In the midst of this pandemic so many lives have been turned upside down. People have been thrust into new ways of living, existing, coping. I haven’t. My life hasn’t changed much because being home, working from home, homeschooling was my life and to a point, still is. The most I’ve struggled with is finding toilet paper and finding focus. The degree of change has varied with each person, with each family.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I know there are people struggling with getting anything done at all when the house is full of people, when normal routines have been disrupted, when there’s no certainty when things might go back to some semblance of the way they were. I wish I had some tips and tricks to help others figure out how to navigate this, but the way I did it was to just do it. I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t have the privacy of a home office the way I do now. I didn’t have the dedicated time to do what I wanted to do. I had to make it or I just had to do it in little swatches of time.
And one thing I learned by doing it the way I did is that I’m a high stress person. I’ll stress about the smallest things and I’ll stress about big things and I’ll stress when something impacts my family and I’ll stress when something may impact my ability to get coffee the way I like it… But I’ve found, in general, that I can actually thrive and make progress when there’s a lot of stress, outward stress, at least. Inward stress and I’m done for. But the outward stress… That’s what I thrive in.
I didn’t always believe that and here is what this post is actually about. I thought having a nearly empty nest, and all sorts of time in a day, and a dedicated home office, and a chore schedule, and pretty much zero interruptions that I would be productive as shit, cranking out books left and right and upside down and right-side up… And well, I was wrong.
I can’t speak for anyone else. There are writers who need that, who need to not be on the verge of pulling their hair out. They need dedicated space and quiet and to be left alone. I get that. For instance, when my books are in editing and when I’m formatting them, I am that writer. But otherwise, I am not. I get distracted and unfocused and even…bored. God, I hate that word. So fucking much. And I’ve tried the schedules. The morning routines. The plan everything. The set my intentions.
Maybe the quiet gets to me. Maybe the walls get to me. I don’t know. But I do miss the chaos of all the things happening and going on.
And there’s definitely a piece of this that is mourning the near empty nest. I am in mourning that my kids are grown and don’t need me as much. I am in mourning that those magical years are over. I am in mourning that a new stage of life is here and I wasn’t emotionally or mentally prepared for it. Sometimes I’m not sure what to do with it all and maybe that’s what most of my struggle is. What do I do with it all? The mourning and the new? I spent so many years working and writing and living one way that I’m not sure how not to work and write and live another way. This is the inner stress. This is upheaval of life as it once was but isn’t anymore and I know a lot of people are going through it, just on the other end.
I worked a job. I homeschooled. I did the cooking and cleaning. I wrote in the wee hours.
Then… I homeschooled. I cooked and cleaned. I wrote in the between times and in the wee hours.
Then… I dropped off and picked up. I cooked and cleaned. I wrote less and less and not in the wee hours.
Then… I wandered aimlessly and the concept of time got skewed in my head.
I miss the chaos. I miss the way things were. I miss being pushed against the walls of all the things that needed to be done.
Now, none of that is to say that chaos is the only thing that helped me or that peace and quiet and time are the only things that I’ve struggled with. I’ve struggled jealousy. Envy. Compairisonitis. Too many things. Not enough things. Inconsistency. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Humiliation. Embarrassment. Lack of confidence in myself. Lack of belief in my writing and the stories I’m trying to tell. These are all pretty serious things in and of themselves, but put them together and it’s one big fucked up show.
But when there was chaos in my house, when there was normal life in my house, I didn’t have time to think about all those other things that throw wrenches. I could only throw myself into the writing in the windows of time I had at my disposal. I wrote at the kitchen table. On the couch. In bed. At baseball games. At band rehearsals. In the pick-up line at school. In coffee shops. At restaurants. In bookstores. In the middle of the hotel lobby at a conference. Those things worked for me, worked like a fucking charm for me. I can set goals until I’m blue in the face and with the best of intentions and for a couple of days, I’ll get all over them. Then, I’ll fall off. I have time. I can start again later. I can do that tomorrow or next week or whenever. No one is waiting. No one cares. And those things are just fucking lies. People are waiting. People do care. I am waiting. I care.
