I’m smart or I’m pretty, because those are qualities I was born with, they are inherent to my being, and no matter what I do or do not do (within reason, of course!) I will always have those traits. So, eh, thanks, but really tell my parents because their genes are what’s being praised. But if someone says something I DID was great – whether a piece of writing, or a cosplay, or just a complicated analysis that I did at the office – then I feel truly complimented, because I DID THAT. It wasn’t just my natural state of being that I have no control over, but something that was worthy of praise because of positive actions that I undertook.

So right now, I am in a funk because I feel like I am not accomplishing anything, and I also feel like I am underperforming at all of my various life roles. To quote an email to a friend: “I feel like a shitty mother because someone else is raising my kid, a shitty employee because the baby constantly makes me late and leaves me with no energy for the job, a shitty wife because I am grumpy and pissed off all the time, a shitty chatelaine because I never have time or energy to clean, a shitty daughter/granddaughter/friend because I don’t often have the energy to call and when I do I don’t want to call because I’d either have to admit I’m depressed or pretend I’m not, and a shitty writer because I simply never write anymore.” It doesn’t really matter to my INTJ brain what society expects of a working mother with an 8-month-old baby; it doesn’t matter if the people in my life are cutting me slack. What matters is that I am not being good at anything, and I’m damn sure not ACCOMPLISHING anything better than survival. It is incredibly disheartening. I do not like not having something to feel good about. I do not like feeling overwhelmed and really uncertain how to fix it, because so much of what is causing the problem is beyond my control.

I spent this week getting slapped in the face with the fact that I am in a bit of a depression, which I had been avoiding recognizing for a while now. It happened because I decided one of my “resolutions” would be to get healthier physically and get back on my losing weight trajectory. (The baby weight is off; has been off for months. I am, however, still 20-40 pounds over my acceptable-ideal weights, have been for years, have been admonished by both regular doctor and OB to get some of it off especially before pregnancy #2, and was in the process of losing some of it when I got pregnant with baby boy.) The way I decided to start was not dieting per se (not cutting calories dieting) but just cutting out junk. I have been at it a whole week, and by the end of the week I was FLOORED to realize just how much I eat my emotions. Feeling stressed? Have some cookies. Upset because I can’t concentrate at work? More cookies. Tired and in need of a pick-me-up? Cookies. No wonder breastfeeding a ravenous little boy wasn’t doing anything after getting me back to starting weight! And in denying myself the outlet of comfort calories, I had to confront the fact that I was feeling really negative things on a DAILY BASIS (sometimes multiple times per day) and that I had, frankly, no idea how to deal with those feelings OTHER than eating. Like…whoa. Whoa damn.  Then I started thinking about why I’m feeling stressed out and upset all the time, and it comes down to being exhausted most of the time (having a baby who wakes up 4-6 times a night every night will do that!) and trying to do all the things I was doing before the baby came in addition to spending most of my time at home looking after the baby or playing with him. So here I am, spinning in circles, barely managing to keep the dishes washed and myself in clean underwear, functioning poorly at work, not writing, not spending any time – and I do mean ANY time – on myself. It’s enough to drive anyone to despair, but my personality type is especially poorly suited to being happy in “survival mode.”

Why? Because there is no sense of achievement or accomplishment. I cannot point to anything I’ve done and say “I am doing this well” (*maybe* I could say I’m a good mom, for a working mom, but that’s it, and such a bare-necessity level of achievement that I can’t feel proud of it, like…WHAT ELSE COULD I POSSIBLY DO EXCEPT BE THE BEST MOM I CAN?!). I cannot look at my day to day or week to week or even month to month activities and say “I have accomplished this task or achieved that goal.” There is nothing for me to use to judge my self-worth against; I have a yardstick and nothing to measure.

I have blogged before about my need to create a sense of task accomplishment in order to feel good about a long project. Right now, my long project is life, and I have no sense of task accomplishment, only the eternal recurrence of days spent on nothing beyond the daily tasks of existing.

