happiness

Too Many Cooks In Your Kitchen?

Too many cooks spoil the broth. It’s an age-old proverb, but it’s as true now as it has always been. The sad thing is that it has taken me all 37 years of my life to figure out how important it is to keep cooks out of my kitchen, so to speak. I can track a lot of my issues in writing, publishing, parenting, friendships, etc., back to too much input from others and not enough listening to myself. I’ve done a great job at learning to ignore my instincts and relying on other people telling me what they think I should do. 

So where does that leave me? This year I’ve made a conscious effort to get back to discovering me. What are my values? Not what everyone says I should value. No. What do value, and what choices will get me closest to those values? This is much more difficult to determine than I thought it would be, but once I truly made a commitment to figure it out, things have been falling into place. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s not that I don’t value other people’s experience and opinions. I do! And they are absolutely essential, but only to a certain extent. This is where the “too many cooks” idea comes into play. I’m learning how to cull my circle of influence, and it’s not easy. Social media makes it especially difficult. I’m sure you can see why. So many voices, ideas, opinions, ads all the time. I think this is why some people find themselves a lot happier when they decide to cut down on social media. Less cooks.

As far as writing goes, I’m in a much happier place lately as I’ve made some tough decisions on who sees my work before it’s published, who I want feedback from, and when I want and need it. I’ve already noticed a big difference in how quickly I’m writing and how many ideas I’m allowing myself to entertain because I don’t feel as much pressure to second-guess those ideas.

So here’s my question. How many cooks do you let in your kitchen? Have you had experiences that slowed you down or steered you in the wrong direction because you were trying to listen to, and please, everyone at the same time?

 

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Working With Other Writers, Writing Process, 1 comment

Figuring It Out

Sometimes I think it’s easy to convince ourselves what others want is what we want too. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to see that what we truly, deeply want is something we’ve been fighting all along. For years, I’ve convinced myself publishing my own work was a secondary choice — something I was only doing because my publisher closed their doors and I had no other choice. It was so much easier to believe that “truth”, especially in a writing community where Indie-publishing isn’t exactly put up on a pedestal.

For so long, I’ve prefaced all my publishing conversations with, “Oh, I was traditionally published, but my publisher left the business. Not my fault.” That helped me keep my chin high. I was respectable if others understood that my work was previously validated by the traditional publishing industry. I was a Real Author at that point.

But here’s the problem: I ache for respect — from my family, from friends, from complete strangers. It’s a natural thing to crave, I suppose. But I’ve let that desire overtake so many things in my life. I’ve let it fester so deeply that I’ve mistaken it for what I thought would make me happy. But it’s not what will make me happy. Respect from others cannot replace the gaping hole I’ve dug for myself — a hole filled with shame and disrespect … for myself.

2016 was an eye-opening year for me. I went through some tough changes that have nothing to do with writing and publishing. But those things have helped me see one very important thing: nobody can escape themselves forever.

I can’t count on my fingers how many friends have told me my eyes light up every time I talk about publishing my own work, and how depressed and miserable I look when I talk about querying for an agent and finally getting a publishing deal like everyone else around me. I’ve constantly battled between the two worlds. Which one do I embrace? For a long time I thought I could embrace both. I would continue to query for agents, and if those books failed, I would publish them myself.

But the truth is that I’ve only wanted to do that so people would respect me for trying to jump into the traditionally published world — a world I’ve convinced myself will make me deliriously happy if I’m ever lucky enough to be admitted. The other truth is that I’ve completely ignored the fact that most people don’t respect you for your accomplishments and supposed success. They respect you for standing by what you believe in, for being YOU instead of trying to be something you’re not. True success is nothing but a side effect of that.

So, yes, it has been far too easy to convince myself what others want is what I want too, and it took some very difficult changes for me to realize that what I want right now is something I already have. I was just too stubborn to see it until now. And what I want might change in the future, but that’s okay. For now, I’ve got to embrace what I have. Here’s to hoping you can embrace what you have too, no matter what it is.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, 6 comments

The Day I Quit Writing

I remember the day I quit writing. It was the day I graduated college with my creative writing degree. A few weeks later I got married. My life completely changed, and in all honesty, I was so burned out from four years straight of school that I decided I was truly finished. I didn’t have any desire to write, any desire to read, any desire to do anything but move on with my life and figure other stuff out — like how to be married.

For the next five years, I wrote three mediocre poems and read one set of books (the Harry Potter series). FIVE YEARS. I really had given up. Completely. My lifelong dream of becoming a published novelist had been flushed down the toilet because the desire … it was gone. My muse? She’d packed up and left. But I did keep creating. I learned photography. I bought expensive camera equipment. I bought expensive software. I learned how to use it really well.

And get this. I was happy.

Yes, I was happy with not writing. I had a child. I had a husband. I was creating artistic things with my photography. I was fulfilled. I didn’t need writing to make me whole at that point in my life … and that was a valuable lesson, probably the most valuable lesson I will ever learn as a writer.

When my daughter was eight months old, we moved into a new place, and I realized that I had been in a bit of a rut the past few years. My photography didn’t seem “special” anymore. It wasn’t fulfilling me in the ways I needed. I started to look backwards at a time I had shoved far, far away — college, high school, days when the only thing that made me feel alive was writing. Since photography wasn’t fulfilling me anymore, I wondered if that old dream of mine might give me what I need …

I pulled up an old manuscript, one I’d shoved so far into the dark that I thought it could never possibly resurface. It was 30,000 words. It was the most horrible piece of fiction ever. A friend of mine read it and told me it had potential. It was like riding a bike all over again. It was painful and I fell over countless times, but eventually that desire to write came back full force. Like a freaking freight train barreling into my life. My poor husband. He’d never known me as a writer. He had no idea who this Crazy Obsessed Person was living in his house. She never slept. She kept talking about stories and girls being kidnapped. She made him read poorly written prose. My poor husband.

