I have a new project running around in my head. I don’t want to talk about it too much, because I’m not quite to the point of writing it. What if the kind of magic I have in my head doesn’t translate to the page? But I am excited about it. I’m just… waiting for that magic moment when I feel ready to start spinning the tale. Maybe this guy can help:
In the meantime, work is coming along on TO MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE. No release date set yet, but we’re well into editorial and I have cover art, and I love it. Here’s a little hint of what’s to come. Reveal to come as soon as I set a release date. In the meantime, I’ve got plenty to keep you occupied on the My Books page.
Spring has come to Central Arkansas. Thank goodness. As much as I love and miss my friends and family up north, I do not miss the winters. There’s a fresh-cut hyacinth in my bud vase. Last week, Fodder clipped these beauties and brought a little sunshine into the house. We’re supposed to be entering into a rainy stretch over the next 10 days, so Sally and I sat outside soaking up the vitamin D over the weekend. Hopefully, the rain will help keep the green pollen monster at bay.
Speaking of Spring…I will be attending the Chicago North Spring Fling in Chicago again this year. There’s a multi-author book signing scheduled for Saturday, May 2, 2020. If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to mark your calendar!
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.
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?
Are you on my mailing list? If so, you know I’ve done nothing but give it away this past week. I celebrated Julie Evelyn Joyce’s book, STEEPED IN LOVE, being named to the short list of finalists for the Kobo Emerging Authors prize by giving away a few copies of Steeped. Then, I celebrated those fabulous readers who actually open, read, and interact with my newsletter with a special Amazon gift card giveaway just for them!
This could be you!
Not on my mailing list? Look on the top of the sidebar of this page. There’s a little spot that says, “Join my readers group!” Enter your email there, and I’ll get you added too!
In other news…
I’m still hitting the gym. I don’t like it, but I’m doing it. Anythng to avoid writing, you know…
Okay, I’m not really avoiding it. I’m….circling it. I’m in the homestretch of drafting LOVE RENOVATION, and this is a tricky time. I know where it needs to go. I know what I need to change in the front 2/3 of the book. I know all of the work that needs to be done before I can call it done, and that is just…paralyzing.
So I am chipping away at it little by little. Because a little is more than zero, right?
My herb garden is struggling. We’ve had a cool, wet spring so far. Very unusual for us. We usually skip spring and plunge into the summer sauna, so I don’t want to complain too much, but my pal, Basil, isn’t liking it. My Roma tomatoes are scrawny and shivering. Oh, and some insect is eating my pepper plants. *scowls* I hope they get heartburn.
On the other hand, the flowers are loving it. The irises were spectacular, as was the clematis. And just look at the Mr. Lincoln and Knockout roses!
Tell me, what’s blooming in your neck of the woods these days?
I know, I know. I should watch my phraseology, but it’s true – time does fly. I know most people apply it to the short days and long nights of winter, but for me, Spring always seems to zip past me.
Look – Wednesday is May 1st. Gah!
And this year, rather than careening straight in to the oven-like heat of summer, we are actually having a spring. Fifty shade of gorgeous green. The flowers and shrubs are thriving. Highs have been in the 70s and low 80s.
All of which means a young woman’s fancy has turned to anything BUT writing.
I mean, I’ve had to sit on the patio and read books…
There’s been a tiny dino to take on adventures:
And a kitchen garden to construct so we could plant tomatoes, peppers, and herbs:
Then there were the sexy Saturday nights spent assembling a new basketball goal so Fodder and I can shoot the hoops:
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t writing stuff happening too. I’m back to working on LOVE RENOVATION, TO MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE is still out on submission, and some old friends are coming back this week! I have repackage Spring Chickens – which means it has a new title and cover art. Lynne and Bram’s story will be available again as HOME IN HEARTSFIELD.
So there you have it. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Don’t forget to add your email address in the sidebar to receive my reader group emails. Jennifer C. won a $5 Amazon gift card in last week’s drawing!
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:
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?
It’s finally March. Thank goodness. February may be the shortest month, but it is my least favorite. Too gray. Too sad. I hate to wish my life away, but once again, I am glad it’s over.
Now, it’s March and I have no more excuses. I need to get my mind right and delve into this new project, rather than just fiddling with it. I’m just not quite sure how to do that.