For a long time now, by this point in the year, I’d have given up already. The goals long forgotten. The planner collecting dust. And I’d be in the… Well, I’ll try again next year frame of mind and beating myself up. I had time. What’s wrong with me? But this year… through the writing of blog posts and journaling and not giving up and plugging along and trying to learn about myself as I am now, as life is now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t do well with a planner (that post is HERE), and I don’t do well with word count goals (that post is HERE). I need pressure and a little chaos, even if it’s manufactured. And when it comes to my writing, a deadline does that. It gives me an end. It gives me an ultimatum. And I will thrive in that. Telling myself that I need to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month does absolute shit for me. I’ll let the end come and go, and I’ll wave as it passes. Set up a pre-order and have a deadline… Dude, I’ll get that done. I’ve let one lapse over the years, but my mindset game wasn’t strong at all. It’s stronger now. It’s better now. It’s not to be fucked with now.
It’s kind of like when my mom is coming for a visit and my house is a wreck the way it always is… I’ll start off doing little things here and there a few days before she’s due to arrive. Then, the day she is supposed to get here, I’ll talk to her throughout the day to find out where she is and how much longer it’ll be until she pulls into the driveway… When she’s an hour to an hour and a half out, my ass is in high gear and this place is spotless and things are put away and the toilets are cleaned and the floors are mopped and the clothes are hung and the surfaces dusted and the kitchen is gleaming.
The writing for me, with a deadline, is like that. The writing for me, in small pockets of time with all the things going on around me, is like that.
The writing with all the time in the world to get it done, is not like that for me.
The writing with peace and quiet and time, is not like that for me.
It’s probably why I also like and need and have conditioned myself to use a timer when I write. Not blog posts, obviously, but my books, definitely.
Life is a bit of a struggle for me. I’m not ready for all the changes that are here now or that have been coming. I can’t control any of it and I can’t stop it. I can’t make my life go back 10-20 years even though I wish I could. I’m jealous of all the people who are homeschooling now and who have all their kids around because I miss mine. Because I miss those years. And I know some people are jealous of the situation I find myself in…kids pretty much gone and time is now my own. The only things I can control right now is my writing and my output and I’ve not done well with it. I’ve lost a lot of time trying to find what box I fit into now.
How do you cope with changes in life and stress? Does your writing soar or suffer? Let me know. I’m curious. Always.
For this episode of Tune In and Tune Up Thursdays, I thought I’d share with you some of the blog posts I’ve been reading lately, and links to some of the articles I’ve been reading as well. I do a lot of that now. I love the spark…
Most of them are inspiring. Some are full of practical information. Others are just for fun.
On Pinterest, I have a board for Blogging, Website, Social Media. I totally need to tidy the board up, but there are some great Pins in it for what we writers and bloggers and designers do. Tips and tricks and ideas. Check it out.
I fell in love with two posts last week. I mean, deeply in love with each and every word that pertained to writing.
- And this.
I found a link to this post by Joanna Penn, On Writing And The Fear of Judgment from a couple of years ago that was and is relevant to me and likely to a few other people, too. I needed it.
I found this post from Social Media’s Edgar on The Right Way To Fail to be reaffirming.
Along with blogs and websites, I’m reading books. On the sidebar, you can see ‘What I’m Reading’ and that’s generally going to be fictional, but I’m also reading other things like: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. They’re great for inspiring and motivating and looking within to see what, where, who, how, and why. And shit like that takes courage.
There’s also: Indie Author Survival Guide 2nd edition, For Love or Money: Crafting An Indie Author Career, both by Susan Kaye Quinn, and Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn.
I have found that a lot of the self publishing books have a lot of the same information, just from different perspectives, but they also each have something new to take away because not every one experiences self publishing, or anything else, in exactly the same way.
I learned about this site this morning and am curious to check it out.
There are many other things I’ve read, articles and posts and snippets and lists. I’m working on my goals for 2016 now and refining them. Reading about people who are successful in life, in business, and trying to utilize what is relevant to me. No more looking back and wishing and what if’ing. I’ve made the difficult admissions and made peace with it, made peace with me.
Let’s see what happens.
On a podcast I listened to last week on Entrepreneur on Fire, Racheal Cook of The Yogipreneur talked a lot about mindfulness, slowing down, and how she built her business slowly by focusing on one thing at a time, being consistent, someone that could be trusted to do what she said she was going to do when she said she was going to do it. I truly love that concept. (more…)
Actually, there are a lot of things we’re not supposed to talk about. Bad reviews. Negativity. Failure. Money. Sales. Contracts. Publishers. Each other.
We also live in a society that believes in not speaking the truth to spare everyone’s feelings, being politically correct whether it’s right or not whether we agree or not, and where we don’t have to accept personal responsibility, especially for stupidity. We like to sue and we like to lay blame. We also teach our kids that there isn’t a winner or a loser because they’re all winners. Well, no they aren’t. There’s a winning team and a losing team. Just look at the scoreboard.
