write

Anxiety and the Writer

I figured it was time for some real talk. About that thing that no one seems to want to talk about: anxiety.

It's real, it's stressful, and it's overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like it wins the battle. But it doesn't have to win the war.

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The Beginning

When I started on this book journey over a decade ago, I never knew what would come. I just knew I wanted to write a book, and, though I had no clue where to start, I somehow did. It was a long journey, but I finally got to the point where I wanted to release my book.

So on June 1st, 2018 (has it only been two months??), I announced my book release. I was so excited (and still am) and I couldn't wait to see what would happen. Little did I know things would start happening, that very weekend.

I freaked out.Like crying, near panic attack freaking out.

Fear, anxiety, the constant what-did-I-do mantra that swirled through my head sped up my breathing, made my chest tight, consumed my thoughts. My husband, being the amazing man that he is, talked me down, calmed me down. He was, and still is, my rock. I'm convinced I couldn't do this without him.

I wish that was the end of it.

My Journey

Nearly every weekend since (I suspect that this is because I work on book stuff the most on the weekend and that's when I try to tackle the hard stuff), I've had some form of a panic attack. I even had two in one weekend (and even two in one day). They're scary, overwhelming, frustrating, annoying, and make me feel like I'm the only writer in the world who doesn't think they could ever get a book out into the world.

But I'm not, right?

I know I'm not. Despite what my brain tells me in the moment, the highlight reel I see on Instagram isn't the whole story. Because mine isn't. I don't want to show my weekly panic attacks, the too-many-times-to-count crying sessions that leave my eyes puffy and red and my throat dry. I only show the happy things, the things that I'm convinced everyone wants to see. Who wants to be depressed? The world is depressing enough as it is.

So that's why I'm writing this post. To show that we're all human, that what you see on social media is rarely the whole story, and that we all struggle. Sometimes it's depression, sometimes it's anxiety, sometimes it's a host of other things. Mental health is important and is lacking in our incessantly busy, constantly distracted culture.

But There's Hope

And that's the other reason I'm writing this post: you don't have to struggle alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are those of us — the ones that you probably see with a smile on Instagram — who struggle like you do. Who think that they couldn't possibly make their dreams come true. The ones that don't see sometimes how they could manage another smile.

Don't get me wrong: the smiles I put on social media are real. I love my life, and I love my online community. But that's not really the point.

The point is that life is sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes we don't think we can keep working on our dream. Sometimes anxiety seems to win.

But it doesn't have to.

We keep going. We keep trying. We never give up. We look anxiety right in its vicious, angry eyes and tell it that we are stronger, that we are better than what it says we are, and that even though it might seem like it has won the battle, we will win the war.

WE. WILL. WIN. THE. WAR.

<3 Melissa

P.S. If you are struggling with mental health issues and need help, please reach out to someone. You may email me at any time, or connect with me on social media. If you are contemplating suicide, please, PLEASE know that there are people, like me, who care about you. If you need immediate, 24/7, free help, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. I am not a medical professional and this post is not meant to taken as medical advice. I merely wanted to offer a free resource to those who need help, and to reassure them that they are not alone. You are not alone.

Writing Advice to my Younger Self

As you may know, I'm doing a hashtag challenge on Instagram called #junelitwrit. (Thank you to @sarahelizabethwriter, @quillmistress, @tyffany.h, @pagewitch, @becky_moynihan, @the_slp_reads, @bobaloolas_art, @blogherosix, @writerdaniellemichael for hosting the challenge! There's a #julylitwrit coming up too if you'd like to follow!) Yesterday's challenge was "Writing Advice I Would Give my Younger Self."I started typing and quickly realized it would make an excellent blog post, mostly because I have way too much to say than will fit in an Instagram photo caption!My Younger Self (2008 Version)So, younger Melissa, if this post somehow makes it back to 2008, please heed my advice. Get tons more sleep, eat better (Paleo will help), start doing yoga, and take care of your skin. And, when it comes to your writing, do all these things:

WRITE

It doesn’t matter how bad it is, how few words get on the page, or how much you know you’ll just end up deleting later, write as much as you can and as often as you can. It's the only way you'll get better at it.

BE BRAVE

Write what seems true to you, and not what everyone else says you should write about. (Even the, er . . . intimate scenes. What's true to you will surprise you. Dig deep and figure it out.) Then don’t be afraid to share it with the world. Be you, and do it relentlessly.

EDIT RUTHLESSLY

You’ll learn this later, but it will help if you get it now. Get rid of all unnecessary words. They will probably be your favorite. Cut them anyway. If you can convey what you want to say in two words instead of ten, cut those eight words. And don’t cry about it. You’ll be amazed at how much stronger your writing is. Trust me. Also, get rid of like 93% of your adverbs.

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

Your writing won’t be perfect, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be exactly what it turns out to be. And if a few typos make it into print, or you obsess over how you could’ve written that one part a little bit better, just know you’ll make it better with the next book and let the first one be. Imperfection shows vulnerability, an essential quality of being a true creative.

