Before I launch into my blog post, I wanted to let you know of a release I have not had time to promote (see blog post).
Just yesterday, Hydra House launched the ebook version of the Faerie Tales from the White Forest Omnibus (Vol 1). It features the first 3 books in my White Forest series in one collection.
The print version will be released Sept 15. It’s really beautiful, too, and I’m so grateful to HH for putting it together.
: movement away from a place or situation especially because it is dangerous, unpleasant, etc.
: a place of privacy or safety : refuge
: a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director
I just got off the phone with my mom discussing some painful digestion issues I’ve been dealing with. After giving her the update on my whereabouts and activities for the past several months she says, It’s no wonder you aren’t digesting properly. And I know she’s right.
For many years I felt a sense of panic about making my writing career happen, and it was never happening fast enough. Why wasn’t I selling more books? Why wasn’t I making a living at it yet? How come this is taking so long?
I pushed myself to write as much as possible, read as much as possible, market as much as possible, send proposals to conferences, granting organization, festivals, and schools, go on books tours, develop curriculum, travel back and forth to Seattle to meet with my publisher and attend said conferences. I spent weekends in booths, on panels, in writing group, and rewriting if my current job contract was eating up my week.
I’ve always been driven, but I’ve also always known that there’s no THERE, there. The journey is all there is. I had just forgotten, and that took its toll.
It’s not that I wasn’t having fun. All the things I was doing were engaging and interesting and things I wanted to do. It’s just that I had tipped way out of balance because I had piled on too much. I wasn’t eating right, I wasn’t sleeping enough, I wasn’t getting enough exercise.
My body has always been wiser than I am, but I don’t always listen to it. Sometimes it has to force me to stop in order to get my attention.
When I got back from my most recent out-of-town adventure, I collapsed. I could not move for two days. Everything I ate made me bloated and sick. I was told I was borderline anemic. Emotionally, I couldn’t pull myself together. I knew it wasn’t a full blown depression, just plain old exhaustion. My emotions were so close that small things set me off. I couldn’t even look at my office without bursting into tears.
I emailed anyone I had a commitment or responsibility to and told them I was out until further notice. I went on an extreme elimination diet, stopped setting my alarm clock, and slowly began to get my energy back.
I’m not telling you this to gain pity. I needed to take better care of myself. I needed to slow down. I needed to listen. For the first time in a long time I stopped without any sense of guilt. And, actually, I felt a new sense of freedom, because I was reminded about that journey part via two lessons.
1. We’re all in the same boat.
Something finally hit me about a month ago. It hit me after numerous conversations over the years with fellow writers. Every conversation at every conference or festival or writing event I attended always brought us to the same place: every published writer struggles no matter how successful they appear.
They struggle with writing and rewriting; with self-confidence, impatience, and doubt; with social media and marketing and promotion; with querying and publishing. They struggle every step of the way.
And they certainly struggle financially.
Very few writers I know are actually making a living just off of their writing. Why did I think it would be any easier for me? And why was I going to allow this to make me stressed and unhappy?
2. What if this is it?
An actor friend of mine was recently asked by her mentor, “What if this is as good as it gets?” Meaning, what if for the remainder of her life she didn’t score any larger roles than she already had? What if she never made a living off her acting, never got any more awards or accolades, never got that role as a series regular? Would she still continue to act if she knew there was nothing more to aspire to?
That’s a really tough question if you face it honestly, but I know the answer for me in terms of writing is YES. I can’t not write. I would be more unhappy not writing, even if it meant my career went no further than it has.
I recall one of my most prolific times in my early 30’s. I was single, living alone in a 400 sf apartment, with a very low-maintenance lifestyle and working part time. What I loved the most? All the time I had to write freely with no agenda. I was inspired.
I know if I continue in the direction I’m going, I’m bound to get somewhere else. It’s just that “somewhere else” can’t be my obsession. I’m much better off if I simply focus on my creative projects and the joy that brings. If I slow down, balance my life with things that I love and the people I love to do them with, I will be healthier and happier in the long run.
For once I’m not giving you a writing workout. I want you to do something RETREAT like for yourself. Something along the lines of:
- If something is unpleasant and distressful for you right now, back away.
- Find a safe and quiet place to be alone and read, draw, collage, or journal (FREE of electronic equipment), but DON’T make whatever you’re doing mean anything or have to be anything. Make it just for fun.
- Meditate for 20-30 minutes in a quiet and peaceful place. Or, if you prefer, simply sit with yourself for 20 minutes not controlling or judging your thoughts, just notice what comes up for you and breathe.
And if you want to share what retreat methods you use, I’d love to hear.