So what does this have to do with writing? Everything. Because most people will tell you that the most valuable lessons they’ve learned are from either losing, failing at something, hearing the bad along with the good, or being broken and having to pick themselves back up. I can’t disagree. If all you hear is praise, how do you handle the rejection when it comes, the loss when it happens, because I’m sorry, life isn’t all roses and eventually you’re going to experience some form of disappointment. It doesn’t always do it gently either. Most of the time, it kicks you in the ass or pulls a Gibbs and smacks you upside the head…
We all have expectations in this business, whether the writer, the editor, the publisher, the blogger, the reviewer, or the reader. And you know what? No one person can please all those different people. The pressure is daunting. We all make mistakes. We all have our own opinions. We all have our ideals and thoughts of how things should go, but they don’t often go the way we dreamed.
So, how does an author pick themselves up and dust themselves off when readers are vocal about disappointment, when reviewers say they like this book a little less than the last one, when editors send out that rejection, when publishers give you more WTF moments than you know what to do with, when everyone around you is succeeding and you seem to be floundering, or when you’re having a bad day because your characters won’t fucking get to the point and do what you want them to do?
I don’t know. I don’t know how others do it. The all-knowing ‘They’ say you’re supposed to have or develop a thick skin but if we shrug everything off, what have we learned? Nothing. At least I haven’t. And if there’s something I love, whether it’s painful or not, I love to learn. I can learn from my missteps and those unkind, hurtful words. I can learn from being heartbroken and cast aside. I can learn from tears. And I can change. Is it a change to please others? No. It’s a change to a different way of thought, a little more conscious effort. I can learn to get out of my own way. And that’s not a bad thing. Growth and change and learning. Sure, I’d like praise all the time, but I’m not going to get it. I’ve learned that lesson. But I keep trying. I keep trying and doing something different and learning and growing as an author. I may lose people along the way, but I may gain others. And those I lose, are probably not who I was aiming for in the first place. (this is something I am sort of learning in the book I’m currently reading ‘The Power of Unpopular‘)
Emotions are messy. Life is messy. I don’t write fluff and I don’t want to. I write wishy-washy characters because damn, that’s life and at some point we’re all going to be scared to take that chance. I write odd and aloof characters because damn, they exist. I have several friends who are odd and aloof and I adore them for it. I don’t want to write easy. I want to write what’s pulled from my gut and what’s painful. There will be people who don’t want to read that. That’s fine. It’s part of doing what we do. We can’t please everyone. It’s how we handle it that tells our strength, or so a friend of mine told me during a recent conversation about loss.(Thank you, Fallon.)
So maybe a thick, let it roll off the back skin works for most. It doesn’t work for me. It pisses me off, it hurts, it makes me growl and grump, and it makes me really think about what I’ve done and if I’d change it knowing what I know after… If I say no, I wouldn’t change it, then I know I’ve done something right, even if others don’t agree with me.
I read craft books. I read self-help books. I read happy books and books that come from people’s deepest, darkest souls. I learn and I grow and I change. I fix what I consider mistakes and I keep going on. I read blogs about how other authors deal with these same issues. I sometimes pour over them for hours. And in the end, we all have the same opinion. We’re all different and we’re all entitled to how we think, how we feel, how we deal… Will it make us better or make us worse?
At the same time, I’m also a reader. There are authors who write the same book day in and day out and only change the names of the characters, but are given the highest praise time and again. As a reader, that bores me and I have stopped reading some of my favorite authors because of that. Then, I have loved authors who left the initial genre they started in and I didn’t like the change in either voice or genre and stopped reading them (the new stuff at least. I always give it a try, though). Authors have had medical conditions which changed them and their writing was no longer the same and it saddened me that I could no longer read the books I loved from them because they weren’t going to be writing them anymore. It happens. Not only in writing but in acting. A favorite actor will no longer do drama or comedy or act at all. It happens in music and a favorite musician will go more country or more rock or go inspirational or just stop altogether. Change happens and it’s not always what we as readers or watchers or listeners want.
I want books that make me feel something other than ‘that was a good book, but nothing I haven’t already read from her or him or them’.
Some things force change, force learning, force growth, and force us out of our comfort zones. Maybe most don’t think about this. Maybe most don’t want to because it’s sticky and messy…and not in the fun way. I do and eventually, I think it’ll make me a better writer. It’s part of how I do what I do…