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Pep talks for the creatively blocked

Dear Captain,

I’m in my early 30’s. Having spent my 20’s doing the ‘right’ things (college -> law school -> office job), I have now recognised what was clear all along, namely that this is not for me at all, and that maybe that’s okay. I’ve also realised that maybe it’s okay to not be making the maximum amount I possibly could be, and okay to say ‘no thank you’ to the budding career I have zero interest in in favour of pursuing my passions.

Passions, of course, don’t pay very well, certainly not at first and possibly never. If I quit right now, today, I would be living hand to mouth with virtually no safety net. If I hold on for another 22 months, then I would have a very substantial safety net, enough to cushion me for a decade or more to come (I would still need to work to feed myself, but I would be able to absorb a good number of unexpected financial blows before going into crisis mode), plus put me in a better position in old age. There is no in between here.

Herein lies the quandary: I could die in six months’ time, in which case I would rather quit now and take my chances. On the other hand, if I did quit now and then didn’t die shortly afterwards, 2020!Me’s life is likely to be significantly more precarious and uncomfortable than it would be if Present!Me stays for the 22 months. I should add here that I tend to be a lot more productive in the creative area I want to pursue when I feel immediately secure, so this isn’t even just about my own comfort, but potentially impacts the quality of the work I want to do (and of course the point of this whole exercise is to give myself a better chance of producing quality work).

Knowing myself, I will probably do the 22 months. I don’t hate my job, have no reason to expect my imminent demise beyond the fact that it could happen to anyone, and the job comes with a fixed end date at the end of the period, so I’m less likely to fall into the trap of just putting it off and putting it off until it becomes too late. I’m just having a hard time reconciling myself to the ‘what if’ part right now right now. Help please?

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Readers! Especially Readers Who Are Also Writers! Here is a blog you might want to know about:

Longtime Awkwardeer Rose Fox has started an advice site for writers called Story Hospital. Every week Rose answers a question from a writer who’s struggling with a work in progress or with writing in general. The site’s tagline is “Heal your relationship with your writing” and it reads a lot like a relationship advice column, with a balanced mix of writing tips and deeper analysis of what leads writers to feel blocked, anxious, or uncertain about their work. So far the site has covered being your own muse, writing peer-reviewed papers while feeling overwhelmed by academia, patching plot holes in novels, and figuring out when to let go of a script draft that’s just not working out, among many other topics relevant to both fiction and nonfiction writers. The site is supported by Patreon and patrons get cool perks, including inspirational postcards and access to a priority question queue. Rose has been a professional writer, editor, and book reviewer for 20 years and is overflowing with great advice. Take a look at their site, and if you’re having trouble with writing of any kind, ask them a question!

Dear Captain,

I’ll preface this letter by saying that I’m a chronically depressed woman with big anxiety problems and BDP (and one of the ways it manifest is a crippling fear of abandonment).

I have been dumped. By a theater group. I was friend or friendly with all the members (some before the theater). I didn’t see it coming.

We’re an amateur group, so each year our director is whoever volunteers. Someone, let’s call her Loki (I’m feeling petty) took over the job, was congratulated (it’s not an easy job and nobody else was rushing for it). She organized a few reading session over the summer; I attended the first, the second I was in vacation and the two last ones I was too depressed to attend, which I didn’t think would be a big deal. The decision was ultimately hers, she took it, chose a play with eight roles even though we were ten comedians. One week ago she announced it, and last night called me to tell me I was out because she has chosen “to keep the people most invested this summer”. Somehow I’m the only one out.

An additional reason I’m pissed: she chose to cut me out even though I was already a member of the group, but brought her brother in and in an subsequent text she sent me, she talked about the scheduling difficulties (why did she told me that??) (I had no schedule constraint as I have a job with regular hours, no partner or kid and no other activity).

She repeated she was sorry, and I could still be part of the group by doing the grunt work (my words, not hers) of building the set or sewing the costumes (not interested). She also repeatedly offered to me to talk this over around coffee, which I’m very wary about because 1)i don’t see the point beside easing her possible guilt 2)I get emotional real quick and rn all I could see happen is me crying or me yelling, which are both bad. 3)I don’t want to somehow get back in because she would take pity of my mental health issues.

The rest of the group probably doesn’t yet knows what she did and why, they would have said something and I assume she wanted to tell me first.

