Time is funny. It slips by almost unnoticed and then you look back and wonder where it went.
I put this blog, and writing, on hold because I was spending far too much time (and energy) angsting over everything. Did I want to write? What did I want to write? Young Adult, New Adult, Adult Adult (hubba hubba)? Angst, comedy, romance? Dystopian, Utopian, Antitopian (what, it could be a thing)? Was I good enough? Was I good at all? Did I want it badly enough? Did I want it too badly? Was I even supposed to be a writer?
That was six months ago. Literally, I posted my ‘I’m taking a break’ post on March 18th. Six months. Two seasons. Half a year. In that time, I’ve written no more than a couple hundred words (with the exception of emotional blog posts about weight loss). Other people have written books. Scrapped books. Signed with agents. Gotten publishing deals. Had publishing deals fall through.
And I’ve thought. A lot. I came up with one thing. Just one. But it’s a big one.
I’m a writer. It’s not always what I do, but it’s always who I am.
So the rest of those questions? The answers to those don’t really matter.
Maybe the next idea I have will fit into one of those genres. Maybe it won’t fit in any genre. Maybe it will be just another idea that doesn’t get written, because those happen. Ideas have never been the issue.
And maybe, once I finally finish a book, I’ll decide that one isn’t the book. The next one might not be either. Or maybe it will be, and I’ll query. And maybe someone will love it enough, or maybe everyone will hate it so very much, or maybe someone will just like it but want to see something else.
And maybe none of that is anything I need to think about right now. Because that is a whole lot of stuff that I can’t control. And just the one thing that I can.
I’m a writer. So I’m going to write.
So, I was at Target yesterday, as I am almost every Saturday, and I found this really cool thing for my kitchen. It’s a wall decal, but it’s also a chalk board, for grocery lists of whatever. It was brown and beige, so neutral, and I noticed the butterflies along the border. And it was on sale! I crave organization right now, so I grabbed it.
This morning, I unrolled it to hang it up and I noticed the words along the bottom. I’ll tell you what they are in a minute, but they spoke to me. In that moment, I got clarity.
I headed straight to the computer, sent a couple of emails, tweeted briefly and then cried. Emotions are pretty close to the surface these days, so it didn’t take much.
So here’s the deal.
I’m stepping away from this. For now.
For good? I honestly can’t answer that.
What’s more, I don’t want to answer it. I don’t want to predict the future. I have no desire to live in absolutes anymore. What will happen down the road? I have no idea. I can’t know and trying to guess only serves to drive me nuts.
I’m living for today. The things that fit my life a year ago… don’t anymore.
The dreams that I was focusing on aren’t my dreams today. I’ve spent more than a year thinking about, dreaming about, obsessing about ONE thing. Turns out it was the wrong thing.
If you asked me yesterday what that one thing was, I would have told you writing. Today, I can tell you, it wasn’t writing. It was publication. Not the same thing.
Today, my dreams are different. They’re unclear, which is frightening and freeing at the same time. But they are about who I am, not what I do.
Dreams are interesting things. Wishes and hopes, too. For me, they are like this.
Dreams are things I want, without reason, without logic.
Wishes are things I want, but that I’m not really working toward, and they are often retrospective.
Hopes are more selfless, less about things I want and more about things I want for others.
I have them all.
I dream of being amazing at something. I just don’t know what that something is yet.
I wish I’d learned earlier in life how to listen to myself.
I hope you all have your wishes and dreams come true, whatever they are. I hope you all write your books, if that is what you want. I hope you get the publication deal you’ve dreamed of. I hope that everything works out the way it’s supposed to, for all of you and for me.
And, while hopes and wishes and dreams are all wonderful things, I’ve got another one that I’m putting in the forefront of my world.
I plan to take up jewelry making, because I’ve always wanted to.
I plan to stop cutting my hair because I know I really want it long again.
I plan to live each day for itself; not to be consumed by the past or afraid of the future.
I plan to keep on the path I’m on toward better physical health because I’m worth it.
I plan to run. Because it makes me feel strong. Because I never thought I could.
I plan to be the best mother/wife/daughter/sister/friend I can be. Because family, and the friends that have become family, are my end game.