I did hit an interesting breaking point with respect to writing. It was this combination of despair and exhaustion and Adam Carolla’s point that “if you really want to do something, you DO IT” and thinking about my favorite song from my favorite band’s experimental album, wherein they wrote and recorded a new song every day for a week – at the end of it came one last song, written, they admitted, from that broken place when you can’t try anymore and sometimes things just well up. I just realized that if I don’t find some way to write in the evenings after a day at work, no matter how tired I am mentally and physically, then I will literally not write for the next 3-6 years. Did I want to write, or didn’t I? If I did, I needed to just do it. So I turned on my computer in that desolate place – drained, empty, desperate, disbelieving, and above all too stubborn to just quit. The first night I wrote four words. But it was four more than I would have otherwise. The next I wrote 339. We’ll see if I can continue. If I can, maybe that can be my sense of task accomplishment: “I wrote something today.”

For now that might even be enough.



Filed under Ramblings, Writing

Looking Forward/Looking Back

2013 Year in Writing

Novels finished: 2

Stories started: 4

Previously started stories touched but not finished: 2

Stories started in calendar year 2013 finished: 0

Books published: 1

Estimated words written, new fiction: 100,000

All in all, not too bad for a year which continued the heavy workload at my day job and also saw my honeymoon, my first DragonCon cosplay crunch, the horrible and debilitating first trimester of my first pregnancy, and the continuing drain on my energy through trimester 2.

2014 in Perspective

I begin 2014 in a state of waiting.

My life is going to change forever sometime in mid-spring, and while part of me feels like I should be desperately working to achieve a few writing goals in the last months I am yet childless, the truth is…I do not have the energy or mental capacity to pursue any goal relentlessly. (The second trimester energy surge is a lie! A brutal lie told by true believers who are simply too un-self-aware to recognize that their energy is merely more than it was during the first trimester but nowhere near what it was before pregnancy! I, at least, have empirical data to prove that I am still only at 75% capacity.)

Now that the stress and flurry of tasks relating to publishing a book are almost done (in direct work, I need to send review copies out to the few bloggers who reviewed one of my prior books, as a thank you for those kind and/or instructive words as much as for particular hopes of more publicity…and I still have to re-do the covers and files for the Twelfth Night novellas), I am planning to refocus on writing. I think I will have to go back to doing it in the mornings before work–I’m just too drained after work to try in the evenings–and that will mean forcing myself to go to bed early, perhaps earlier than is really comfortable for me (8 o’clock versus 10).

I am setting a few goals for myself for the year.

  • finish A Yuletide Wedding (prequel/companion to A Christmastide Courtship)
  • revise the novel I finished last spring that I know needs so much work
  • write the 4 companion short stories/novellas that go with Courtship and the other novel, so I can close those loops in my imagination and move on to other character sets
  • finish one of the other novels I have started…either the one I was working on last summer and abandoned before DCon, never (yet) to go back to, or the one I started during NaNo that is still at the forefront of my imagination

Looking at expected word counts for the various pieces, this would put my desired production for the year somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 words – an eminently achievable goal if I can stay focused for the winter and early spring, and get back into the groove of writing not too long after the baby comes (preferably before I go back to work from maternity leave!). If the work were to be split evenly across 50 weeks of the year, that would be 3000-4000 words per week. Even splitting it across only 37 weeks (giving myself a full 15 off for baby) yields 4050-5400. Those are realistic weekly word goals, if I actually put my ass in the chair four or five days a week for an hour or two of focused writing time.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found more general resolutions to be better than really specific ones (goals are not the same as resolutions!). So this year I am giving myself only two, or really it’s maybe one and a half since the second is a reprise of my 2013 resolution:

Don’t panic.

Finish it.

Finish it


Filed under Housekeeping, Writing

A Christmastide Courtship Now Available!

courtship with title

Short pitch:

When his brother breaks a longstanding betrothal with their father’s ward, Piers agrees to court Catherine in his brother’s stead. Will twelve days be long enough for two old friends to fall in love?

Click here for the proper back cover description if you missed it a few days ago!

…on Amazon and Smashwords

I expect it will be a couple weeks before the book ends up in extended distribution from Smashwords, and I might possibly have to restructure the file because of where I put the copyright statements (back matter and not front) before it will get distributed. I will update the book’s page with links to other retailers as they become available, including a print edition hopefully within a few weeks.

