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What to Do When Overwhelmed with Writing & Blogging

One of the most common feelings writers experience is that of being overwhelmed, especially in relation to blogging. We like the connections we make, the encouragement we find, and the many things we learn.

But we may eventually find ourselves overwhelmed by the number of blogs we follow. We find ourselves in a hectic race to simply keep up with repaying visits to those who kindly leave comments on our blog.

On top of that, we struggle to make our writing a priority amidst the demands of all our other life responsibilities. We juggle family, jobs, and outside activities—all the while wishing we could have more uninterrupted writing time.

Soon we find ourselves slipping further down the slide of despair, growing frustrated and unhappy. We throw up our hands and yell, “How can I handle all of this?”

As a mother of five children, one of the most common questions people ask me is, “How do you handle so many children?” Sometimes a parent may even say something like, “I only have two children and it’s hard enough, how can you possibly manage five?”

At first the question threw me off. I’d shrug and reply, “I dunno. It’s not easy, but somehow we manage.” But after years of getting the same question, I think I’ve finally realized one of my “secrets” to survival.

With the exception of my twins, I added one child at a time. In other words, my foray into motherhood came in gradual stages. I had one baby and got all of the first-time mommy-jitters out of my system. Then I had my twin daughters and got even more practice at motherhood.

When my fourth son was born, I’d already built strong mommy-muscles of patience, tolerance, love, and knowledge. I’d grown by leaps and bounds in experience, wisdom, and character. By the time I had my fifth sweet daughter, I’d developed into a much stronger mother than I’d been when I’d had my first.

What’s the point? Several, actually.

1. Take things one step at a time. We can’t look at those ahead of us and think we need to be like them. A writing career, like parenthood, comes in stages. If we jump in and try to handle too much all at once, then we’ll lose out on the process of slowly building the writing muscles that gradually prepare us for what’s to come.

2. Let the hardships push us to become stronger. It’s all too easy to let the difficulties of parenting discourage us and zap the joy from being with our children. And we need to guard against the danger of letting our writing hardships discourage us so much that we lose out on the joy of the creative process as well as the potential for growth.

3. Adjust our expectations. With each child God's given me, I’ve had to adjust my expectations of the cleanness of my house, my free time, or even how much I make for meals. The closer we move toward publication, the more we need to adjust our schedules and priorities so that we have room in our lives for the new responsibilities. Sometimes that means saying no to really good activities, setting boundaries, or sacrificing hobbies and friendships.

What about you? Have you ever been overwhelmed by blogging and writing, finding yourself sliding down into despair? What are ways you keep yourself from hitting the ground hard?

*Part 3 in the series Writer Emotions: Overwhelmed

58 comments:

  1. Wow, excellent post! I only have three kids but they're all boys and close in age. People say "how do you do it" to me all time and I say the same thing as you, that God gave me one at a time. lol
    Sometimes I do get overwhelmed with blogging or cleaning the house. Then I just think, the world won't end if I don't get it done. I have to force myself to shrug it off and focus on the other things taking my attention for that moment.
    Great points in this post! :-)

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  2. Just found your blog by chance and it really spoke to me today, especially the bit about adjusting schedules and priorities. It's comforting to hear I'm not alone with these dilemmas, and also that taking bold pro active steps to change priorities and channel energies, is the right thing to do. I have worked out a schedule for myself now of weaning off my internet sites..starting with not posting any profile updates on facebook..hmm...see how long it lasts...fingers crossed ! :-)

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  3. Every day I ask myself, "What are you doing? Why? When is it too much?" and other questions about writing and blogging.

    I've been so overwhelmed at times by commitments, illness, writing deadlines, guilt about not keeping up with blogging...that I've just stopped everything I was doing and went into seclusion to regroup.

    Every day I'm learning how to keep my life in order, to live it to the fullest and to enjoy writing and blogging, but within guidelines that are comfortable for me and stop comparing myself to other writers and their lives and not feel guilty that I'm not them!