I plan to take time to listen to my heart and let it tell me what we really want.
I’ve spent so much of my life fearing change, and then mourning change when it happened. Lately, I feel change all around me and it’s been unsettling.
This morning, I hung something on my wall and it spoke to me.
“Without change, there would be no butterflies.”
I know I’ve been sorta… absentee. I’ve been taking some time, mulling, pondering, contemplating. I put my writing on the back burner for a bit. My head isn’t where it needs to be for the creative process to work.
For a while, every time I sat down to write, I did this.
So, I’ve been working on this.
I’ve been asking myself this.
I’ve been wondering if I’m really doing either of these things.
I don’t have any answers yet. That’s hard for me to say. I try to always be the one with all the answers.
And I’ve been working on ME. Making me better. Making the choices I feel like I need to make right now.
But, I will admit, I miss it. I miss my characters, I miss my story, I miss writing. And I keep wondering how much time I need to step away for, how long until it will feel right again.
Then, this morning, I got an email from a friend. I should say, everyone has been very supportive of my decision to take time off, but sometimes, you read the right words, right at the moment you need to read them. I was like ‘A-HA!’
No, different A-Ha.
Kinda like that.
I have loved Robert Frost’s ‘A Road Not Taken’ as long as I can remember. It speaks to me. I feel like I’ve been at this point SO many times.
But today, looking at those words only brought more questions that I didn’t have the answer to. Which is the one less traveled by? All choices make a difference, but if I truly walked one way and not the other, where would I end up?
And then I saw a different quote. And it was the answer I needed to see today.
‘Someone once asked me “why do you always insist on taking the hard road?” and I replied “why do you assume I see two roads?”
That’s it, isn’t it? It’s not always a choice between two things. It doesn’t have to be now or never.
It’s just right now and not right now. Even if it looks like I’m staring down two roads and trying to decide which one is right, when I get to where I’m going and look back, it’s going to be one road. One road that took me exactly where I needed to go.
Knowing that? That makes all the difference.
Earlier in the week, I posted about THE WANT, the first of four ‘symptoms’ that I seem to be suffering from. Now, I’m going to write about the other three.
When I was writing that post, it was making me realize just how strong THE WANT is, and it pushed all the other symptoms aside. I wondered if the simple act of writing it down had stopped the cycle, and how I was going to write the other three posts on this ‘cycle.’
I needn’t have worried.
The day after I wrote the post about THE WANT, I woke up barely even able to remember THE WANT. The cycle had moved, and per usual, we’d arrived at THE FEAR.
It’s been a rough couple of months, writing wise, and I’ve been feeling lost. Hell, I’ve been feeling ALL of the feelings. But mostly, I’ve been feeling THE FEAR.
For the record, THE FEAR sucks, and it’s powerful.
THE FEAR will consume you, if you let it. I have let it. I didn’t mean to, but THE FEAR just sort of takes over and paralyzes you, leaving you wishing for the day when you had THE WANT.
Funny you should ask?? Oh wait, you didn’t.
What is THE FEAR about? Well, for me, it’s…
THE FEAR that I’ll never be able to write this book that is trying to claw it’s way out of me.
THE FEAR that I’m not talented enough.
THE FEAR that this story in my head, the epic love as deep as the deepest ocean will come off as a murky, muddy puddle of meh to anyone who reads it.
THE FEAR that I will put my heart and soul and guts and words into something and that no one will want to read it.
THE FEAR of just how much this matters to me.
When you talk to people about THE FEAR, they tell you things like ‘the only way to lose if you don’t try’ and ‘don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.’ Or, sometimes, ‘omg Bec, quit your bitchin and write your damn book, already.’
I know, believe me, I KNOW. Unfortunately, THE FEAR doesn’t know and I can’t explain it. THE FEAR is not reasonable or rational and it really just not a very good listener.
I think the worst representation of THE FEAR is this. I’m terrified that I’m not going to be able to work through THE FEAR, that one of these days, I’m going to give in to those dark moments and just… ya know.