But for today, you can buy the book on Smashwords in any format or on Amazon for your Kindle (app). If you have found valuable advice in my blog and want to thank me, pick up a copy if you think you’d like it or send a copy to someone you know who reads romance. If you know you’re not the audience for the book, then thank me by continuing to leave intelligent and engaging comments!

Smashwords page (adult filter must be off…the book isn’t erotica; the romance standard would be “spicy” which goes up to heavy petting, but there’s a few cuss words and explicit references to sex, so I didn’t want to take any chances): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/392736

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HL6P2UE


Filed under Official Announcement, Publishing

Obsession VS Lifestyle

As I’ve mentioned here before, for the past few weeks (and continuing for one more week!) I am spending almost all of my free time on costumes. And not in the way I mean it when I say “I spend most of my free time writing,” because in comparison to the first statement, the second is simply untrue.

When I am going about the course of my normal life, I spend SOME of my free time writing. I spend a great deal more of it avoiding writing, or considering writing and rejecting the idea because I am tired, or the words aren’t anywhere in my head, or the thought of sitting down to write creates anxiety and I don’t want to make writing an act or place of anxiety for myself. I guess this current obsession is making me face the fact that in many ways I do still write only “when I feel like it.” Sure, I get up early a lot of mornings to write before work, but you know what? That is the only point in a normal workweek when I do feel like writing, barring some flash of inspiration or a day when I am obsessing over the words and the story such that I can barely focus on my work and just sit at my desk with my skin crawling like I took some party drug and my brain short-circuiting every 20 seconds like Tweek on South Park. I do not, in general, manage to make myself work on a story when I don’t want to.

I am also realizing that…I am fine with this state of affairs. Yes, having a day job I only like and don’t love sucks, and my life goal is to build enough income from writing to quit. The quickest way to do that is to publish a lot of books, so if I really want to quit my job, I should be spending every second I am not working or sleeping on my writing.

But…that is not who I am. I am too Aristotelian in my life philosophy: everything in moderation. Basically working 13 hours a day, every day, is not moderation. It would ruin my friendships. It would ruin my marriage. My husband, bless his heart, has been so patient the last few weeks, not complaining about the state of the house (covered in my projects and clutter) or my relative inattention to him when he is home in between jobs (his off days I do make a point to give him my full attention). And my friends have been great at either dragging me from the house for a break or sitting at my place, watching movies (and sometimes cooking for me!) while I keep sewing. All of that is fine for a month, for a finite and specific goal. It is NOT fine for a lifestyle. I would drive myself mad. I would drive my health into the ground. I would destroy some of the things I value most in my life–my relationships, which, as an introvert, I do not build easily, value highly, and never want to lose (because then I would have to find new friends and…*shudders*).

So while I might ask my friends and family to help me accomplish NaNoWriMo for once, and pursue writing with the level of obsession normally reserved for cosplay for a month, a finite and specific time period, I could not pursue writing on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis with this kind of energy. All I can do is keep chipping away at stories in the mornings and on weekends when I have nothing better to do. It might take me the long way to get there – and I might never reach my goal of not working; novel-writing might remain something I love too much to give up, but which I pursue on the side of my real life – but the flip side is, I have a fuller, richer life that satisfies more of my needs than the Slytherin hiss of ambition and accomplishment that burns in one corner of my heart. The other three corners together outweigh the one, and I am happier for it.

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Filed under Ramblings, Writing

“Can you drudge twelve hours a day, six days out of every seven?”

A question for all the publishers who want to court successful self-published authors with the lure of “not doing anything but writing”:  do you…actually think that self-employed writers spend 8-12 hours a day writing?  Or is what you’re really offering them the opportunity to work 4-6 hour days and stop working when they stop writing?

I will make the caveat that I’m not other writers.  I don’t know how they write, and I don’t know when their mental muscles begin to shake and fold with exhaustion.  So maybe there are writers out there who could and would write 12 hours a day every day, and the publishing details really are a waste of their writing time.

But for me, I can’t see where the publishing side of things eats up my WRITING time.  Other free time, yeah, but not the blocks of my time that are earmarked for writing.

Let’s try and remember our math lessons from long ago.