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  4. Overwhelmed? Me? :)

    Thanks for the tips, Jody. I'm tweeting this one for the other overwhelmed types.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  5. LOL, I get the "four kids????" look all the time, then now some looks of pitty (mostly directed at my husband) when they find out they are all girls:-) But I LOVE MY GIRLS and wouldn't trade them for the world!

    I think one of the keys is giving yourself permission to take a break. I haven't done that yet with blogging ( probably need to ) but I ahve with writing at times. Even if it's just a few weeks or having a weekend off when I don't try to get in word count, it helps.

    Like parenthood... Others may be supermom and be able to handle it with no break. but I need breaks in order to stay sane! My in-laws take the kids for a week every summer, and oh my goodness, that is a blessed time for me. I get to go on dates with hubby and not worry about babysitters, I can stay up late and write, I don't have to fret over dinner ( shamefully I admit we end up eating out a LOT that week)

    Then there are just the evenings when my mom takes them so Scott and I can go on a break, or the occassional sunday where Scott will take kiddos to the park and let me have the house to myself.

    Long point is: Take a break from time to time. It will help renew your strength:-)

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  6. Awesome post! I must say that I've only been in the blogging world, however it can be addictive, which leads me to be overwhelmed. I follow so many blogs it's hard to keep up so I've created a bit of structure where I allow some morning time to read and write blogs and an hour in the afternoon. Titles matter now, I only read the interesting titles, because otherwise I'd never be able to read them all. I have to learn to prioritize, and now is the best time to start!

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  7. I start to feel this way when, on top of blogging, I've got edits to finish for my first book, a proposal to finish for the second book, and an inbox that is bursting at the seams.

    One thing that helps is if I take weekends completely off from blogging, twitter, facebook, and email. Even if I still have to write, quieting so much of the "noise" for just 48 hours really helps.

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  8. Great analogy! I'm often asked the same question about my six kids, and that's always been my answer: we only had them one at a time. That's an encouraging way to look at our writing life as well. Thanks for the post!

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  9. I really needed this. Thanks for your advice. It has been difficult for me to juggle it all and I only have two kids. I think I am beginning to learn how to handle all of my demands but your pointers help.
    Thanks!

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  10. I'd have to say that technology has been my savior when it comes to blogging. I aggregate all of my blog feeds using google reader, seperate them into categories. I also use my iPhone ALOT to read blogs when I would be ordinarily just doing nothing (waiting to pick up son from school, waiting rooms, soccer practice, etc.).

    I don't follow a blogging schedule and only post when I have something I feel is entertaining or informative to say. Of course I only have 100+ followers and as the numbers climb (hopefully) the challenge becomes trying to stay personally connected to each of them. I'm determined to do just that though.

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  11. I have felt this way for a few weeks now. I have reorganised my writing day, left a few writing sites and put my blogging priorities in order. I am determined to stick to the method I have followed for three days, it is helping me stay calm.
    I coped better when I had three children, two businesses and a sick mother in law to nurse.

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  12. I'm pretty good about taking life as it hits me . . . and finding the time to just enjoy life. I've learned to step away . . . from blogging, from writing, from whatever, when things just get overwhelming. Everybody needs time to recharge their batteries . . . well, everbody except the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going, and going, and going . . .

    I think blogging, like life, is all about perspective. We just have to find that perspective, and balance, and things will be just peachy!

    Great post!

    S

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  13. I loved the analogy you used about being a parent. I think it fits perfectly. When I'm overwhelmed, I just do the basic things to keep ticking over. I tell myself that I may lose a few readers, but I won't get shot if I don't finish that blog post. I can't always keep up with my visits to other bloggers, so I do it when I can.

    I have 3 young kids and a part-time job. I have a husband and a home too, so time is of the essence.

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  14. I had a day like that yesterday. I ate far too many little Dove chocolate doohickies. I still got my edits in, but have learned to give myself a break every so often (to not put so much pressure on myself).

    I've become pretty adept at multi-tasking. Last night I was ironing, whitening my teeth, exercising and closing the washer door all at once. Skills! :D

    Have an awesome weekend.
    ~ Wendy

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  15. I love your number 3. We must continuously evolve and change our schedules and expectations as the things in our life change. We must be willing to say no and let some things go when we need to. We must set boundaries, but be willing to adjust those when we need to as well.

