Today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. And these are certainly tough times. How can you stay sane, optimistic – and build resilience as a writer? Jon Reed has some suggestions.
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Goodbye Blue Monday!
If you recognise that quotation, you’re probably, like me, a Kurt Vonnegut fan. It’s from his 1973 novel Breakfast of Champions (full title: Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday). It’s a novel heavy on the metafiction, which is what I like about it.
While the Blue Monday of the book refers to a washing machine manufacturer’s slogan (Monday presumed to be wash day), today is an annual, rather than weekly, Blue Monday. The third Monday in January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. It’s cold and dark (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least), we’re in debt from Christmas, and have broken all our New Year’s resolutions.
And that’s in a normal year – before you add in the catastrophe of a global pandemic and the health, social and economic consequences that come with it. So – what to do about it?
First of all, there’s absolutely no evidence that the third Monday of the year is more depressing than any other day. It’s pseudoscience, and you don’t have to buy into it. Ironically, like the Vonnegutian ‘Goodbye Blue Monday!’ slogan, it started as an advertising concept, by a UK travel company in 2005.
Secondly – well, there’s no denying that things are tough at the moment. How can you stay sane, optimistic – and build resilience? My suggestions are:
1. Be kind to yourself
If you can just get through the day, you’re doing well. “Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent”, to quote from The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse.
2. Set acheivable goals
Speaking of which, I love this challenge set by Anneka Rice on Twitter last week. She had a UK TV show in the early 90s called Challenge Anneka. And her #ChallengeAnneka challenge on this day was: to get out of bed. And you had until 8pm to complete it. Acheivable goals. Get up. Maybe go for a walk. Don’t beat yourself up. And DON’T feel you have to write a novel in lockdown.
3. Have something to look forward to
Oh, the places you’ll go! Make a list of the things you’ll do, the people you’ll see, and the places you’ll go after the pandemic. These might be small things we all took for granted pre-2020. But they will return. Better times are coming. You don’t have to go as far as booking a holiday. Just make plans for something enjoyable in the future. Maybe a writers’ retreat, a course, conference, book launch or literary festival where you can meet other, real writers. Maybe just a drink with a friend. It will help you stay optimistic.
4. Take small steps into the future
If you can, do something small and acheivable every day to take you closer to your goals and the life you want when life returns. Lay the groundwork. Read something, learn something, write something. It doesn’t have to be a lot. You don’t have to write a chapter today. Try spending a short amount of time writing – about as much time as you usually spend doom-scrolling through Twitter, say. Small bits of regular writing build into big bits – even whole books. Slowly prepare yourself for a better, future world.
5. Remember you are not alone
There’s some comfort from knowing that everyone is going through a tough time, in one way or another, at the moment. If you’re feeling isolated, reach out and speak to a friend. Find a way to maintain social contact, even in lockdown. Phone, text, Zoom, FaceTime, use social media. Whatever works for you. And if you can connect with a writer friend – maybe even an online writers’ group – you can discuss your writing and help each other to stay motivated.
You can also connect with other writers by commenting on this blog post. Let us know how you’re doing – and what you’re doing to keep going, and keep writing. What are you looking forward to when this is over?
Whatever you’re doing today, whatever you manage to acheive, I hope you have a happy Monday!
This post is adapted from the latest issue of the Publishing Talk Newsletter. Read it in full here, and subscribe to get future newsletters with weekly-ish advice, tips and resources delivered straight to your in-box.