First, I read a statistic somewhere that people who own their own business work an average of 60 hours a week versus the 40 that those of us on a time clock work.  This holds true in my workplace experience. I work for a family-owned business, and the people with their name on the building put in longer hours than any of the rest of us—even when the rest of us are giving 50 hours a week.  So we’ll suggest a maximum of 60 hours and a minimum of 40 hours for writers who are making a living off writing and have no other job.

This means they have 8-12 hours a day, M-F, to work, or 9 hours daily M-S.

Do self-employed writers really spend that many hours every day actually writing?

I have, on most days, between four and six hours of really productive writing time in the morning and maybe a couple more brainstorming hours in the evening.  If I didn’t have a day job, if all I had to do were write and take care of the publishing side of my business, I would have every afternoon of the week for those “difficult” tasks like formatting ebooks and designing covers.  That’s 20 hours a week, assuming I go back to work at one and “clock out” at five.  If I start writing at eight a.m., I have a four-hour block until noon, six hours if I start at six.  Even at the pace of completing one book per month, I can’t see where the publishing side of the equation takes a full 80 hours, much less more, to get that one book ready to publish.  MAYBE it does if you include all revision as publishing work rather than writing work, but not more.

So let’s all just be honest about what’s being offered.  If you’re a writer who is living off your writing, what a publisher is offering you with that “let me do the rest” line is the chance to have a 24-30 hour work week. 

Maybe for some people that’s a good deal.  For me, I’d rather work the extra 20 hours and get more of the proceeds.  But that’s just me.


Filed under Publishing

Is This…Writing? How Does It Count?

A week for rhetorical question post titles, I see.

Right.  So I’m working toward the end of my novel in progress.  And, y’all, I am effing close.  I have about eight mini-arcs to bring in and wrap into the rest, including the climax and denouement. My outline is sketchy at twelve specific scenes, because it might still be more like fifteen scenes. It’s the never-ending outline! But all the same, the end is nigh.

I have about half of what’s left pre-written. Today I went through and bridged about three of those pre-written sections to my narrative text, so my forward progress kind of leapt exponentially with a very small outlay of mental effort. It felt…like cheating.

I mean, I know I wrote those words.  The effort to get them down had already been expended. But there was a weird sense of non-accomplishement even though I moved my narrative forward by so many scenes, just because the amount of words I had to write today to do it were so few.

I am glad that I don’t have the ending pre-written. I don’t actually know what the final scene of the book is going to be yet. I am glad about this because I want to feel like I accomplished something when I type the last word. I know I will feel like I accomplished a great deal, tomorrow, when I look at how far I got today. But today it feels…like the work was too easy.

Oh, well. Tomorrow it will be back to beating my muse into submission with a vague scene directive of “hero’s sister’s first ball.”

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Filed under Ramblings, Writing

Creating a Sense of Task Accomplishment Within Large Projects

Or, Going back to read your WIP from the beginning when you are halfway through is a really bad idea

For whatever reason, I am the sort of person who needs to feel like I have “accomplished” something, not merely “worked on” something. If I just put in work but don’t seem to get anywhere, I get anxious and frustrated. Possibly even nervous. I KNOW.

It is inconvenient enough in a real-world job where my duties are really never-ending, as I don’t really work on projects but on the fresh flow of invoices always rotating in and out of the office.  But in the process of writing a novel it is awful.

I am having to set discrete milestones for myself so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment at being “done” even if it’s only with part of the project rather than the whole thing. It’s hard, though, because I also know it’s artificial and arbitrary. I don’t believe myself when I say “Good job for finishing that chapter.”  No, Lily, I didn’t finish anything. Not yet.

I think part of the problem here, as well, is that there are not mini-stories within the larger story.  The threads I am weaving are all long. They will make a beautiful tapestry by the end (I hope) but until I get there, the work in progress is kind of incoherent and unattractive.

Although I may have just given myself a really hilarious analogy, to think of hero and heroine as warp and weft.

Anyway, the point is, I am glad, I guess, that I know my own weaknesses as an employee well enough to recognize how they sabotage my writing. Now I just need a fucking boss to come stare over my shoulder, threaten to micromanage, and give me arbitrary deadlines to help me feel like I done did something to its completion today, y’all.

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Filed under Ramblings, Writing