    Happy Friday, Jody!!

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  16. Your example has encouraged me to keep plugging away.

    Thanks for all you do, Jody.

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  17. Thanks Jody. What a great reminder to pay attention to what we are doing and to what we want/need to be doing, and then to adjust. Definitely rings true for me.

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  18. Simply Wonderful. I want every friend I have to read this post.

    I love you, bloggy friend.

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  19. Everytime I stop by I find exactly what I'm needing. Thank you for that :)

    I have kind of fallen by the way side in blogging and writing. I feel so overwhelmed with blogging. I love it, I do, but I put some very high expectations on myself. I haven't written on a project in so long, I've almost forgotten how to go about it!

    I know a lot of it is the job situation I'm in now. It's hard to find extra energy when your job is not ideal for you and your energy is spent by the time you get home. Then, of course, comes other responsibilities along with wanting to just rest.

    I used to think of writing and life as finding balance. Now it seems to have become a tight rope walk!

    You're a wonderful example, Jody, of what we can do when we are truly serving our purpose and committed to following our dreams.

    Sorry for being so long winded! :)
    Have a marvelous weekend,
    Jen

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  20. I agree keeping up takes small steps. I set aside a small block of time when I would take a break. 10 or 15 min. Write a blog read or read a blog. And the schedule blog posts is a real help.

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  21. Great post! Being sick for 2 days put me "behind" on my blogging and I feel horrible. Our expectations are not realistic at times and it's not like the blogging world is going to crumble without me... crazy thoughts, I know! :O)

    www.dianeestrella.com

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  22. Great post and an awesome answer to how you handle having five kids. I'm one of the two-kid moms. I give myself permission to let life happen as it happens. I do my best and try to let the rest go.

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  23. Every time I gave birth, the family doubled. That is, I had one child, then I had a second one, then I had twins - all boys! They're busy. In the past two weeks, I've been to the ER for a sprained ankle (oldest), picked up a hurt boy (face scrape on ice in playgroud), been home four days with a puker. That, and I just got my minivan back from a collision with a suicidal deer. Life is full! When I get overwhelmed, I take a nap. I don't go - wherever it was I was supposed to go, even church. Remind myself of "One day at a time, Sweet Jesus." And, just yesterday read Don Miller's blog on farming your own field. In other words, I'm needed right here at home.

    Great message. I'm sharing it with my bloggies and non-bloggies today!

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  24. Oh God, Jody, I wish I'd read this when I first started blogging. I was completely overwhelmed and can still get that way sometimes. This is a wonderful analogy. One step at a time. And don't compare ourselves to others. We need to find our own way, depending on how quickly our new muscles develop. Thank you for being you and sharing you with us.
    Karen

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  25. As the mother of an only child who is now away at college, I have often wondered how you parent five and find time to write. Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts, Jody. (I still think you must have a Superwoman cape hidden in your closest though. :)

    Your insights are great. For me, lowering my expectations really helped. I demanded far more of myself than was necessary. For instance, my hubby appreciates simple meals and doesn't care if there's a little cat fur on the carpet. (The cats are another story. If I don't give them what they want, I hear about it.)

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  26. Like Anne, when I get overwhelmed, I just do the basics (i.e. email, my real job writing articles and, when applicable, teaching online).

    I have two children, both with special cognitive and emotional needs, and so I manage what I can. I feel guilty sometimes when I need what I feel is a longer break than I should need, but those are the times when I have to remind myself I WILL come out of it, because I always do. Until then, the house will have to remain a pit.

    Blogging, also, can wait during these times, unless I get a few moments during which blogging might actually help alleviate the stress.

    Good post, and good analogy.

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  27. Wow. Thanks for blogging about my life!

    Your blog is a new discovery for me and I'm so glad I found it. Now then: how to fit reading another blog into my schedule . . .

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  28. You are so wise, Jody - really. I can't tell you what this blog does for me on a daily basis. I leave here feeling like I gained something from being here. Thank you.

