“Education prepares you for better employment opportunities. It puts you in a better position to serve and to bless those around you. It will set you on a path of lifelong learning. It will strengthen you to fight against ignorance and error. As Joseph Smith taught: ‘Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power. To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.’ Education will prepare you for what is ahead…” – Elder Robert D. Hales, Oct. 2015
Last fall, I had no intention of watching the Saturday afternoon session of LDS General Conference. I was going to take a nap. Instead, I kept the TV on and cuddled up on the couch ready to fall asleep. Then Elder Hales spoke. It was because of Elder Hales that my life has changed dramatically in the past six months. Because of his counsel, I made a choice I never wanted to make, but one I knew was right.
When he spoke the above words I knew I should get my MBA. All other degrees I had been considering flew out the door. I needed to get an MBA, a degree I didn’t (and still don’t) want, didn’t think I needed, and had absolutely no desire to get. When I heard those words I knew what I should do. I knew what was right. It wasn’t a happy feeling…it was more like, “Oh, crap. I should have taken a nap.” But it was right.
Throughout the next day I analyzed the pros and cons, but I ultimately knew what my decision would be. It was something I didn’t want to do, but it was something good and right. For some reason, not doing the right thing never even occurred to me. I applied for the program when I got to work on Monday.
Did I know why I had to get my MBA? No. Did I suddenly have a change of heart and was excited at the prospect? No. Was I going to do it cheerfully? Not a chance — as anyone who has even mentioned it to me can attest. But I was going to do it. Yes, I was like Laman and Lemuel and have murmured the ENTIRE time. But I never once thought about not doing it. I often joked about dropping out, but knew I never would. The Lord had inspired me to do something. I didn’t know why, or even how I would do it, but I knew He would help me along the way because He had commanded it.
When I graduate in a couple months – approximately 7 months from when I started in November – I will be ecstatic, but not for one second will I think I got through it on my own. He helped me through each and every class. He spent countless hours helping me focus and remember what I studied. Every class I pass I know it’s because of Him. He’s helping me do what he wanted me to do.
For the first time, I can now say that General Conference has literally changed my life. A man called of God spoke inspired words and for that I will always be grateful.
So instead of watching General Conference this weekend, I encourage you to take a nap. Otherwise you just might end up with the inspiration and guidance needed to change your life.
That was how I introduced myself to a room full of women, “I’m just Jessie.” They all laughed, thinking I was kidding. Surely there must be something more. There wasn’t. Not having anything else to say, I sat back down. It wasn’t until a few years later that I looked back on this experience and thought of it as more than just a funny introduction. Now I see it as a way of accepting myself. I’m just me.
As we grow up we’re constantly told by family, friends, peers, mentors, and media to do more, to be more. Be more assertive. Do better in school. Be more positive. Do more work. Be more, do more, be more, do more, be more, do more. It’s exhausting. We get to the point where we feel like we’ll never measure up, and soon we start to convince ourselves we never can. We start to use “I’m too” and “I’m not” statements.
I’m too fat. I’m too nice. I’m too aggressive. I’m too short. I’m too tall. I’m too shallow. I’m too skinny. I’m too sensitive. I’m too needy. I’m too ugly. I’m too selfish. I’m too weak. I’m too _______. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m not happy enough. I’m not kind enough. I’m not _______. I’m not enough.
The list goes on and on. We do this to ourselves constantly. We define ourselves by the things we can and can’t do. The things we do and do not like; things we have and haven’t done. We compare ourselves to others, either lifting ourselves up or putting ourselves down. Instead of thinking about all the things you’re not, think of all the things you are. The things that make you, you. You are made up of a million different pieces. Not all pieces are good and not all are bad. They’re just different. Don’t let one piece determine how you view yourself. You decide who you are and who you will be.
I’m not saying that we need to accept our flaws and never change. I’m saying that we need to accept ourselves. I’m a big advocate of progressing in life. But right now, I just want to let everyone know that it’s okay to just be you. What makes you, you? If you have to choose one word to describe yourself, let that word be “me.”
Writing is hard. Yeah, it’s fun and a dream come true and I would never trade being able to read and write. But sometimes, it gets you down. It’s an extremely isolating profession. You spend long hours at your computer, forgetting to eat, your only company the characters in your story. To top it all off you’re rarely surrounded by people who “get” why you write. It can be challenging.