Here’s the thing. In the face of fear, there is either a fight or flight response. I’m a flight kind of gal. I’ve walked away from more things that I can even remember. And I don’t want to walk away from this, I don’t. But, in those first few moments of every day, when I’m barely awake, there is a little voice that says ‘what if you just stopped?’
That is how I woke up today. It’s the third part of the cycle. THE RETREAT. It’s not a like a full on quitting, just a pulling away, emotionally. I”m not going into a lot of detail on THE RETREAT because, really, what is there to say? I know it’s a self-protection measure, ingrained within me, and it’s a hard habit to break. When THE FEAR gets too much, I start with THE RETREAT. Just a little distance, then a little more, then a little more.
Want to guess what come next? We know that I want something, I fear that I’ll never get it and I’m retreating to minimize the hurt.
This brings us to THE MISSING. Because I love them and don’t want to walk away. Because I feel like this is what I was meant to do. Because I don’t want this to be just one more thing I started and quit.
I don’t want to look back at the end of my life and see the list of things I gave up on.
So what now? At some point, the cycle has to break. I guess what it comes down to is where I decide to break it. If it breaks at THE MISSING, I’ll just ache for a while over it. If it breaks at THE RETREAT, it’ll be just one more thing to add to the list of failures and allow me the pattern of running from things that scare me to continue. If it breaks at THE FEAR, it will make it that much harder to try the next time.
But if it breaks, if I break it, at THE WANT… who knows?
I’d write whatever I wanted.
I’m going to go try and do that.
No. Well, maybe. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about some symptoms that I am currently suffering from.
Four, to be exact, and this will be an essay in four parts so that this post isn’t eleventy seven thousand words long.
What’s even more fun? They’re cyclical. They feed into each other, creating a nice endless loop. Or maybe not endless, but I perceive them to be endless. And like my boss likes to tell me, perception is reality.
When we’re talking about a vicious cycle, it’s hard to find a beginning point, but I’m going to try. We’ll start with THE WANT. (I’ll be honest, I waffled on whether to start with THE WANT or the second symptom because they are so intertwined).
As I was driving home from the party (in horrendous traffic, I might add), I was remembering the author talking about what it was like when she started writing the book, and how a year and a half later it’s come to life and there was this little voice inside me while I was listening, saying..
I want that.
So afraid, that I’ve been not letting myself want it. And I think that maybe this is one of the things that has been standing in my way. I think you have to want it. I think you have to want it a lot, because it’s going to suck up your free time and it’s going to hurt to have to butcher your own words and it’s going to shred you to let go of pieces of the book that you really want to keep but can’t. So to get through all of that, I think you have to want it pretty freakin bad.
And on top of that, even when we can admit that I want it, we’re often afraid to say so.
Not to get too deep, and much to my mother’s dismay, I’m not much of rabid feminist (she thinks she is, but she’s like the world’s worst feminist, anyway). But one of my thoughts was this. As children, many of us were brought up hearing how it’s not ‘nice’ or ‘ladylike’ to be demanding. It’s not polite to say ‘I want that.’ I can remember being a kid and being told when you go over to someone’s house, you should wait until they offer you a beverage. And sure, that’s fine. It’s manners. But is it really that rude to say ‘Could I have a glass of water, please?’
(Holy shizz, did I just say I had talent? Well, it’s out there now.)
Those things, even to my own ears, sound off. It feels like I’m being full of myself, or greedy, or brash, or…something. And really, it shouldn’t. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone, or more deserving. I’m not inflating my own importance. I’m not stomping my feet and going all Veruca Salt, yelling…
About a month ago, my amazing friend Meri sent me a link to this website where you can send an email to your future self. It has to be at least a month away. I think this is carefully calculated because in a month, you will have completely forgotten that you sent yourself an email a month ago. Because sometimes, it’s like this.
But I digress. Again.
Today was a rather fantastic day. And then, I got the email. And we went from fantastic to full-on, ridiculously awesome. Because it’s like the universe has a message for me today. I mean, technically, the email wasn’t from the universe, but still.
This is what the me of a month ago had to say to the me of today.
Subject: Let’s Do This Thing
Well, you’ve taken a month off. I know you were busy and life was crazy, but it’s time.
