Don’t Quit… Rest

In my last post, I was feeling hopeful. Not long after, that feeling faded. I decided to take the month of December off. A quiet little nudge inside me seemed to make it clear that it was the right thing to do. As the month went by, the voices that had been nagging at me and bringing me down, got louder. You’re not a real writer. A real writer doesn’t take breaks. A real writer lives to write. You’re a hack. Your writing is always missing something essential.  You are, and always have been, a failure. Just quit. Face the fact that the best you can hope for is to be scraping by the rest of your life, and working until you die. 

Even when I tried to turn my thoughts to the hope of publishing, the voice got even louder. The publishing world is no different than the film and TV world. You don’t fit their mold. They want young, pretty women with lovely writery pictures on the back cover that they can trot out on stage to sell books. You are not that. Once again, you have to jump through their hoops, play their games, all with the understanding that in the end, you just won’t cut it. Why bother. Just self-publish and let the public decide, except they likely will never get that chance, because of the sheer volume of self-published books and your lack of experience with marketing. So really, Just quit. Face the truth. Quit, already, and end the embarrassment of trying.

After weathering the onslaught of negative voices in my head, I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago and gave myself a talking to.

Look, you chose this. This is what you wanted. You put everything at risk to do this. You could have chosen an easier path, the kind most everyone else takes, but you didn’t. Is it fair that your work will somewhat be judged on your appearance and age? No, it isn’t. But for many agents and publishers, that’s what’s happening. But, there will always be some who are simply looking for a good story, and  you have to go through the effort to find them. Again, this is what you chose. Put on your big girl pants and see it through. Pending any disasters, you’re aren’t going to be homeless for another 2 years, and maybe even longer, so stop stressing, do the work that needs to be done, and have some fun with the process.

The spring unwound and I came to realize that during the fallow period, even as I fell into an anxious depression, my batteries were actually recharging. I came up with two short story ideas, which is important, because my query letter is woefully short of credits. Winning a contest or two could help with that. During December, I read more from agents on what they do and don’t want and came to a conclusion my instincts were actually right for a change. Chapter one, as is, is the way to go. I’m eager to give

book one another pass to make sure my edits are consistent. I’m eager to hire a junior agent to help me with my query letter. Eager to get short stories out there. Eager to then get back to book two, do a rewrite on that, and then begin to move forward. All that anxiety and fear is gone. I’m ready to work.

I think I got the lesson loud and clear this time. When I feel defeated, anxious and all the voices in my head are telling me to quit, what I really need to do is rest.

Are you tired and ready to give up, especially after a stressful holiday season? Can you take a break from at least one thing that is causing stress and draining your time and resources? Find a way to take time off. Get your balance back. Your feet underneath you. Take a deep breath. Then when you’re rested, ask yourself if you still want to quit. I bet you won’t. I bet you’ll be ready to go at it even harder.

 

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Wherever You are is Perfect

All the advice on building a loyal audience to my blog is to make regular posts. I’m failing at this. Like most people, I don’t like failing. However, being kind to myself is taking precedent over achieving many of my goals.

Historically, I have not been particularly kind to myself. Most of us aren’t. We say things to ourselves that we would never tolerate being said to others. We know how those words create deep wounds and step in to defend others, but then we cut ourselves to the bone. It’s a disease we need to work on curing.

When I first moved to Missouri, I was in an almost manic phase. I had a vision of a perfect life. I didn’t want to fall into old habits. I wanted to pursue social connections and not become isolated. I wanted to find people with whom I fit. I wanted to eat right. I wanted to exercise. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to write daily. I wanted to meditate. I wanted to keep negative thoughts at bay. I wanted to solve every problem I’d ever had. AND I wanted to relax into my new slow-paced, stress-free life.

Ha! It was like I short-circuited. Since I hadn’t reached my goals, it felt as if what was true today, would be true forever. It hadn’t worked instantly, so it would never work! (face palm)

When I realized I was rushing into things and trying to make it all work at once, I actually learned from my mistakes and stopped stressing so much. I allowed things to unfold at a natural pace, and stopped worrying about where I should be. Shockingly, that has done the trick.  I actually did solve all my problems at once, and have been able to relax into a new slow-paced, stress-reduced (not free) life.

You see, once I stopped beating myself up for not being perfect and recognizing that life is a process, the social connections were far easier to make. When someone is telling you you’re a permanent failure, it’s hard to believe you’re likeable. Then I joined a group class at work, where I not only exercise, but get to do it with fun, supportive people. That ticks off the boxes, making connections, exercising, and losing weight. The more I work out, the less eating garbage appeals. I’ve started to meditate again. I’m not doing it daily, but I’m doing it more days than I was. I’m definitely reaping the rewards of that. As I slow down and focus more on being present, joy comes flooding back into daily activities. Even turning on the faucet can be miraculous if you’re in the right mindset.

So, what’s been learned? Acceptance. That, wherever you are is perfect. It has to be. It’s where you are.  If you want to be someplace else, then take a step in that direction. It still won’t be exactly where you want to be, but it will be perfect for you, because where you are now is one step closer than where you were. That’s the only way to get there. One perfectly imperfect step at a time.

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