Turning a Corner

Are you saying you're going to do something, or are you already achieving what you said you would?

Actions will always speak louder than words, and I am finally finding a way to balance work life with all that self-care entails. To me, self-care includes all of those things we put off to accomplish our work day. This may be diet, physical activity, personal goals (writing is my biggest one), quality time with friends, sleep is a big one. And I have been suffering — feeling further and further away from accomplishing my own personal goals with writing. Ultimately, I would love to write full-time, but for now the day job is a necessity. I've been treating it like it's the only necessity instead of prioritizing this with everything else.

Somehow, I have been able to turn a corner, and it all started with a holiday staycation. I am so incredibly happy in this moment, because I I felt like I was moving further away from achieving what has been my ultimate goal: publishing a novel. I keep working on all of these projects, even starting new ones, but I haven't finished one, and I think more than anything that this is out of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of disappointment. Fear of calling out into a void and receiving no response.

Over the Labor Day holiday, I took a couple of extra vacation days from work to really jump start my writing with a staycation and solo writing retreat. I didn't have a structured plan as to what I wanted to accomplish each day, but I knew I wanted to make a significant dent in a project that I've been describing for a really long time without having actually put anything to paper.

This particular project is not really the nearest and dearest to my heart, but I have been receiving a lot of positive response from friends and fellow writers that this particular project may be a great debut project. It's funny and raw in ways that are sometimes less chick lit and more women's fiction, but it's so apropos to the plight of a single woman. Friends seem to think that this piece will attract more initial attention so that I can gain a good amount of followers before I release the novel that is closest to my heart. I'm not completely sure that I agree just yet, because I think that this dating book is a little bit more in your face than the project I'm most invested in, and I worry that I might scare some people off with the bluntness with which I need to tell that story. But I suppose there is still time to make a decision on what goes out first (and it would help if I could finish both of these projects, leaving me the ability to choose).

Each day of my staycation/writing retreat, I wrote. I even took my iPad and a portable keyboard to my local cigar bar on the weekend. I joined a writing challenge, which provides you with a daily word count goal and a lot of support. I finished my retreat having written more than 70 pages. More importantly, my stress level was so much lower, because I wasn't feeling conflicted about leaving my big dream on the back burner.

After my first solo writing retreat, my advice would be the following:

  • Give yourself some structure by giving yourself concrete goals to achieve each day
  • Create a reasonable schedule for writing (I think that 1-2 hour sprints work well for me, and these can be two or three times per day)
  • If you will have too many distractions at home, consider AirBnB (I stayed home, but I cleaned my house and did laundry in advance)
  • Give yourself separate time to think through how you will arrange your scene, what you need to research, or for character development (I like to do this while walking)
  • Get in some physical activity
  • Don't let your breaks overrun your goals (sometimes you need that mental break, but there's a slippery slope, and you can end up feeling guilty about time wasted)
  • Track daily progress
  • Share your progress with your social media followers
  • Consider joining a writing challenge on Twitter and/or joining FB groups for writers to connect with other likeminded people
  • Rinse and repeat (my plan is to do this at least every other month moving forward)

So much stress was lifted from my shoulders by giving myself this time to rejuvenate! More importantly, returning to my day job was easier, because I created a way for me to continue consistency with daily word counts, and I maintain contact with fellow writers who are similarly situated. The light at the end of the tunnel is much brighter now.

Even if you find that none of this advice really works for you, the time you've gifted yourself will be invaluable. Give yourself the opportunity to get it done.

Flu Season and Reference Blogs

I’m feverish and achy, and I barely moved at all today. I’ve gotten tons of sleep, and I have been drinking fluids, but I just want the dull aches across my back and flushed face/neck to cease. Now is not the time to get sick.

Since I stayed home today, I’ve been reading tons of reference blogs through Pinterest between naps. Blogs on writing novels, on monetizing blogs, on word counts, on motivation, and on burnout. Many thanks to shesnovel.com, thewritepractice.com, and nownovel.com for their insights. I feel encouraged, though I know that I’m going to have to push myself and be more disciplined with my craft.

I suppose this discipline isn’t far off from the discipline needed to lose weight. Starting a new practice, eating right, making time for exercise, and being patient with self. For writing, making time to write, making time to read, scheduling out the time to make writing a daily practice, and being patient with self. Not all days can go as planned, but without any plan, what will we successfully achieve?

Frankly, I could use more discipline in each of these areas, so I decided to create a schedule for the week that incorporates activity, writing, and  a chance at a good night’s rest. I’ve started really utilizing my WP editorial calendar, and I’ve created two writing calendars through Google Calendar (one for book, one for blog). I’m going to see if I can impress upon myself some good habits.

Keep calm and keep writing, friends.

Building a Sisterhood

The end of June is always a tough month for me and for my family. June 26th this year marked the 11th anniversary of my younger sister’s passing.

Some years are harder than others, and this year has been especially rough because she would have turned 30 years old this fall. I think my family has been hit especially hard this year. I can hear it in my mother’s voice.

I miss her. It’s like the air I breathe is thinner without her. My quality of life is different. My longing for her and the relationship we built grows stronger each year. My wondering what she would be or how she would be now rack my thoughts all the time.

A dear friend of mine pointed out to me last week that I make great efforts to build a strong network of sisters around me, not necessarily just for my own benefit, but to support and encourage each other. I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s true.

When I feel my lowest, I look to these sisters I’ve found over the years. A few particularly special ones have helped me keep it together when I couldn’t do it on my own; when I didn’t feel I had enough to take care of myself after taking care of my family. They’re who saw me grieve when I couldn’t allow my parents to see; they’re who checked on me and sat with me as I dealt with family complexities.

When I was the one who had to be strong for the family, to be their rock, these sisters made sure they were mine. And, in turn, I make sure that I do everything in my power to take care of them. I don’t look to them to replace my sister that is no longer with me, but I look to them for outlets to provide support, love and encouragement that I can no longer use toward her. It’s still in me, and it has to go somewhere. She would approve.

I think of my accomplishments, and I think of the opportunities I’ve had to be there for people the way that I’ve wanted to be there for my own sister. I hope that she would be proud. I hope that she would smile and laugh, and when I meet her next in heaven, I hope she does a little dance before she throws her arms around me. I can’t wait.

I will continue my efforts and being who I am for her, in her memory. I am nothing if not dedicated to my sisters: my rocks, my inspiration, my advisors and confidants. I had almost 19 years with my own, and I have my entire adulthood to enjoy these new chances at sisterhood. That means everything to me.