I’m a terrible blogger. In fact, I think if you scroll back through my blog, you’ll find that most of my blog posts begin with that exact line. “I’m a terrible blogger.” And I’m always telling myself I should do better, and yet… what to say?
I know a lot of authors blog about craft, and that’s fine. But who the hell am I to try and tell somebody how they should or shouldn’t write? I don’t know nearly as much about the industry as I probably should, so I don’t want to write about that. I don’t want to blog about any of the random shenanigans that recur over and over and over again in the m/m world, or the wider romance world, because they mostly just bring me down. So, what does that leave?
I guess it leaves me. And again, some authors are quite open about their personal lives, but I’ve never been comfortable doing that. Besides which, my life is boring. I taxi my kid around. I clean my kitchen. I forget about the laundry in the washer and then have to wash the load again. (Speaking of which… be right back!) But there is nothing about my life that’s exactly memoir-worthy, you know?
And yet the truth is, I’ve had a massive shift of perspective in the past few months. And at the risk of sounding trite, it occurred to me yesterday — and continues to astound me today — how truly grateful I am to be here, right at this point in time, at this stage of my life. Summer is drawing to a close, and fall is sneaking in. Right now, it’s raining outside, and thunder is rolling off the mountains. I turned off the AC (finally!) and opened the windows and exchanged my shorts for yoga pants, my flip-flops for thick socks, and all I could think was, “I’m so ready for fall!” I’m ready for football and pumpkin patches and soup simmering on the stove. (Not that I’ll actually cook any. I’m dreaming of soup elves.)
Yesterday, I saw a group of toddlers, obviously part of a daycare, out for a walk. They were all tottering along, holding onto their little multi-handled child leash (looking nowhere near as happy or organized as those in the picture, because they were all trying to walk in different directions), and for a moment, I thought, “Awww. I loved that age.” And I did. I absolutely adored my daughter when she was two and three and even four. I loved watching all those brand new discoveries light her up from inside. And yet, as I watched these cute little kids being herded down the road, all I could think was, “I’m so fucking glad my kid isn’t that age anymore.”
And then today, I went to Target. And I watched a mother with her brand new, still-wrinkly little baby, all curled up in a ball, and I thought, “Aww. Cute. I’m so glad that isn’t me.” And the next mom, who was in a deep discussion with her practically-grown son over which laundry baskets he might need in the dorms, and I thought, “I’m so glad DD isn’t running off to college just yet.”
And I stopped for a moment, just sort of struck silly by something so simple: I love my kid so much it hurts. And I’m glad she’s ten. Ages five through eight nearly killed me, and nine was hit and miss, but so far, ten is glorious. I’m loving ten. I’m glad she’s reached the age where we can share Harry Potter, and have deep discussions about why Luna and Hermione are so fucking awesome (although I try not use the word “fucking” with her), and we don’t have to fight quite so often about eating dinner or doing chores. Over the summer, we spent every single Wednesday driving or hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park together, and it was wonderful to have that time with her.
Of course now fall’s here, and that means the end of summer vacation. DD switched schools this year (after suffering a particularly mean, bullying teacher last year, whom she now refers to as “He Who Must Not Be Named”). Her new school has a longer year. She started back on August 6th, and for the very first time ever, I mourned a bit when the first day of school arrived.
And yet, for the first time ages, I was also itching to sit down and write.
It’s no secret that I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with my own career over the last few years. I’ve talked about it with nearly every author I know. I’ve blogged about it a bit, here and there. I’ve let it slip at conventions. I’ve had starts and stops and months of depression. I’ve talked to counselors and sobbed to my husband and torn out my hair over it (figuratively only, because… ouch). I’ve debated quitting altogether more times than I can count.
But I’m still kicking. And more importantly, I’m still writing.
Sometime last spring, a friend of mine advertised that she was starting an Artist’s Way group. Now, I’ve read Artist’s Way before. I sort of knew the drill. But I had this moment where I thought, “That’s what I need. To recommit myself.” So I signed up.
I showed up with high expectations. After all, this was my career at stake, not to mention my mental well-being. I was ready to fix this shit, no matter what. Really ready to get down to the nuts and bolts of whatever it was that had me in knots. I was a bit shocked when I arrived at the group to find that I was completely out of place. These women (several of whom I knew already) weren’t there to fix careers or fight their way out of fits of depression. They were, for lack of a better term, a group of bored housewives who saw this as a social opportunity.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a housewife. I’ve even described myself on multiple occasions as a “bored housewife.” I don’t judge these women for being in that position. I’ve been there (I’m still there, more often than not). I know it can be lonely and overwhelming and completely exhausting. I understood why they were there. I even give them credit for taking action and signing up for the class. But see… that’s not what I thought I needed. I wanted a drill sergeant. Our “instructor” hadn’t even read the book in its entirety, and most weeks we meet only to discover that six of the eight participants haven’t even cracked the book.
I thought over and over again how I shouldn’t be in this group. How this wasn’t going to suit me. And yet, I kept going. I kept reading. I kept doing the exercises. And while I sure as hell won’t claim the book will work for all people, it really seems to be working for me. I think I’ve really had to face both the things that are causing me to falter, and my own lack of patience.
