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You Can’t Have It All If You Try to Do It All

Prague astronomical clockPriorities. We’ve all got them. That constant tension between what we must do and what we want to do.

On this celestial sphere we live on, we’re bound to just 24 hours in a day. This is a hard limit I’ve been fighting since college, without success.

Once again, I’ve taken on too much. Activities that seemed manageable have spiraled out of control, leaving me without enough time to write.

I need to write.

It can be difficult to admit that something you enjoy—something that’s satisfying and makes you feel like you’re contributing—is getting in the way of a higher priority goal.

When that happens, it’s time to step back and reassess.

If we want to reach our dreams, sometimes we have to do less instead of more. Less of things that distract us. Less of things that sap our energy.

Pushing ourselves by working more hours isn’t an effective solution. We need down time. Good exercise and good sleep make us more productive.

Writers cannot live by caffeine alone.

So here I am, re-evaluating my priorities and shedding activities that I wish I had time for but don’t.

And by doing that, with any luck, I’m getting a few steps closer to my dreams.

Do you try to do too much? How do you find balance? 

(Photo Copyright: olgacov / 123RF Stock Photo)

Why writing is so hard, and why I do it anyway

10383661_10204481819261556_458038920627797529_nWith only a few books under my belt, I guess you could say I’m fairly new at this writing gig. There are some things I’ve learned along the way ~ that I’m a morning writer, that I write best in an empty house, that getting up and switching to a new spot will loosen up almost every plot knot ~ but there’s far more I’m still figuring out. What is my process? Am I a pantser or a plotter? Why can’t I write faster? Do I have a muse, and where is she when I need her? Will writing a book ever get any easier?

Most authors will tell you the answer to that last one is a big, fat no. Writing doesn’t get easier, because you never write the same book twice. Plots get more complicated, characters become better developed, motivations and conflicts become more intertwined. These are all good things, because it means you’re pushing yourself, and becoming a better author. But believe me when I say they can also account for a lot of sleepless nights.

And now that I have real readers, people I don’t know but who buy my book anyway, I have a whole host of new worries. That they won’t relate to my characters, that the plot won’t resonate, that they won’t like my second book as much as the first, that they’ll get bored of me and stop buying. Strangers tell me all the time what they love about my books, but also what they hate. It’s hard to write the next one without them–the critics and the fans–sitting on your shoulder.

Sometimes, writing feels like punishment, like a 90,000-word mountain I can’t and don’t want to climb. But when a new story idea wakes me in the middle of the night, when I hear my characters’ voices as clearly as if they’re sitting in the room next to me, when the words flow and the imagery sings and the dialogue crackles off the page, those moments make all the hard times worth it. Getting words on the page is not easy, and it’s not always fun, but I love it anyway.

It’s All Relative

Man pulling his hair outWhen I published my debut novella under a pen name three weeks ago, I had low expectations. Conventional wisdom says that you don’t get any traction until the third book in the series comes out, and things really take off with book five or six. And I was content to wait for that to happen.

But the book didn’t hover at around 1,000,000 on Amazon like I expected. The day after it was published, it hit an Amazon bestseller list. I was, of course, over the moon.

And that’s when the crazy set in. I couldn’t be content with that modicum of success. Instead of focusing my energy on writing the next book, as I had planned, I felt like I had to promote the one I’d already published, to keep it visible. It was holding pretty steady in the top 20 on the list, and the top 10 in hot new releases in its category. Things were going great.

Until suddenly, they weren’t.

And that’s when the crazy got worse.

Sales were dropping along with the ranking. I experimented with new categories, and sales stopped altogether. So I dropped the price to 99 cents and ran a promo. The 99 cent price point helped, but the promo didn’t. The book was back up to #9 on the bestseller list for its category, and #5 in hot new releases, and I felt like I had failed because it wasn’t higher.

Like I said. Crazy.

I’m working on shifting my focus back to the things I can control, and letting go of the things I can’t. I’ve decided I’m allowed a few weeks of crazy after the first book is published, because it’s a super big deal to achieve something you’ve dreamed of your whole life. But it’s time to get back to business—to buckle down and write. The best thing I can do for the sales of the first book is to finish the second.

A month ago, I would have been so happy to be where I am now. But I am most definitely not happy. I’m distracted and sleep deprived and constantly fretting.

When things change, even for the better, our expectations change with them. And with the new expectations comes a whole new set of problems. Sometimes you have to step back and figure out what really matters. I didn’t become an author so I could worry about sales figures. I became an author so I could write. And when I’m doing that, I feel centered and happy, instead of anxious and out of control.

When we’re young, I suspect we all believe we’ll reach a point when we’ve got it all figured out. Now I realize that’ll never happen. Until you stop striving, you can never say you’ve succeeded. And when you stop striving, you’re taking the first step on the path to failure. I hope that as long as my heart keeps beating, I’ll keep trying new things. Even if that means anxiety and frustration and a bit of obsessive behavior.

What was the last new thing you tried that made you feel out of balance? How did you cope? 

A New Place to Call My Own

I picked it out myself. Arranged and rearranged. Hung the drapes. Fluffed the pillows. I’ve scented it with lavender (see if you can tell). Coffee’s stocked. Everything is situated just so. It’s pretty comfy and it suits me well.

Won’t you swing by my new personal blog? I love having guests!

Click here to visit WOMAN, DETERMINED.

Hey, Mister Postman

When’s the last time you wrote a good old-fashioned letter?

I don’t mean e-mail. We all do that, likely many times a week. I’m talking about something for which you pull out a blank sheet of paper and a pen, sit down at a table or on the couch with, and write by hand.

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from freedigitalphotos.net

It’s a lost art, letter writing. I’ve heard that more than once, but it doesn’t have to be.

My girls and I each have experience with penpals.

Biggest writes an occasional letter to someone we consider an honorary uncle, he lives in Texas. He’s exceptionally good at sending stuff back. And Biggest recently connected with a girl just a couple years older than she is. They live only a town apart, here in Missouri, but how cool that they make use of the USPS? No texting (yet) for these two.

Littlest has received printed letters from a classmate at school, and a long-time friend of mine, who in the past has sent sweet thoughts and curious questions from out-of-state.

They’ve both written to a girl in Maine. And have traded letters with my boyfriend.

I like to send my girls notes and poems when they’re at their dad’s. I imagine (hopefully not for naught) their pleasure in opening an envelope from me, especially when we aren’t together.

Too, I have a penpal from overseas. After connecting online through a writers’ forum, and later Facebook, we started penning true letters, sent halfway around the world. Just as exciting as receiving heartfelt correspondence from her is knowing how many hands our mail has touched, across how many borders it’s roamed.

And who doesn’t love to read something written just for them?

There’s anticipation when you open the mailbox and find a letter with your name on it—and it’s not a bill. Or junk mail. There’s a tangibility not evident in e-mails, there’s a certain romantic spirit, an intimacy. Knowing you were thought of, that a few minutes’ time was spent contemplating and expressing thoughts for your benefit. That’s awesome.

Do you agree?

When’s the last time you wrote a good old-fashioned letter? Or received one?

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