Doing It All - Part 2
Last week we talked a bit about prioritizing the things that bring you joy and the difficulty in that "easy" task when so many things bring you joy. I love spending time with my family, watching movies, giggling over the silly things they say or do, but more often than not, I have my laptop in front of me and my phone within reach, even during those moments. And, while I thought this was helping me stay on top of things and be engaged, I have to be honest, it wasn't.
At that same RWA Conference in Orlando I mentioned last week, I met USA Today Bestselling author Jeannie Moon. Well. "Met" might be too official. We were at the literacy signing and I'd told my husband (the family was with me because: Orlando) that I was completely dried out. I needed water or lip balm or something. So, he went on the hunt and found Jeannie and her lip balm. He asked if he could bring me a tube because he wanted a kiss. LOL. And, from there, Jeannie and I were suddenly on each other's radar.
So, when I was thinking of putting these posts together, I reached out, asking if she'd be willing to comment. See our conversation below.
You and I met in completely unique way, but shortly after that I remember reading a Kristen Higgins post that said something about your journey and how you’d been doing EVERYTHING right for years and then, suddenly, something clicked and readers found you. How did you keep from getting bogged down in disappointment or frustration while continuing to put the books out there?
I did get bogged down. It’s really hard to keep looking forward when you have all this baggage piling up behind you. There were all these expectations for my books, and then nothing materialized. I had to keep remembering why I started writing. I did it to tell stories. Not for money, or sales, or to keep my editor happy, I did it for myself. So even though I was published and had those deadlines, I had to keep my eyes on my characters and my own reasons for getting words on the page.
It wasn’t easy. But through it all I had my RWA chapter and my friends and family who believed in my no matter what.
Are there people you’ve surrounded yourself with who you credit with helping you keep your chin up and moving forward toward your goals?
Like I said, my family and friends were amazing. They took the pressure off when I had to work, or was stressed about a story. But real encouragement came from my RWA chapter. These are my people. I cannot stress enough how important it is to find other like-minded souls in this writing business. Without people who really understood how it felt to be blocked or frustrated, I might have packed it in a long time ago.
How do you balance the family demands with the day job and the writing?
I’m a very routine oriented person, so that helps. Lately, I’ve been trying to block out time each day to open my manuscript and stare at it, or add words, or revise. My current method isn’t tough to manage because my kids are grown and being a teacher, I do get home on the early side (I’m at work by 7am every day), but I’m still working it all out. I’ve slowed down considerably over the past two years because I started to burn out. I was doing too much and everything suffered as a result.
When I was writing three or four books a year, I let my health suffer. I wasn’t getting enough sleep or exercise, and I wasn’t eating right. I was already overweight and it got worse. My joints started to deteriorate under the weight and my blood pressure shot up. I was headed for a serious crash, so last year, I righted the ship and took care of me. I eat better, I exercise, I lost weight, and I feel so much better. The key to it all was the sleep. Don’t skimp. No book is worth your health.
I can't thank Jeannie enough for your honesty and candor. For the past couple of years (maybe longer now that I'm thinking about it) I've been burning the candle at both ends and have been deeply dissatisfied with the results. Not that my job performance suffered (or so I've been assured), but I was not happy with it. I felt lost, I was tired, I could go on and on. And, the worst part of all of that is that I thought it was normal.
That sounds silly as I type it out, but the fact is, everyone I know has been dealing with burnout (that's what I'm describing here) in one way or another. And, for me, I felt guilty about feeling it. I knew I was busy. I like to be busy. So I shouldn't complain about the fact that I'm busy doing so many things I love, right?
Wrong. Not that complaining will solve things, but we need to acknowledge that our plates are overflowing and allow ourselves some grace to deal with it. Figure out a new way when the old way isn't working any longer. And, lets be real, sometimes things that used to work don't any more. I used to be able to get up early in the morning to work out, then write. That's when I'm at my most creative. But the boys are getting older and their school day starts earlier and earlier, so that has cut into my time. I haven't been great about finding a new way...but I'm working on it.
I'm going to wrap up this post on a high note (I feel like it's been a bit of a bummer this morning - sorry!), and remind all of you out there that you aren't alone. Finding a group of people that are "your people" (as Jeannie described above), is so important for your mental health and well being. People who can understand your need to write, even if it means you're skimping on the sleep, and who care about you. You don't have to join and in-person group if that isn't your thing there are a ton of online resources as well. If you need some direction on where to find these like-minded people, drop me a note. I'll be happy to help.
For now, let's all practice being kind to ourselves. Whatever that looks like for you.