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  29. I find it very difficult to balance everything. I loved this post. It reminded me that I can take one step at a time and enjoy each step as I go. I can move as slow as I need to when it comes to writing. Thanks.

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  30. Yep, all the time. I'm taking a few days off so I can re-energize. I'm at the baby stages of my writing career, so I have to put my writing first.

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  31. Jody,

    This is the first chance I've had all week to catch up your blog. The demands of a new job have me spending extra time trying to get up to speed. I can see how your logic applies even here. First, I have to get accustomed to the pace of my new job. From there, I can gradually add things back in

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  32. If and when I feel overwhelmed, I put everything down and just take time with my family.

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  33. Love this post! When I started homeschooling this year I quickly became overwhelmed with all I had to do. I'm taking it all 1 step at a time, learning to juggle writing, blogging, houeshold chores, teaching etc. Some days there is no way I can keep all my plates in the air and I have to let some crash to the ground, but I just try to pick up the pieces the next day and move on:)

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  34. Great points. Taking it one step at a time is basically the only way I can keep up. I unplug when the blogosphere becomes overwhelming. Schedules are a great thing - I just have to remember to write it down and stick to it. We try not to over commit to too many outside activities. It's basically keeping our priorities straight and concentrating on what's important. The house may not be as clean as I like, and meals may be a little late some days, but it all evens out in the end.

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  35. This is something that I have been thinking about in recent weeks. All of my children are grown, and only one remains at home. Always thought when I got to this stage, it'd be clear sailing. While I have the luxury of more time than I used to, it is not all roses and giant blocks of time.

    Finding a balance between household things, immediate family support, extended distant family illnesses, and working part time is a challenge. Prayer, balance, lowered expectations, exercise, and lots of deep breaths (!) have been my tools to remain sane. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    Blessings to you and your readers:)
    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  36. Absolutely. Some days I just need to sit back and breath! But I wouldn't give any of it up for the world! The writing OR my kids :)

    Great post Jody!

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  37. Great post! I juggle things easier since my kids are grown!
    Sigh. I can't even imagine doing the whole ball of wax with them running around with feet pjs. One can only rise so early in the a.m.!

    Here's a prayer for all of y'all who do it.

    Patti

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  38. I think you've said it perfectly. Those nasty expectations bring more heartache than anything else. When we learn how to adjust them to what life offers, we sure can be a lot happier! Thanks!

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  39. Love this post, Jody!

    I DO feel overwhelmed at times. So much is expected of a writer, and between social media, blogs and my regular writing, it seems like I'm constantly juggling.

    I tend to pull back and pray, and that brings wisdom and helps me establish or tweak priorities. I also take weekends off from all writing type stuff, including social media.

    Thank God for a supportive husband and chocolate! ;)

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  40. I'm beginning to realize long, uninterrupted times of writing are slightly overrated. I've had a few days this week with many hours in a row to write, yet I feel like I may have been able to be more productive if I had less time. That sounds so counter-intuitive, doesn't it?!

    I think your blog is great and helps keep writing in perspective. I don't think i realized you have twin daughters...me too :)

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  41. Thanks for this excellent post. I do get very frustrated sometimes with all of the roadblocks that come with writing and blogging and having to juggle along with real life. It's nice to take a step back and just take a break when that happens.

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  42. We all struggle with this I'm sure. Right now I'm on sabatical from writing for family, and it seems to be taking away from my blogging as well. Life is just so busy on the homefront that I'm going with #3 right now and writing just has to be on the back burner for a while. God is giving me peace with this, thankfully.

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  43. Hey Jody!

    I gave you a blog award. It's halfway down the post. :)

    http://headdeskforwriters.blogspot.com/2010/02/events-of-february.html

    -Mandy

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  44. Hi Jody -

    There's a song that says, "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I..."

    Most of the time, I follow that advice. I get alone with the Lord, ask for wisdom on my schedule, and then flow with the tasks ahead of me.

    Yesterday, my computer ended up in the shop again. Yet, I was still able to go to the laundromat, gym, work on my book, go to the library to work on their computers, see my Mom, etc. How I squeezed all that in one day when I'd lost the entire morning is only known to Him.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  45. I'm so glad I stopped by your blog today because I really needed to read this! I feel like I can't keep up on most days and it would be easy to throw my hands up in the air and give it all up.

