I did it (and won!) every year from 2009 – 2018. A nice, even 10 years of literary abandon. A good place to stop, right?
Yeah. I’m totally doing NaNo again, but I am rocking it old school this year.
Okay, maybe not that old-school, but I am doing some things a little differently.
I’m writing an all-new story. I had to set the problematic WIP aside and try to focus on something less resistive.
I’m totally pantsing it. No loose outline. No character sketches. No beat sheets. Just telling a story.
I don’t even care if I make the 50k. Okay, I say that, but we all know I’m just enough of an achiever to take my best shot at it. I know I can do it. I’ve done it 10 times before, so I have nothing to prove by killing myself.
I’m free-flowing it in a good, old-fashioned Word document. Nothing against my Scrivener software, just feeling the need to get back to basics.
I have no idea if this story is a romance. I assume it will develop into one, but I’m not going to force it.
So, yeah. You know the drill. I’ll see you sometime in December!
I finally feel like I’m reaching the top of this burnout hole I’ve been in. I’ve been reading a lot – fiction and non-fiction – and watching a good chunk of PBS and Netflix programming. And college football, though my teams are not doing much to excite the fan-base.
I’ve also been making notes. The books, articles, and coaching sessions have helped me see some place I might improve my stalled work in progress, and breathe more life and purpose into the characters.
So, yeah, that’s where I’m at as of today.
But seeing the light at the top of the hole also scares me. If I want to get back in the swing of things, I’m going to have to step out there again. And the one thing I fear more than failing, it’s burning out again.
I don’t want to feel the same level of anger, frustration, and futility I’ve been marinating in for the last year or so.
So. I’ve given myself the month of October to ramp up. In November, I will dive back into the work. I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo this year. I don’t think I have it in me. For the first time in over a decade, I will not be spending November sweating word count totals.
Because I’ve come to realize that I want to write for the long haul, and for here on out, I will be treating my publishing career as a marathon, and not a sprint.
In my last post, I talked about my burnout. In this one, I’d update you on my recovery, and what I have discovered.
I may have mentioned it in my previous post, but I had a bit of an, “Ah-ha!” moment while watching Becca Syme’s QuitCast videos.
Becca is a Gallup certified strengths coach, but she is also an author and a member of the Romance Writers of America. She started talking about burnout issues because most of the authors she speaks to started listing the same worries/concerns.
I won’t go into detail about burnout and all the things she said that spoke to me and the way I was feeling about my writing career. I’ll just tell you that I connected with it enough to sign up for a class she was offering that helps authors identify their top five strengths (according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder) and works with them in a coaching capacity author-to-author.
Here are my five: Input|Relator|Empathy|Achiever|Responsibility
There’s quite a bit of logic behind each of these strength labels, but for the most part, they are self-explanatory. Since the Gallup and Becca’s definitions are copyrighted material, I’ll just give you my hot take on them.
Input – High input people need to take in a lot of information. They don’t necessarily become experts in everything they learn, but they store it away for future reference. I attribute my vast store of movie quotes, superior Trivial Pursuit skills, and ability to sing every word of a song I haven’t heard in 20 years to this strength.
Relator – This means I need to have a strong connection to the people closest to me. I don’t gather friends everywhere I go, but the ones I have are close and well-chosen. I think this may be why I like to include close-knit groups of friends in my stories.
Empathy – I’m good at reading the room. Whether it’s an individual, or a general consensus, I pick up on vibes pretty easily. Which may explain why the negative onslaught we’ve been enduring since 2016 has been overwhelming for me. This is why I have retreated from most social media and holed up in my blanket fort.
Achiever – The name pretty much says it all. I am compelled to complete tasks. If there’s a list, I must tick off the boxes. Like all of these traits, this can also become a weakness. This is why I broke up with my Apple watch. I don’t think it’s healthy to cuss a piece of wearable technology for not giving me stand credit for hours I know I was on my feet. Yeah….
Responsibility – I’m just a girl who can’t say no. Okay, I can, but I don’t very often, and that weighs on me. I am your get it done girl. Once I agree to something, I have to see things through. But when it’s a situation where I have to rely on others to do their part, well… it can take a toll too.
So, yeah, I’ve been talking to Becca about where these traits are working for me, and where I may not be using them to my best advantage. We’re also talking strategy for dealing with those moments when my strengths become a weakness.
So here is my self-portrait for the week:
I’m still not writing, but now my not writing is purposeful. I’m refilling my input well, and hunkering down with those people who help me generate good energy. I’ve made my blanket fort a safe space for the plot bunnies to come and play. I feed my achiever by taking notes on all the happy writing-related stuff I want to keep for later. And I am learning to identify those tasks that I truly own, rather than simply taking responsibility for everything.
I feel good. I feel optimistic. I feel like my writing career will go on for many years to come. Perhaps not at the breakneck speed of the first 10 years, but that’s okay. I’m playing the long game now.
If you are looking for me, one of the places I’ve been hanging out at the most lately is on The Corner of Smart & Sexy. It’s just me and some fabulous author friends talking books and playing silly games. Join us there! You never know who you may run into…
I won’t lie, it’s been a rough year (or two…okay, three) for me. I’ve been struggling with my writing for a while, and this year, I finally hit the wall.