I hope you’ve opened that doc and started writing. And editing. If not, go do that. If you have, then do more of both. This novel isn’t going to create itself.
Remember how much you want this. Remember your plans to start querying in February.
That’s a few days away. Times a wastin.
You can do this. Only you can write this book. No matter how many obstacles present themselves, and I know there have been a lot of them, you have to believe you can do this.
I believe you can.
I can’t wait to read our book. So get on that, okay?
In the interest of full disclosure, I edited two typos out of the email I sent myself, and gave myself a serious side-eye for my grammatical inaccuracies.
Last month me knows me pretty well, it would seem.
The timing of the email could not be more perfect, which is nothing I could have possibly known a month ago.
Yesterday, I opened up the outline for my novel and revamped it.
Yesterday, I had some time to think about what’s been going on with me and what I really want.
Yesterday, I had an amazing conversation with Angela about where my head was at, writing wise.
And today, this email that reinforces everything, that told me things I already knew but really needed to hear anyway, came.
So, querying in February isn’t going to happen. That’s okay. Because what I took from that email was not ‘you had a plan and you slacked and you failed.’ That was not that part that jumped off the page and grabbed me. It was this…
I believe you can.
Me from a month ago believed in me. She didn’t think I would be perfect, she didn’t think that I’d be all done. She knew that I’d be doing what I always do; talking and talking and talking and not doing. But she believed in me anyway.
Good point, right? So…
Dear Me from a Month Ago,
I heard you.
Did you ever see the movie Threesome? Got to 1:02 in this video. (Or watch the whole thing, because it is an awesome flick. Just pay close attention at from like 1:02-1:07.
You ever feel like that? You ever feel like this?
Yeah. Me too.
But you can’t exactly take a break from life, can you? I mean, sure, maybe a little one. You can take a nice long bath (if you aren’t a six foot tall Glamazon who can’t recline comfortably in your bathtub). You can go for a mani/pedi. Hell, if you’re really lucky and have a wonderful, generous husband (like I do), you might be able to sneak off for a girl’s weekend. But even if you do these things, you’re likely going to be thinking about your ‘real’ life and wondering how things are going in your absence.
So, maybe you look around and think ‘what is it that I REALLY need a break from.’ And you look for things that you can legitimately take time off from, as opposed to the things that you have to be fully present for.
Like your kids. Like your husband. Like your job.
And sometimes, you look around at what you’ve been doing, and you see the cracks in it. You step back and you see what isn’t working, and why it isn’t working.
What’s this leading up to?
I need a break. And if I allow myself to be objective, I deserve one. So, I’m going to take one.
Let’s delve into why I need a break, into what isn’t working, into what I actually need a break from, shall we? (Of course we shall, this is what one does with a blog, yes?)
I need a break because life is exhausting sometimes. And I just mean regular, everyday life. One husband, two kids, two cats, a myriad of activities, one demanding, full-time job and one recent promotion that makes me SO happy but also makes me refocus on work in a way that is just… tiring.
What’s not working? *types really fast before I can change my mind and not say it because I hate saying it*
*rips finger off the delete key*
I mean, this is a blog about life, but more specifically, about life as an aspiring writer. And I’m not writing. I’m talking a lot about writing. I’m blogging about writing. I’m thinking about writing. But actually writing? No, I’m not doing that.
Why not? The list of reasons is both long and not new.
My busy life? Okay, but a lot of people have busy lives and they still write.
Lack of discipline? Most assuredly so.
Raging case of low self-confidence regarding my abilities/ideas.
Is that the heart of it? Probably.
Want to know what feeds into that? The internet. (This is the part where we explore what I need a break from. Sadly).
For the purposes of this exercise, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a budding author, with a very active Twitter account, full of some close friends and a shit-ton of amazing authors, agents and editors. Disclaimer: I swear this is not a rant about authors, agents or editors.
If you’re already feeling a little self doubty, here’s what happens. You pop on twitter and you see a tweet from Awesome Agent, and she says “Authors, don’t write a book about ____ or have ____ in your book. It’s been done.” And you think “Well, shit, my WIP has both of those things. To hell with this, I’m obviously unoriginal and untalented and I should just give up now.” Was Awesome Agent speaking to you? No. She was just saying this is what she’s seen too much of at the moment. Do you take it as if she was speaking directly to you?