It’s during these times that you start to get self-conscious. You think, “I can’t write” and “This entire manuscript is a piece of crap,” and my personal favorite, “Why, oh why, didn’t I go to business school like my dad told me to?!?!” These feelings get overwhelming and before you know it you’ve sunk into a deep depression.
Depression is a real thing. It’s a problem. It’s not imaginary or “all in your head” or something you can just “get over.” It’s an honest-to-goodness disease, just as real and serious as pneumonia or a broken leg or Netflix withdrawals. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) Unfortunately, because symptoms of depression differ in everyone and aren’t as easily recognizable as, say, a giant wart on the tip of your nose, depression has become somewhat of a faux pas.
Guess what, guys? It’s okay. It’s okay to have depression. It’s okay that all you did today was get out of bed to use the bathroom. It’s okay. You’ll try again tomorrow.
(Just a quick note to say that if you’re at the point in your depression where you are only waking up to go to the bathroom, having any suicidal or self-harming thoughts, or basically at the point where you feel like a Dementor is sucking out your soul, it’s time to get some help. Go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org, call your insurance agent, or Google psychiatrists and/or therapists in your area. There is help out there. It’s filled to capacity with inspirational quotes and encouraging memes just calling your name. But seriously. You don’t have to be alone in this. You don’t even have to think you’re “that bad.” If you or someone you loves thinks you need help, get help.)
Since I feel like a lot of writers suffer from various forms of depression, I thought I’d give some tips as to what helps me round-house kick writers depression in the face.
1. Don’t write in your pajamas.
I know what you’re thinking. “WHAT?!? The best part about my job is that I get to write in my pajamas!!!” And that’s partly true. What I mainly mean by “don’t write in your pajamas” is that you should get up at a set time in the morning and get ready for the day. If you shower and put on clean pajamas then that’s fine. Just get ready in the morning.
One of my triggers (something that triggers my depression – hehe) is when I stay in the same clothes as the day/night before. I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything which leads to feelings of self-loathing and I just kind of spiral from there. When I get up at a decent hour and go through my normal morning routine, I feel like I’ve at least accomplished something — I got up.
2. Exercise (even when you don’t want to).
Because I work out 4x a week, people don’t believe me when I say I hate to exercise. I do. With every fiber of my being. But exercising helps depression. It’s just one of those sad facts of life, like acne or how Khol’s sells out of whatever item you just put in your shopping cart. The first few times (*cough* weeks *cough*) it won’t feel like it’s helping. You might even be more tired and irritated than you were before you started exercising. But once your body gets used to it and you are able to get through a workout without wanting to strangle your trainer or break the elliptical, you’ll see how much it improves your mood. You’ll feel better emotionally and you’ll be keeping your body healthy in the process.
3. Take a break.
But…you’re on a roll! You can’t take a break! That’s crazy-talk! Unfortunately, it’s a two-sided coin. If you don’t take breaks you will go crazy. Marathon writing is all well and good. It’s awesome and feels great to accomplish so much. But too many marathon days will burn you out. You might get tired or sick, and then think all your writing is crap right before you go headfirst into a downward spiral.
Take a nap. Go on a walk. Run up and down the stairs for two minutes. Watch an episode of Gilmore Girls. Do something where you don’t have to think about writing for just a little while. When you come back you’ll feel more energized and be ready to hit your next 2,000 word goal.
4. Eat healthy snacks. Really, just remember to eat and drink (water).
That grumbling sound in the pit of your stomach? That’s your body telling you to eat something. When you’re crazy-into your story, the last thing you want to do is mess up your groove by getting something to eat. You’d have to leave your computer and everything! Being Hangry is a thing. Not eating right can contribute to your depression just as easily as not sleeping well.
You can prepare your snacks for the week beforehand so it’s just a thirty second break until you’re back writing. Cut up some strawberries, watermelon, carrot sticks or whatever you fancy and put them in snack-sized containers so you can easily grab them, take them back to your desk/couch/park bench, and enjoy. Believe me, I’m all about the sweets. Self-proclaimed Reese’s addict. One thing I try to do is to eat super-healthy during working hours and then I can have a treat at dinner.