I’ve spent some time sulking and whining, and even more pretending everything is okay, this was just a phase, and I would get through it if I could just focus, manage my time better, buy 3-5 different planners, convert my bulletin board to a kanban, etc.
But mostly, I’ve spent 2019 wondering if I am done.
I realize now (thanks to this series of videos by Becca Syme), that I’ve been sliding into burnout since about 2016.
Looking back, it’s really no surprise. While 2016 was the annus horribilis personally (and not because of anything political – though that didn’t help), it was an exciting year for me as a writer. I signed contracts, made plans for mass market and audiobook releases, and generally threw myself and my balled up emotion into all the things that go along with writerdom.
I worked steadily through 2017, my eyes on the prize that 2018 was sure to be. 2018 started out fabulous, back to back releases, and a starred review from Publishers Weekly. And then the hits started coming.
You’d think I’d be used to the subjective nature of the business by now, but you never really get past the gut-punch. Somehow, I muddled through another two lackluster releases, plastered an ‘all is well’ smile on my face and played the conference circuit, then struck back with an ‘I’ll show you’ indie release that netted me more profit in one month than the 4 others have combined since publication.
But it wasn’t about the money.
I was reeling. Am reeling. After 9 years and 39 books, I am out of contract. An orphan. I am a woman with lots of planners, but no plan.
I’ve spent much of this year dealing with the fallout from what I see now were unrealistic expectations. I’d been listening too much to the noise around me. I’d been immersing myself in the quicksand of social media and other forms of busy work and distraction to self-soothe.
But it isn’t working.
I haven’t been working. I’ve been sulking. And hurting. And wondering if there’s anything left in me.
I’ve had a first draft on my computer that has been thiiiiis close to being complete since November, but I just can’t stir myself to finish it.
But I don’t want to quit. I know that much.
If I did, I would have a while ago, and wouldn’t have spent so much of this year fretting over it. So what to do now? I’ve licked my wounds for long enough. It’s time to figure out how to move on.
My biggest leap will be stepping off the forced productivity treadmill. I will no longer conform to what “everyone says’ is the ‘right’ way to do this author thing.
I will refill my creative well.
I plan to read, listen to music, watch television and movies… In other words, do all the things I eschewed over the last few years in the name of productivity. These are the things that feed me. They spark ideas and give me the impetus to ask, “What if this happened?”
Those who have been around since my Gilmore Girls days know my biggest works of fanfic started with Lorelai asking Luke if he was ‘good at dating’, and I wondered, “What if Luke took that opportunity to tell Lorelai he didn’t want to wait around for her to finally see him and pick him?”
I want to get back to that feeling…the need to explore possibilities within my books. The possibilities inside of me.
So yeah, that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about what goes on inside my brain. But there you have it.
We got away this weekend! My company took a long holiday weekend, so Fodder and I ran away to the river. We found an adorable AirBNB on the edge of the Buffalo National Forest just big enough for Fodder, me, and our master, Sally.
We’d never taken Sally with us on a trip, so it was an experience for all of us. But look at this happy face:
We had a lovey, relaxing weekend. Our little cabin in the woods was perfection. Sally swam with us, we ate BBQ, built a little fire in the fire pit, and generally kicked back. We even had a bit time to just Netflix and chill.
All in all, it was just what we needed. July is quickly booking up with activities and events, so the timing was excellent. More happy faces:
How about you? Do you have any travel plans this summer?
Later this week, the mister and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Our marriage has finally reached the age of majority.
As I am now the proud owner of a mature (giggle-snort) marriage, I thought I’d share a few random lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Liking is every bit as important as loving.
He may only hear about 23% of the things I say, but he always hears me bitching about not listening to me.
He does not want or need my direction whilst driving, but will miss the appropriate exit 8 times out of 10 if I am derelict in my duty.
A ten minute lie-down is the key to a happy, relaxed evening.
No one wants responsibility for deciding what’s for dinner. Ever.
So, yeah, finally starting to feel like we’ve got a handle on this marriage thing, even if our selfie game is still a bit weak. Looking forward to seeing what trouble we can find together in the years to come.
How about you? What are some of the life lessons you’ve picked up in the last couple decades?
A couple weeks ago, I re-purposed my bulletin board into a Kanban organizer. What was once nothing more than a collection of random reminders and goofy pictures is now a model of goal-setting organization…and goofy pictures.
What is Kanban?
It’s a method of visual project management. It allows the user to track goals, progress, and monitor success rates all at a glance. They can be set up in any number of ways, but I chose to set weekly, 30 day, 90 day, and yearly goals. By using post it notes, I’m not only committing the goal to writing, I can move them to show progress.
For me, the ‘Do It Now’ section will likely contain those items I’m procrastinating on, or am awaiting input from other parties.
The overarching goal is to get all those little slips of paper (plus any others that come along) to the bottom of the board.
This, of course, is just my latest attempt to put my thoughts in order and achieve something, anything, before the year flies by. We won’t talk about the three paper planners abandoned on my file cabinet…
How about you? Do you have a tried and true planning method? Can I borrow it if it turns out I kant-ban after all?