Wednesday, June 28, 2023

When your brain is too full

by Suw on June 28, 2023

Thoughts start dribbling out of your nose and are lost forever, which is why you should always carry a handkerchief.

OK, I’m going to fess up. My brain is too full.

I was chronically underemployed when I started this newsletter at the end of January. Ada Lovelace Day, which had been my full-time job since 2015, was almost certainly over (although I was in very slow talks to save it). I was waiting for my short film project, Fieldwork, to kick off, and was considering what the hell to do next.

Despite the financial insecurity, I rather enjoyed focusing on my writing a bit more. I worked on Tag – my TV series, did lots of reading about comedy, republished old novelettes on my other newsletter, wrote long posts for both my newsletters, set up a third, and generally relished the fact that my hair wasn’t on fire. My bank account was about to be, and not in a good way, but the money I got for Fieldwork was keeping disaster at bay.

Five months later, Ada Lovelace Day has been saved, October’s in-person event needs to be organised in super-quick time, I’m working with a company to produce a short film about ALD, liaising with my main event partners on content, event planning and publicity, and still searching for more sponsors as well as letting everyone know that it’s back and re-upping our social media presence.

Background research for Fieldwork is underway, which is huge amounts of fun but also quite time consuming. Tag is undergoing a major rewrite. I’m desperately trying to get a bit fitter after naffing up both my hips shovelling snow 18 months ago. And I now have four newsletters (what the hell was I thinking?).

Which is all to say that my brain is full. And the era of being able to spend a whole day working out what I want to say here is over, at least until November.

I’m also starting to feel uncomfortable about how this newsletter has become so much more introspective than I had originally intended. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing in that I don’t feel like I’ve said anything I wish I hadn’t, but I’m starting to feel as if I’m trawling for anxiety to share which has hints of dishonesty about it.

We all get stuck with our writing and it’s often valuable to hear from other people that they struggle with the same things that you do. If even one person feels better or less alone because they’ve read something I’ve written, then I’m happy. But I’ve recently begun to worry that my writing here has veered towards the narcissistic and opportunistic, and I don’t think that’s good for either me as a writer or you as a reader.

Substack Notes actually hasn’t helped here either. A lot of people are talking about their writing challenges from first person experience – again, I want to stress that’s not a bad thing and I’m not criticising it – and I feel rather like I’m drowning in a sea of rumination. I don’t think that’s healthy for me.

These feelings are also clogging my brain, which makes writing even more difficult. This is not supposed to be hard work for me, it’s supposed to be fun!

So I’m going to propose that I go back to the original vision for this newsletter, which is to look at the research behind things like impostor syndrome, confidence, and other things that I think feed into writer’s block. That won’t mean that I never write these sort of more self-reflective newsletters once in a while, especially if I’m dealing with something specific myself, but I want to turn my main focus outwards if I can.

But, before I make this decision, I’d like your opinion. I mean, I’m writing this at least in part for you and I would genuinely like to know what you think. So, to that end, here’s a poll:

(See Substack for poll)

Please also leave a comment if you have any particular thoughts on this that you’d like to share.

Ultimately, I want to craft a newsletter that’s creatively sustainable and interesting for both me to write and you to read. That might take a bit of tweaking along the way, but I’d rather do a few course corrections than push on with something that’s not making me completely happy.

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