Another thing you need to remember to do is keep hydrated. When I’m working, I’m constantly forgetting to drink water. It’s like my thirst disappears when I’m writing. It’s important to stay hydrated because all sorts of bad stuff can happen when you get dehydrated. If you have to go to the hospital for an IV you’re going to lose writing time. Keep drinking that water even if you have to set a reminder on your phone.
5. Don’t write in your bedroom.
Again with the “WHAT?!?!” reactions. I currently don’t have the luxury of having an office, so I do write in my bedroom. If that’s your situation, that’s okay. But try writing somewhere different – in a coffee shop, in the park, at a table in Denny’s (they won’t mind, they’re pretty much empty anyways and they have great pancakes). Get out of your house and be around people. I get that you have to do what works for you and if the only way you’re inspired to write is in a dark room with the glow from your computer as your only light – then that’s great. For the rest of us, I suggest trying a change of scenery.
Not all of these tips will work for everyone. The real trick is to identify your triggers and start to recognize them. Once you do that then you can figure out ways to combat them. It’s a complex business, but with enough practice (and possibly therapy) you’ll be able to head writers depression off at the pass. Not only will identifying your triggers keep you from sinking into a depression, but they’ll also help increase your productivity because you won’t spend half your time worried that you’re losing your ability to write.
I can’t be the only one who has writers depression. What are your triggers and how do you combat them?
I’m so excited for my first giveaway! The giveaway ended Monday night and Goodreads emailed me the five winners’ addresses. Woohoo! I’m happy to announce my book will now have readers in NC, KY, TX, WA, and CT.
Thanks to everyone who entered and made my first giveaway totally awesome! Stay tuned for more news! 🙂
The other day I had to officially write my dedication page. Since Twisting Fate will be released in the next couple weeks it was incredibly important that I get this done soon. Luckily, I’ve known exactly what my dedication page would say for the past year.
In preparation for the moment you all read my dedication page I’ve compiled a list (by now you’re thinking – another one? Yes, I have another list.) of five of the best dedications I’ve seen.
The Selection by Kiera Cass: “Hi, Dad! ★waves★”
Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows by J. K. Rowling: “The dedication of this book is split in seven ways: to Neil, to Jessica, to David, to Kenzie, to Di, to Anne, and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end.”
Matched by Ally Condie: “For Scott, who always believes”
Austenland by Shannon Hale: “For Colin Firth — You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.”
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Once Again To Zelda”
The other night I was clogging the feed with tweets about the Hunter Hayes “We’re Not Invisible” concert. I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry.
Hunter Hayes has officially inspired me. I know it’s cliché to have a singer/actress/famous person inspire you, but it’s true – it happened. I don’t quite remember what he said that set me off on an inspirational tailspin, but here I am – four days later – still inspired.
He was talking about something (again, not quite sure what) when a thought came to my mind. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, but I’ve never quite grasped that it was possible. I’ve always been waiting, waiting, and waiting. Waiting for what? I don’t exactly know.
So while Hunter was talking (yes, we’re on a first-name basis now – or at least I am) I found myself feeling sad because I couldn’t do something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a teenager. That’s when a single thought trickled into my mind:
What’s stopping you?
It’s easy to look at our lives and think, “I’ll do that when…” or “I’ll be happy if…” We tend to live our lives on if/then statements. Such as, “If that super-cute guy I saw at the party asks me out, then I’ll be happy.”
It’s easy to live our lives this way. We’re constantly searching for things that will make us happy and that’s not bad. It’s a good thing to wantto be happy. But at some point we have to ask ourselves, “Am I the one standing in the way of my happiness?” You have dreams, right? Everyone does. I don’t think there’s a person in this world who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Man, I really hope nothing good happens today.”
I often think, “I can’t do that until _______________.” I’m a list person. I enjoy having a plan and being able to execute it. I like order. While I don’t think any of these qualities are bad, I can’t help but feel like it’s somewhat limiting.
People always hand out limitations and restrictions. You can’t do something because you’re not the right person for the job. You’re not good enough. Others could do it better. You won’t succeed. It just goes on and on and on until you start believing what others say and think.
Fear stops us from doing what we love. We sometimes let fear control our lives, until one day we’re 83 and looking back wondering why we’ve never accomplished their dreams. We let the size of a task dissuade us from working at it. Most anything worthwhile will be hard work.
I’m not perfect. That’s just a fact. There’s a good possibility I might fail. But that’s okay.