Yeah, you do. Or, I do, anyway.
Later, Awesome Author tweets “OMG, my book comes out next week. I’m so excited!!” And you click the link, or look it up on Goodreads, and holy crap, it has eighty-three similarities to your book. Same location, a couple of plot points, the main character’s name. Did Awesome Author tweet that so that no one else would bother writing a book with an even remotely similar plot/character/setting? No. Do you interpret it that way?
Yeah, you do. Or, I do, anyway.
Then, Other Awesome Agent tweets ‘Someone write me a book like ______ about _____. Because that would rock my socks.” And you think “Could I write that? Should I write that? Should I scrap my clearly inferior book and start writing that?” Was Other Awesome Agent directing that at you? Or was she just saying something she’d like to see (which doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like to see what you’re already working on)? I think we know the answer. But do you take it that way? I think we know the answer to that, too.
And maybe that’s just me (although, is anything, ever, really ‘just’ you? Probably not). I should learn to let it go. I should just let it roll off my back. I should just ignore it and do what I need to do, for me.
I think all that I need to do to make those things happen is… a break.
Not that kind. Well, maybe that kind. But a real break, too.
Seriously, call that sad social commentary if you want, but it’s really hard to remember a time without the interwebz. MY FRIENDS LIVE IN THERE. Like, seriously. So much of my daily interaction occurs on Twitter. I am that dorky girl that gets all excited when I see that someone has tweeted me or commented on this blog. And, I really, really love you guys.
But, right now, I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed.
So, what am I going to do with all my extra time? Lots of things? Nothing? A little of both.
I’m going to read. I’m going to hang out with the kids. I’m going to work long hours. I’m going to make plans with people I haven’t seen in forever. I’m going to make travel plans. I’m going to send more texts and less tweets. (You should probably all give me your numbers, okay?)
I’ll still be right here. I’ll keep checking email. I’ll post rambly things on Goodreads. I’ll post silly and/or pretty pictures on tumblr. Hell, I’ll still tweet sometimes. Just not alldayeverydayallnighteverynightallthetime.
I’m going to continue to blog, because talking things out really helps. I’m going to write. Well, first, I’m going to sit down and remember why I write. I’m going to make it about the writing, and not about all the other stuff.
There’ll be time for all the other stuff.
Then, I’m going to write.
And really, I’m not going anywhere. I just need a little break.
P.S. This post was super long! Ugh. Tell me about your breaks. Do you need them? Do you take them?
Larry is my auto mechanic. He’s gruff. He’s terrible on the phone. He’s a man of very few words.
I need to talk out everything (hence the blog). Larry just wants to shut up and get to work.
Basically, he’s my polar opposite. But you can learn things from the people that are the least like you, sometimes.
Larry has a sign in his garage that reads…
These words jumped out at me. I chuckled at them, because really, honesty in terms of quality, speed and price are rare. And refreshing. And a little funny.
But it stuck with me. These words kept bumping around in my brain, tickling my lobes, trying to tell me something.
I’ve been expecting all three. Not in terms of my car repairs (which have been frequent and expensive for the last two months). In terms of writing a novel.
I want it to be good. I want it to be warm chocolate chip cookies good. I want it to be new shoes good. I want it to be rip your heart out and stomp on it, bawl your eyes out, lump in your throat, I NEED MORE OF THIS good.
Basically, I want it to be like…
And I want that to happen in the first draft.
Also, I want it to be fast. I want to sit down at my computer and have the dam in my brain break open, letting the ideas gush out and flow endlessly, never slowing, never stopping (except when I take breaks for, you know, work. And life.)
Kind of like…
But, I want that to happen only when it’s convenient for me and when I have time to write.
Lastly, I want it to be cheap. Well, no. That doesn’t really work in this context. I want it to not cost me a lot, emotionally.
Sometimes, writing is really hard for me. Actually, I think it is really hard for a lot of writers. Some days it just comes easy, and you write and then you get up and go play tiddly winks (or Wii).