    You make excellent points about taking everything in stages. I'll keep that in mind next time I feel overwhelmed trying to juggle it all!

    I have twins too (2 sets, actually)!

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  46. Wonderful post. Great answers. I get asked this question, myself (3 boys) but I've never been able to articulate the answer beyond the fact that I don't need a lot of sleep (which is a lame response.) Thanks for the help.

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  47. I find when I do start feeling overwhelmed it's because I'm avoiding something hard that really needs to be done (like getting started on book two). Great analogy.

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  48. I;m learning to be more of a multi-tasker now that I'm working fulltime. I actually wrote in the morning before work on Friday by getting up fifteen minutes earlier. As for Blogging, I do what I can and if I can't, I can't. I write on Saturdays and don;t even answer the phone then.

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  49. I've been sick for two weeks (better now), and my blogging (writing and reading) took a hit. I finally had to give myself permission to let it go and rest. But I wondered what I would do if I were contracted and on another's deadline.

    I continue to cull the physical clutter so there's less of that, at least, to care for.

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  50. Great post! I don't have any kids, so I don't have that kind of overwhelming in my life, but I do feel overwhelmed at times with other things in my life. I find that I tend to stop doing things when I feel overwhelmed, probably because I don't know what to do...if that makes sense.

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  51. Thanks for putting this out here for discussion. It seems like everyone feels pushed for time.

    Through the years there have been overwhelming times for me but not related to my writing. One thing I've learned is that people have different levels of tolerance when it comes to multitasking, interruptions, deadlines and the resulting stress. For my writing, I concentrate best when I have a large chunk of time ahead of me, so grabbing fifteen minutes at a time doesn't work well. I limit my blogging and e-mail to those smaller time slots and leave the longer periods exclusively for serious writing. When it comes to making time I think it's a matter of priorities and each of us has to decide what we can do and what we can't at each stage of our lives. It's clear, at least to me, that we can't do everything all the time. We make different choices that are suited to our lives at different times.

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  52. Another excellent post. It's so easy to get overwhelmed. And you know what I've decided? You and Storyqueen Shelley are both wise ladies. :) Do you follow Shelley? She's a picture book writer who always hits things right on and in a super fun way. Anyway, I really like the points you made. Thanks!

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  53. This is just the sort of post I needed to read. Thank you. I decided today that I have to sort out my priorities and this post has helped heaps. :o)

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  54. I really like how you broke down the important parts into the three bite size chunks at the end. They're all on post it notes stuck to my monitor.

    Also I wanted to pass along a blog award to you for the incredible posts you write!

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  55. Jody, thanks for this post! I cannot imagine five kiddos and still pushing forward so beautifully! Kudos to you! ;) This blog was so helpful to me as a newbie author pushing through and I don't even have kiddos but a lot of emotional successes I'm trying to share from that position and so its tough to really zoom in on the strengths as you just expressed here. I also appreciate how you shared the gradual process and how the courage builds in that, I'm starting to see more of a pattern now. Thanks again for sharing here! ~Jenn

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  56. Jody,
    Thanks so much for this post. I was just telling a friend how overwhelmed I am with my writing, (or rather lack of it right now), my other Mom,Wife,House commitments, and my new role marketing my book! We do have to stop beating ourselves up if we don't get it all done. We can't do it all, nor should we! :) But please, you keep Blogging! Barb

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  57. What a fresh, honest post.

    When I feel myself sliding backwards at all that is before me, I try a few things:

    15-20 minute afternoon naps. They recharge me enough to power through until night.

    Seeking inspiration.

    Doing less. And refocusing myself to be OK with that.

    Realizing the rut I'm in is a cycle that will come around again. It always does.

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  58. This is exactly where I find myself right now, Jody. Somehow I'm struggling through all of the blogging, writing, critiquing, networking, but I don't feel like I'm giving any of it the amount of time I need to. Every little bit of advice I read helps. Thank you for sharing how you deal with it.

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