Monday Mayhem – Germination

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…

Monday Mayhem – If you need me, I’ll be in my blanket fort

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.

a woman in bed with her head laying on the computer holding her coffee mug.

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.

Rejection. Disillusionment.

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.

Time to Set Goals Target Aspirations Intention Objective Concept

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?”

Are you good at dating?

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.

If you need me, I’ll be in my blanket fort.

Portrait of cute girl sitting under blanket and reading a book

Monday Mayhem – I Kanban Do It!

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.

Actual goals and notes redacted for privacy purposes.

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?

Monday Mayhem – A Little Help from My Friends

I have to admit I have been struggling with the writing thing…and by struggling, I mean I haven’t been writing. The publishing world has been a little disheartening.

I have a book on submission, which basically means I am waiting for someone to say yes or no. That’s one of the things people don’t know. The potential for rejection in his business never ends. The next contract is never a given, even when your books win critical acclaim, or have decent sales. Publishing is a business with a bottom line. If we don’t set the world on fire straight out of the gate, it’s back to the drawing board.

So yeah. I have one that’s out there waiting for a bite, another that’s 2/3 written, and an idea that scares me just enough to make me think it’s a good one, and yet… I can’t seem to get in the groove.

For the past few months, I’ve just been going with the flow, trying not to stress, etc., but at some point, I’m going to have to write or get off the Mac.

So, I did what any writer does when faced with the abyss – I hooked up with my writer friends. Yes, we did a little whining and scary soul bearing, but the magical thing about these days is the fact that we realize we are not alone. And as much as I hate the fact that my friends are struggling too, there’s also some strength in it.

By talking through our fears, or what’s holding us up, we help one another find a way through to the other side. When we take time to talk about all that’s making us feel overwhelmed, we find that our friends have a totally different perspective. Sometimes, we just need feedback from someone who is in the trenches with us to see through the smoke.

And sometimes, we need people to remind us that we have magic, bullet-repelling bracelets.

Monday Mayhem – Flowy me

Okay, so I’m trying to be more on task this month. One of the tools I’m using is a nifty bullet-list site/app called WorkFlowy that one of my Twitter pals turned me on to. It’s super simple and streamlined, but allows me to make lists and check things off. I’m using it for everything from a sort of writing brain-dump, a diary, a gratitude journal, and a running to-do list.

Super simple, but a great way to keep up with things. I can use it on my desktop or mobile devices. If you want to give it a try, click this link and we both get bonus storage space.

In other news, I tried my first wardrobe styling service this week. I signed up to try Dia & Co in hopes of shaking myself out of the solid color shirts and Levis rut. They sent me a box of super-cute stuff – none of which I would have chosen myself – and I’m keeping all five pieces. It’s not cheap, but I think the clothes are good quality and it’s a nice splurge. I’ve signed up to get another box in May.

Check out this cute flowy blouse I can wear while I’m using my WorkFlowy app:

pink blouse

Congratulations to Nancy B! She won a $5 Amazon gift card last week in my newsletter giveaway. Are you on my mailing list? If not, be sure to add your email in the sidebar!

And I just realized I just linked you to a bunch of stuff like I’m some kind of marketing maven, but we all know that’s not the case. If I were, I’d have linked my BOOK PAGE and suggested you share it with a friend.

Slick, huh? Yeah, not so much. I just like sharing cool things I am doing and trying. And I’m always open to any fun stuff you want to share with me, so don’t hesitate to comment or email any tips, tricks, apps, or services you like to use. Spring is the time for new growth, right?

So, tell me…are you trying anything new as Spring approaches?