One of my writing groups posts a weekly discussion question. A couple weeks ago, they asked what we thought our greatest writing strength is. Anytime up until late 2018, I might have answered with words like drive, perseverance, or focus. But lately, I find all my heretofore unassailable strengths have failed me.
It seems writing has become my Kryptonite.
I’ve spent a month coddling myself, and for the most part, I’m okay with that. February is rough for me emotionally, and though writing has provided some escape in the past, that wasn’t the case this year.
But now it’s March, and I need to figure out a way to march on.
Most people tend to seek comfort in the familiar when trying to push past troubling times, so I think I’ll do the same. The desk set up isn’t proving conducive, neither is dictation, so I think it’s time to roll back to the original writing zone – the recliner.
I’ll try to re-establish my grooves (writing and butt) this week. I hope it works, because I don’t think Fodder is going to be on board with me jetting off to Jamaica to hook up with Taye Diggs. I mean, he’s pretty understanding, but I don’t think he’s going to be cool with me pulling a How Maggie Got Her Groove Back.
I have completed revisions on my Nashville story (Tentatively titled: Make You Feel My Love) and it is going out on submission. What does that mean? It means I’ll be a wreck for the next 3-6 months as we wait to see if any publishers bite.
What will I do while we wait? Start the next book!
I have an idea. A big idea. Something different from anything I’ve written before. There’s going to be some world building involved, and a bit of a leap out of my contemporary romance comfort zone and into a world of intrigue, but I’m pretty excited to give it a shot.
Right now, the ideas/details/possibilities are are swirling around in my head. I’ve tried to capture the higher concepts and work them out in notes, but I’ve never been an extensive plotter. I think I kind of want to let my imagination go wild on this one. So, I’ll be writing it in a sort of ‘go big or go home’ mindset.
Wish me luck!
In the meantime, keep a nervous author in Diet Coke – buy a book. Already read them all? Gift one to a friend! I’ve been spiffing up the website. You can check them all out here.
As the new year begins, I resolve not to make a single, solitary resolution. Oops. Um…
Well, you get my meaning. By not making any resolutions, I have made my life infinitely simpler, and that will be my ultimate goal for the year. Like how I did that?
I may not be making actual ‘write it down’ sorts of resolutions, but I have made a few pinky promises with myself. Want in on them?
I have promised to stop looking around at what/how other people are doing. In the past, I was really good at keeping my eyes on my own paper, but this past year I slipped a bit. Okay, a lot. It’s hard not to play the comparison game, but I have promised myself I won’t be using anyone else’s yardstick when it comes to measuring up. Man, I hope I don’t disappoint me.
I promise to work smarter. As you may or may not be aware, there’s no publicity machine working behind the scenes here. Well, there is. It’s me. I am the machine. But, I have to admit I’m getting a little worn out in some areas. The cogs are slipping. So, for that reason, I am going to reprogram a bit for better (hopefully) efficiency. More on that later.
I will write what I want to write. I know this sounds kind of silly, but trust me, it’s not. When a person writes for publication, it’s very easy to get caught up in chasing trends in the hopes of getting in on the next big wave of romance branding. No. Not for me. I will continue to write the stories I want to write. They may not be what editors are looking to add to their lists at this moment, but that’s okay. I think I’ve found my lane and I like it here. No swerving for me.
I know. they don’t sound very ambitious, but I did that on purpose. I’ve set smaller goals aimed at consistency rather than quantity. I’m going to do my best to work across all the platforms available to me.
And for that reason (this is the part I promised to elaborate on later), I will be cutting back my blogging to ever other week, and using the time I would have used to write a post to create newsletter content.
The newsletters will be different from these posts. I always view my blog posts as more of a conversation. A peek into what I’ve been up to and a chance to get your feedback. The newsletters will be more of a brief little hi-dee-ho-neighbor.
I’ll include book information or recommendations, a favorite recipe, quick Q&A with other authors, music playlists, funny pictures, or other random things I’d like to share.
Not on my mailing list? Why not? You can click here or there’s a little box in the sidebar of this page where you can add your email address.
So I won’t be here next Monday, but I will be in your inbox sometime next week, right? You signed up? I won’t say when. It’ll be more fun if it’s a surprise, don’t you think?