To be honest, I’m happy to see the end of 2013. While there were no major incidents last year – no strokes, no heart attacks, no deaths of any of my loved ones, I felt like the entire year was filled with a series of stress-inducing incidents that left me exhausted day after day.
Without getting into TMI range, or maybe I’m already there, in a single year I’ve developed diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, probably all related to my hypothyroidism, and am now on a whack of meds that have taken me forever to get used to. I’ve sat at my computer struggling to write and edit my stories for so many hours at a day that I’ve wrecked my rotator cuff and ended up in physiotherapy.
I know those are all things I should be worried about, but more disturbing in 2013 for me was the struggle I had with writing, the complete destruction of finding joy in writing, in the loss of any confidence in my writing. For a variety of reasons. Where I hadn’t in previous years, in 2013, I’ve questioned every single word, scene and chapter that I write. I found myself sitting at the keyboard, paralyzed.
Partially because despite having done way more promo than I’ve ever done in the past, less and less of you are finding my books. My rankings are plunging and my royalty checks shrinking at an alarming rate. While I can’t say I write for the money, it’s always in the back of my head that if I’m going to spend six months writing a book, I want to see some concrete evidence it was worth it in return.
When a blogger recently sent me an interview asking me what kept me writing after a setback, I wasn’t sure how to respond at the time because right before I received her questions, I’d actually written a blog post (but didn’t post) entitled, “I quit.”
But in the last couple months, other authors have blogged about facing the same issues – one of my writing heroes Jane Porter did a beautiful blog post earlier this week. I first met Jane in 2007 at an RWA conference in Dallas. She’d been teaching a workshop on how to write strong heroes and heroines (one I still reference even now) but I had to leave part way through for my very first appointment to pitch to an editor. An hour (and a successful pitch) later, I was sitting in the hotel coffee shop with my friend Becky, and Jane stopped to talk with us. I was honored and shocked that this award-winning author would take the time to talk to a newbie like me. So to read the other day that she struggles the same way I have this year really hit home with me.
Other authors who I hold up as my ideal success stories/idols have blogged lately that they’ve been struggling too. Fellow Carina Author HelenKay Dimon blogged about her doubts about her career in August. Fellow Toronto Romance Writer Molly O’Keefe (yes, I may have borrowed her last name for my heroine in Slow Ride Home—though I think it was subconscious at the time) recently blogged about the pressure writers are facing to produce a lot of books quickly. Jeannie Linn blogged about how her sales are sagging even though her publisher has been behind her books 100%.
There have been lots of other author friends making similar statements on Facebook and private loops too. Murmurs about how their sales are flagging, rankings plummeting, that they’re seriously considering stopping writing. With a lot of “me too” and “Thank God I’m not the only one” responses.
And then Bree of the Moira Rogers team posted a blog called “The Math of Quiet Success.” Now while I don’t have anywhere near the number of books Bree and Donna have out, and I don’t make anywhere near the money they make, she quoted numbers that made me realize that books I’d considered failures were actually a success. I’m doing okay. Not spectacular. I’ve not got those magic USA Today Best Seller or New York Times Bestseller magic phrases above my name. I may never have. Same as a lot of authors. And frankly, while they’re nice to have, and I certainly would love the paycheck that accompanies those titles, slow and steady still completes the marathon, right?
Another thing that helped was the reception of the readers to Slow Ride Home. While its rankings still aren’t great, the reviewers are liking it, and it even got a “Recommended Read” posting from USA Today. So I guess I was doing something right. And when I question myself in the future, I think I’ll be looking back at Slow Ride Home’s reviews and remind myself, maybe, just maybe I do know what I’m doing.
So I’m glad to see the end of 2013. To have that “fresh slate”, even if it’s just a psychological barrier that gets broken on January 1st each year.
I don’t normally do resolutions but after this last year, and having a week where I’ve wondered if I was having a heart attack or was about to have a stroke on the days where my new meds weren’t doing anything and my blood pressure was matching that of my mother’s during her stroke, I obviously need to make some changes in my life.
First off, I need to lessen the amount of time I spend on my electronic devices. I need to put away my tablets (yes, that’s plural) and my smart phone. I need to start looking up and paying attention to what’s going on around me more. I need to get out walking more (my puppy Seamus will be pleased to hear that. Or maybe not. He doesn’t like weather where he gets his feet wet. Though he does burying his face in snow.) I need to stop feeling guilty for leaving my computer when my son comes to visit, and then feeling guilty when I leave his birthday party after an hour and slink back to my computer and find some balance in my life again.
But mainly I need to find the joy in writing again. To write what I want to write, the way I want to write it. To stop questioning myself and every single word choice so much. To remember why I wrote before I got published. Because I loved watching those characters in my head come alive. To flesh them out and watch them grow. Even maybe hurt them a bit in the process and then watch them heal and blossom and fall in love all over again. I need to be excited about my writing and my characters again. And love sitting down at my computer and watch the words flow because I love the process, screw other authors’ word counts and rankings and all the rest.
So good-bye 2013, and welcome 2014 and a chance at a new beginning.
(Sweeping Broom Image credit: belchonock / 123RF Stock Photo)