The final thing is that the scholar year has already started, so it’s gonna be hard to find another, if any, theater group (full of strangers!) I guess my question is: how do I deal with those feeling, how do I deal with Loki and the rest of the group?

Sad And Pissed the Hell Off (she/her)

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Hello Captain and friends!

This problem has been sitting in my mind, waiting to pounce, for months. Recently it came to the forefront and shocked me a bit.

I’m a 24-year-old graduate student pursuing a career that I’ve wanted since I was a preteen. Grad school has been good overall, especially for my confidence. I have wonderful friends, good family relationships (I live with my parents), and artistic hobbies that I enjoy (although I don’t put much effort into them). I was diagnosed with severe anxiety in 2014, did therapy for a year, and went on medication this summer. Therapy reduced OCD symptoms and negative self-talk, and meds have reduced daily nervousness. I’ve had four part-time jobs in food service, reception, and retail respectively. I always put my best face forward at work, and I make up for school-related procrastination with anxiety-fuelled planning and get really good grades.

But the other day I realized that I’ve never been good at anything, and I’m probably not good enough for my career path. My first boss called me “inefficient”. I made more mistakes at my second job than the newbies, even after four semesters. (Same goes for the campus kung fu club.) I was frequently reprimanded at my third job and got a few serious talking-tos. At my fourth job I often felt overwhelmed and scattered, and they didn’t call me back to work the holiday rush. I’ve never been fired, but I had to quit all of my jobs due to going to/leaving school. I wasn’t very good at my volunteer positions or hobbies, either.

Two days ago I got a performance review at my school internship. My supervisors are excited to ramp things up with me next term. Although my technical skills are at par, I’ve made social blunders due to my habit of acting without thinking when I’m anxious. In general, I don’t have the professional conduct skills to “fit in” at the agency or truly connect with clients. With some wheedling I got one supervisor to indirectly admit that if this had been a job, I’d have been fired by now.

Realizing that I’m bad at the work I value and have wanted to do for so long was awful. And I don’t know why I make so many mistakes. I realize that anxiety sabotages concentration and motivation, but now that I feel less anxious the problems have not gone away. I’m nearly certain that these mistakes were/are due to unchangeable cognitive or personality flaws. I started self-harming this summer to make my self-hatred more concrete.

I just don’t want to be incompetent anymore. I don’t want to let people down.

Regards,

Tomato in the Mirror

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Ahoy Captain,
I was hoping you could give me some scripts for internal use only.

A few years ago I was in medical school in city A. In my final year, I failed my exams & had to repeat the last semester – and know this sounds ridiculous (“the worst thing to happen in your whole life is failing an exam, you lucky, over-privileged jerk?”), but I have never felt worse, more devastated and humiliated, in my life before or since. I was the only failure in my year, & all my friends graduated without me. Ultimately, I graduated at the end of the semester, have been a doctor for several years, and my supervisors give me satisfactory reports. My self-confidence was not-so-great for a while and I have issues with anxiety. But a year ago I moved away to work at City B Hospital. It was a natural progression based on my experience, but I was entrusted with more responsibility, less supervision, learned a lot and people tell me my confidence has noticeably increased.

This year I’ll be moving back to work at City A Hospital, for many excellent reasons, not least because they will be giving me a type of position I’ve been trying to get for the last 2 years, and necessary for getting onto the training program for the speciality I’m interested in. I’m looking forward to this move on the whole, but I’m worried about how I’ll deal with seeing my old friends, many of whom still work there. They are not the problem – they were and still are great to me. But most of them are registrars now (kind of a middle-management position) while I’ll still be a junior. I’m worried that, working with these guys, probably being told what to do by them sometimes (as part of our jobs), I’ll start thinking what a loser I am again. I already feel a little depressed when I hear about one of them passing an exam or getting a promotion (because I am a terrible person). I mean, I try to tell myself stuff like “They know more than you because they’ve been studying for specialty exams / they’re further along because they had a head-start /it’s not a crime to take longer to progress in your career – that doesn’t make you a loser”. But then I go “Yeah, but they didn’t fail and you did, therefore all of that must be interpreted in the worst possible light – so you kind of are.”. 

Captain, have you got any other suggestions for how to convince my self-doubt to STFU?

Thanking you in advance,

Doc With Doubt

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