Other days, especially the days where I’m writing mach twenty with my hair on fire, I finish and I feel as if I just had my insides sucked out with the Dyson I want so desperately (this is humorous because I hate vaccuming).
Pouring your heart and soul into something can be a really difficult experience, and sometimes, I just wish it were…
(Sing along. You know you want to.)
Speed? Quality? Cost? Pick two.
Which would you pick?
Me? I want it all.
But the writing is on the wall (of the garage).
Sometimes, it will be fast and easy… and utter shit.
Sometimes, it will be amazing and lightning fast… but the toll it takes might be too high.
And sometimes, it will be really great and it won’t make me want to crawl into a hole… but it will take a while.
Basically, I want it all. And I learned something from Coach Eric Taylor. I can have it all.
I just can’t have it all at once.
You guys, I hate make choices. They are so harrrrrd.
Okay, so here is the deal. I have a work-in-progress MS that I wrote during NanoWrimo in November. The idea for it started back in June, with nothing more than 500 words of free writing. It wasn’t supposed to be anything at all; just an exercise. But within days, the characters were telling their story in my head (at all hours of the day and night, thank you very much). Soon it was all…
I loved on them and outlined them and plotted and planned and replotted and replanned (and didn’t re-outline because I couldn’t decide what to write in the outline anymore). And on November first, I settled down and started really writing their story.
To say that the story changed a lot while I was writing it would be both accurate and a gross understatement. To say that the story, as it stands now, bears almost no resemblance to the initial idea would just be accurate.
But that’s okay, right? Stories change. They grow. They become what they are supposed to be.
Or maybe not.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the characters like crazy. I mean, they’re my babies. I’m just not sure this is their time, you know?
For a while, I was letting this get to me. Like it meant that I’m not supposed to be a writer. If I couldn’t finish this one book, how was I ever going to write more books?
Because I have more books in me. This is where the decision comes in.
Along the way, other ideas showed up. Some of them great; others, not so great. Hell, some of them were the delusional result of cold medicine and no sleep (I’ll leave you to wonder whether those ones are the good or the bad). So, I did what most of us writers do. I made some notes, threw them in a doc and went back to writing.
I finished Nano (50,084 tyvm!), edited the first few chapters and sent them off to my critique partners. The feedback was very positive, and I figured as soon as the holidays were over, I’d be gtg.
No, not that kind. This kind.
But the words haven’t come. My kids haven’t started talking to me again. I’d call it writer’s block, except there are other kids that are talking to me. And they are saying things like “Hey. You. Forget those Nano losers. You should write our story now.”
But the time comes when you have to make a choice. And not an ‘if I don’t write this now then I never will’ choice. Just a decision of what to do now. Right now. Today.
And its hard.
The alternative, however, is harder. Stay in limbo, unable to choose and not writing. SO not happening. Because I know me, and in the history of me, not writing begets more not writing. Newton’s laws of motion are true. A writer that isn’t writing continues not writing unless someone comes along and kicks their ass. And a writer that is writing keeps writing unless they get in their own damn way.
Okay, I paraphrased that a little. Sue me.
It’s decision time, folks. Book 1 has many things in it’s favor. Its already at least half written, I love the characters with all my heart and I really think it is a story worth telling. Book 2 is completely different. Its new. Its shiny. Its just a ball of ideas, thoughts, possibilities. Aren’t they all in the beginning?
Maybe that’s it right there. Maybe, if I choose Book 2, in six months I’ll be wanting something else new and shiny. Or maybe not. There’s no way to know. But I do know this. The ones that are new and shiny take time to break in (and give you blisters, to boot). And really, who doesn’t love these?
Okay, here’s the plan. I’m going to sleep on it for one last night. Okay, actually, I’m going to stay up until an ungodly hour reading Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium. But then I’m going to sleep. And tomorrow, with a new day and a fresh set of eyes, I’m going to flip a coin.
What? You don’t think flipping a coin is a good way to make a decision? I disagree. Because…
P.S. I know this blog post comes of like my brain is scrambled eggs, is too long and has far too many pictures. Stress does nothing for my blogging skills. But if you read this far, or even if you bounced somewhere around the shoe analogy, I love you for reading. You still love me?