Image credit: belchonock / 123RF Stock Photo

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.

social media time suck ecardFirst 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)

Goodbye 2013, I hope the door hits your backside on the way out
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22 thoughts on “Goodbye 2013, I hope the door hits your backside on the way out

  • January 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I hope that 2014 will be better for you, Leah! 2013 was mostly a great year for me especially since I got to finally meet you at RT and talk with you.I love your books and Slow Ride Home just proved to me why I love your stories so much. Much love and hugs 🙂

    • January 1, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Phuong! I loved meeting you–and I don’t feel like I got enough time. RT was tough this year trying to do edits over the night time while trying to meet everyone in the day. And I’m SO happy and relieved to hear you like Slow Ride Home. I’m so pleased with how it finally came out. (Will I get to meet you again at this year’s RT or RAGT?)

  • January 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I recently had an epiphany during Nano where I discovered why the joy had gone out and why I was so frustrated. I’m learning to use the new process (Which ironically was my first process) for all my current and future projects without the guilt of feeling like I must do it some other way.

    I pulled out my Margie Lawson workshop yesterday and fondly remembered how we met and used to write. I hope you find that joy again this year.
    Happy New Year, my friend. Get out there and smell the er, snow. Hey it smells good. I miss it.

    • January 1, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      Livia — Out of the several dozen writing courses I’ve taken, Margie’s is one of maybe three that I actually found useful and still use regularly. (Snow can smell, especially if it’s yellow 😉 But you don’t to smell the yellow snow. 😀 )

  • January 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I know it was a tough year Leah but if it’s any consolation, Slow Ride Home was so worth it. Keep doing what you are doing, make the changes necessary to be happy again, and take care of yourself…that should always be number one on your list! HUGS!!!

    • January 1, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Hi Sharon — it was a tough year, though not as tough as some, and there were some really good parts too (meeting you, and so many others at Lori Foster’s and RT conferences). And yes, I need to take care of myself, for some reason I tend to put myself at the bottom of the list…

  • January 1, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Writing, whether it be books, blogs, reviews or journal entries, can flow beautifully … and it can be harder than labour with an overdue child. So happy to hear that you are starting the new year with a refreshed attitude and renewed determination. You care deeply about what you write, and it’s why I love to read what you put on the page. I can’t wait to see what you will produce this year!

    • January 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Jenn — love the ” it can be harder than labour with an overdue child” analogy — that’s so true. And yes, I care deeply about what I write, because I want the readers to enjoy the story and come away with a satisfied feeling at the end. I want them to love the characters as much as I do. It is important to me. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more this year, and still keep the quality.

  • January 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Oh, and love the new look.

    • January 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks! I thought it was due for a facelift. (But then so am I)

  • January 1, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    O Leah, I’m so sorry to hear about your health problems. Truly hope the meds are adjusted and working better. As for the writing — I’m not a writer so I can’t even begin to understand how any of you do what you do. All I can say is that as an avid reader (my husband says it’s an addiction) your books always touch my heart. And Slow Ride Home was soooooooooooo good. I loved that book!! Maybe sales are down because of the economy and people not knowing what’s gonna happen next and all that doom and gloom stuff. Please don’t deprive me, and all your other fans, of your extraordinary talent. I would truly miss your words if you said “quit”. I wish you joy, happiness and much success in 2014.

    • January 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Shirley — your comments, and comments and emails from other readers are truly what has kept me returning to my keyboard day after day. Writing is a solitary profession (even if you’re in a crowded coffee shop) so getting feedback from readers, especially like what you’ve written above, is pure gold. Thank you — and Happy 2014!

  • January 1, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Leah, you are SO not the only author out there thinking these things. The market is always changing, and it’s getting harder and harder to see returns on work, in my opinion. But quality and persistence pays off in the end. Some months are better than others, and yeah, this year was worse than the last, but you know, in another year, everything will no doubt have changed again. Keep writing!!! And believe me, we’re all feeling the squeeze. Gah.

    Terrific post. Happy New Year!!

  • January 2, 2014 at 8:14 am

    2013 was an extremely difficult year for so many people I know. Personally, I was relieved to see that awful year leave and felt peace when 2014 arrived. There is something wonderful about clean slates. I think you are a terrific writer and hope you find your inspiration and joy again. Wishing you good health and great fortune in this new year!

    • January 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      I struggled for a long time about whether to actually post this, but after a long discussion on a private loop that was filled with “me too” responses I figured I should, that other authors needed to know they weren’t alone, and that maybe they weren’t doing as bad they’d thought they were. Hopefully 2014 will be better for everyone. Happy New Year, Landry!

  • January 3, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    In my former life, I was a CEO of a nationwide company, and that was a breeze compared to a writing career. When I tell my friends what’s involved from a creativity standpoint to the nuts and bolts of promotion, they are stunned. Evidently they imagined me drinking martinis while I typed a few paragraphs a day! Thanks for sharing. I hope your health is greatly improved with new meds and that your writing brings you joy and peace once again.

    • January 4, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Cindy — you’re so right. The marketing side of being a writer is incredibly time consuming, and just when you figure out what works for one book everything shifts and it doesn’t work for the next book. And it takes so much time away from the actual writing too. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a better balance in 2014.

  • January 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Cat at Romancejunkies forwarded your post to us reviewers. As someone who has never read one of you novels, I completely understand your feelings about 2013. I really hope this year will be a better one. I read the excerpt of SLOW RIDE HOME and bought in on Amazon just now. Happy New Year

    • January 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Thank you, Claudette, not only for buying Slow Ride Home but also letting me know about Cat sharing it with her reviewers (she’s such a sweetheart) Reviewers and especially readers have been what’s kept me returning to my computer day after day. And why I encourage readers who have enjoyed a book — any book, not just mine — to reach out and let the author know. Those notes can make such a difference to our state of mind.

  • January 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I am only a reader so don’t know what you are going through but like most things in life it’s those who persist that seem successful in life. As long as you can afford to live, I would hope you’d keep trying. But more than everything, you must want to do it and not feel you have to do it. Some writers say they can’t stop from writing. I hope you find your joy again!

  • January 4, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    For me 2013 was difficult, but some of those things that happened were my own fault. But 2014 is starting out with a cold and their are a few things coming up that are not going to do my health, which is not good anyway.. But I will solider on like I always do and roll with the punches… Good luck to you Leah…

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