BE AUTHENTIC

I mean, you’re an INFJ, so it mostly comes naturally for you, but share more than you think is comfortable. No one ever made history from their comfort zone.

SHOW NOT TELL

You’ll understand this fairly early on, but it will save you tons of editing if you get it sooner. (And read "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King right now.) But seriously. Think of ways to visualize facial expressions, how it physically feels when someone breaks your heart, what another person may do and look like when they’re surprised. Then describe them. Readers are smart; don’t talk down to them. Let their imagination fill in the rest — they’re up to the challenge, I promise. And they’ll probably love you for it.

KEEP YOUR FOOT ON THE GAS

If you’re bored reading a scene, your reader will close the book and probably never pick it up again. So if it doesn’t serve the story in some way, get rid of it. Make this your mantra: WHEN IT DOUBT, CUT IT OUT. Even if there’s one little tidbit that’s vital to the story but the rest of the scene is worthless — EVEN IF IT’S YOUR FAVORITE SCENE — get rid of it, and put the tidbit elsewhere. Or maybe you really don't need that tidbit at all.

Always ask yourself, with EVERY. SINGLE. WORD.: "Do I REALLY need this?" If not, and you're being brutally honest, get rid of it. Then you'll be able to keep the story moving and keep the reader turning the page. It's what you really want, I know. Remember, I was you like ten years ago. I've got you.

CONNECT WITH AS MANY OTHER WRITERS AS POSSIBLE

This one will be hard for you. I remember well. You can whine and say you don't need anyone, but you're really just throwing a temper tantrum. Because TOUGH LOVE. Get out there, make friends, join a community of like-minded writers, authors, and creatives who will support you, lift you up, and encourage you and your passions like no one else can. I don't even remember what was available to you in 2008 — was it MySpace? And also Facebook, of course — but connect early and often. Your future self (ME) will thank you. So will your follower stats.

CHANGE YOUR TITLE

Okay, this one you'll figure out, and it will be okay. But there's already a book called "The Codex" so change it now. Spoiler: It should be called "The Secret of the Codex", which you know is way better.

STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER AUTHORS

Their methods are not your methods, and that's okay. You can write in frenetic spurts then go days without writing, and you will survive. Just don't go years without writing, like I did. You'll have some life stuff to work through, and it will be tough, but it will get better, and you'll be such a better person for it, but don't stop writing. I think writing would've helped me through it more quickly. But maybe not.Point is, if you write any and every spare moment and never have time to read, then read every spare moment because the book you're reading is really good, that's okay. Which leads me to my final point.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY

Oh, girl. This one's going to be SO HARD for you. But trust me — the journey is the most important part of the process. I know you don't get it. I know you probably can't understand. But believe me, you need the journey you're on to get you to the place where you become me, the person who is finally releasing that book that God gave us over the last ten years. Because the person you become on the journey is much more important than arriving at the destination. I'm older, I have more wrinkles than you, and we have been through a lot. I'm not perfect — you already know that — but I'm happy with who this journey has made me. Things will get better, you'll figure things out, and you'll recover from the mistakes you made. Life won't be perfect, but it will be good.Trust me.<3 Melissa *This page may contain affiliate links, which means if you use those links to make a purchase, I receive a commission at no extra cost to you.*

Meet Grady McGready: A Character Profile

Up next in my character profiles series is Grady McGready—Kayla's love interest and pretty much the best fictional crush EVER.

He's just like Kayla in all the right ways and just different enough to keep things interesting.

Here are some inspo pics I found for him...

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Clearly not the same guy, but still...he only has a beard when he's been out in the rainforest for like a week, so I figured a clean-shaven one would be good too...

In The Secret of the Codex (releasing August 28th, pinch me!), Grady McGready comes on the scene just as Kayla's about to make an exciting discovery. They've seen each other at work—they work in the same department at the University of Central Florida, after all—but they've not interacted much. So when Kayla invites him to join in her discovery, just the two of them, sparks start to fly...

Grady is perfect for Kayla in all the right ways, and this fact becomes clear throughout their journey. He grounds her when her world is crashing down, he holds her when she needs to be held, and he doesn't push her when she needs time. I wanted to write the perfect guy, but one who stills has flaws. Because #reallife.

And #mushymoment: I hadn't met my husband when I wrote Grady, but I tell him often that he's my Grady—perfect for me in all the ways that matter. Somehow I feel my heart knew someone like that was possible for me—so I wrote Grady in anticipation of my husband.

Told you it'd be mushy. <3

Grady's a little complicated, too—but unfortunately we don't get to delve as much into his backstory in book 1 as we do Kayla's. But a little mystery is good, right? I'm sure we'll all find out more about him as the series progresses. (Book 2 is currently underway!)

So what do you think? If you've read the free excerpt on this site, how does my description compare to what you pictured in your head?

Until next time,

<3 Melissa

P.S. If you haven't signed up for my email list, why not? I'll send you the first 3 chapters of the book as a thank you, and you can meet Grady for yourself! Sign up here!