And you know, I’m grateful for those women. I really, truly am. Half of them may be six chapters behind, but I’ve never met a more supportive group.
The Artist’s Way has reminded me that self-care is important. And valid. And not a waste of time. For quite a while now, I’ve truly believed that if I wasn’t writing, cleaning the house, or actively promoting, I was wasting my time. I’d beat myself up for it. I’d feel guilty. Then I’d think, “If I already feel guilty, I may as well waste the entire afternoon watching reruns of Bones, right?”
I’m leaving that behind. I’m watching less TV. I’m spending less time online. I’m also spending less time feeling guilty. I’m trying to accept that there is real, honest value in spending an entire afternoon at Bear Lake with my daughter. There is real wisdom — and if not wisdom, then at least peace — to be gained by sitting outside listening to the thunder. And while I still fall into the puritan mindset of “work=good, play=bad” more than I’d like, I’m learning to cut myself some slack, and I’m learning to eliminate the things that trip me up.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, one of the things I’ve realized through the course of this program is how much social media fucks with me. It completely and irrevocably poisons my well, no matter what. And the bottom line is, I need to get away from it.
Anybody who pays attention can see that I’m rarely on Facebook, and although I still tweet, I have my Tweetdeck locked down so tight, I only see a select group of things. And I’m going to be honest here: you’re not in my Twitter feed. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re reading this, you’re not in my feed. If you’re a reader or a writer or a blogger, you’re not in my feed. If you don’t @ me, I won’t see your tweet. (Although please feel free to @ me any time, because I still love an excuse to chat!) It’s rude, I know. It’s violating some Twitter code of conduct. It’s practically a crime. And yet, it’s the only way I stay sane. Even with all that in place, I’m really, really close to deleting my accounts in both places.
And yet, wouldn’t that be career suicide? Every marketing expert tells us authors that those are the places we need to be. If we’re not out there being social and funny and sharing witty stories, then nobody will bother to read our books! Quitting social media is the worst thing any of us could do, right?
Well, no. Quitting writing altogether is probably the worst thing I could do. And while maybe it’s a bad idea to admit it publicly, being on social media kills me. It not only eats up my time, it shatters my confidence and destroys my will to write. Does that mean I’m weak or petty or pathetic? Maybe. But I didn’t become a writer because I wanted to spend more time on Facebook.
Confession time: I’m an introvert. I don’t want to be social. Now, give me some nice shoes and a glass of wine, and I can play the part of an extrovert pretty well, but it’s all an act. I’d usually rather be at home in my yoga pants and fuzzy socks. I used to joke with Heidi all the time that I wanted to be Joan Wilder. No internet. No Facebook. No blog posts. Just me and my cat and my typewriter and some miniature bottles of booze.
But Joan Wilder was alone. Joan Wilder didn’t have a wildly supportive husband, or a Harry Potter-obsessed child, or a lovely house (admittedly, it looks like a fucking hurricane tore through the interior, so it’s a bit less lovely than I’d like). Joan Wilder probably didn’t bother to notice when the seasons changed. She probably didn’t go running outside as soon as she heard thunder.
So you know what? I take it back. I don’t want to be Joan Wilder.
But I don’t really want to keep playing all the marketing, social media games either.
I’m sorry. But I don’t.
You know what else I don’t want to do? I don’t want to finish Return right now. I’m not saying it’ll be on hold forever. I promise you, I won’t turn into George R.R. Martin and leave you hanging for eight or nine years. But right now, at this moment, I’m not ready. The book is two-thirds finished. It needs only the third act. But it’s going to have to wait. For all eight of you who are anxiously awaiting this sequel, please accept my heartfelt apologies. I promise you, you’ll get it in the next year or so. But it won’t be in October.
The good news is, just like I’m feeling better about my kid, I’m also feeling significantly better about my career. I just wrapped up a novella for Dreamspinner. The working title is Lost Along the Way, although that could change. It’s part of a group project that includes Amber Kell, RJ Scott, Amy Lane, and Mary Calmes. It’s a light, fun little story, and god, it felt good. I spent a day last week re-reading some of the Coda books, and remembering how easy it was to listen to those boys and to let their humor shine through. I took all the photos and random clippings off my magnetic whiteboard and actually made a list of the things I need to finish. I’m not sure yet which one I’m tackling next, but I can actually look at this list without wanting to cry.
That’s progress. Sad as that may sound, it’s true.
So, if I’ve insulted you by admitting that I no longer see your tweets, I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal. But I’m going to keep focusing on thunder. And on fall. And on my daughter. And I’m going to keep reminding myself how grateful I am. And I want you to know that whether I read your tweets or not, I am really, truly grateful for every one of you who reads my books. I am. More than I can say. And while I can’t promise you that I’ll ever write another Matt and Jared, or another Cole, I can promise you this: being a better state of mind is bound to show up in my writing eventually.
I hope you have a wonderful fall, full of fuzzy socks and soup elves! 🙂