A friend of mine has been asking herself lately why she writes. She wonders why she tortures herself like this? My comment to her was to quit writing and find out, not that she should do that, of course, but it’s what I had to do. I quit. Completely. AND I WAS STILL HAPPY … (at that point in my life). But then I got to a point in my life where that happiness was waning. Right now I need to write, whether nobody reads my books when I put them out there or a lot of people read them when I put them out there. It doesn’t matter. I will share regardless of outcome. And I might get to a point in my life that I don’t need writing anymore. I have no idea. I can’t predict the future. But for now, writing fulfills me in ways no other creative endeavor can. The important thing to remember is that writing is not what makes me who I am. Who I am is what makes my writing.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Writing Process

IWSG January 2014 — The Problem With the Advice, “Never Give Up”

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeI’ve been to a lot of book launches and signings in the past few years. Almost all of the authors who have spoken at these events have said one thing — Never give up! Their message is usually one of comfort and peace to the audience, which is bound to contain hopeful authors wishing they will one day be up there launching their own published book. They go home, their hearts filled with hope and a little bit of jealousy and a lot of motivation to just keep going. They think, If I keep going — if I never give up — I will get that. I will get exactly what I’m working for.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it usually works. At least, my little pessimistic brain and experiences have summed it all up as such. Never giving up will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time — experience — and sometimes nothing more.

If you  work hard enough, it’s not going to guarantee you an agent or a big publishing deal or a best seller. It’s not going to guarantee you a lot of money and happiness. Hell, it’s not even going to guarantee you an equal amount of what you put in. Especially if that’s the reason you’re never going to give up.

I’ve watched some of my author friends work their fingers to the bone, certain that if they hit the right formula with marketing or self publishing, or tried hard enough, they’d be a best seller — never to become a best seller with that book, or the next books after it. I’ve watched some friends query for years and years and years, finally get an agent, never sell a book with that agent, and then finally leave that agent only to start over again at the bitter beginning. Never giving up.

michelledargyle_sarablarson_defylaunch_kingsenglish

Me and Sara B. Larson at her launch for her debut DEFY. Sara never gave up.

And I’ve watched myself start out on almost every endeavor, absolutely certain that this is the one project that will get me exactly what I want — and discover that the only tiny point of “major commercial success” I’ve found so far was on the book that I didn’t do anything for, the one I had very little faith in, the one I just gave to my publisher on a whim because it was sitting there. So I foolishly decide that if I have little faith in anything and repeat that process, maybe I’ll get lucky and see that kind of success again. Yeah, right.

The truth is, life isn’t fair. And it’s incessantly unpredictable. Hard work sometimes gets you nothing but experience and bloody knuckles and a whole lot of frustration. Some authors never sell more than a few copies of their books a month. Ever. No matter how hard they work at it, and it’s not because their writing sucks or they aren’t trying hard enough. They’re often the ones who never stop trying. Some authors don’t hardly try at all and they hit all the jackpots one after the other, making it look easy. And some authors work their butts off and do finally get exactly what they want. For a minute.

But most of us? Most of us are the ones who follow that advice and never give up and find one small success for every ten, twenty, thirty failures — and then forget about those small successes because they seem so freaking far apart. They lose their luster and brilliance, like so many gold coins gathered in a dark, dusty bag at the bottom of our pocket. I imagine that over the course of time, however, that we sometimes dump out those coins and realize that we have gained something, and it’s worth more than we realized. I imagine that no matter the outcome of our “not quitting”, the experience we gain is far greater than those pieces of gold. I imagine our friends’ pieces of gold often look brighter than our own, especially when compared to one another. I imagine, however, that it’s not the actual pieces of gold that sparkle, but the glasses we’re wearing that determine their brightness. And I imagine, going one step further, that it’s the “never giving up” that gives us better glasses to see with.

So the problem with the advice to “never give up” is that I think it so often implies that you’ll get exactly what you want if you follow it. But that’s almost always never true. What you do get is often a quite different version than what you imagined, filled with disappointment, but also satisfaction and some sweet, sweet happiness — usually enough to motivate you to tell others never to give up either.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

Collected Writerly Wisdom of 2013 and How Each One Changed My Life

A long time ago in a year far, far away (2013 to be exact), I started out filled with hope and wonder and enthusiasm. I was going to complete three novels and blow my publisher away with how much I’d grown. I’m glad to say that I did grow … but it certainly wasn’t the experience I’d imagined it would be. It was better and worse at the same time. It was … well, it was life, and that’s a pretty grand thing. I made some new friends, sadly allowed some old friends to fade into the background, lost a publisher, gained my own publishing company, learned a heck of a lot about self-reliance and confidence, and I can honestly say that this comic FINALLY made me feel like I was doing the right thing. I also discovered why Facebook and other social networks make me miserable 90% of the time, and why 2014 is probably going to be the year of me retreating even more into a smaller technological and social bubble than I already have (but I’m okay with that). A friend of mine beautifully pointed out the kind of people we should all strive to be, while I also found the perfect, straightforward guide to understanding The Introverted. And yes, I am proudly part of The Introverted.

As for writing … ah, writing. The beautiful world where you can give yourself writer’s block and basically make yourself a miserable mess, the world where a writer brilliantly describes what REALLY happens after you’re published, and also points out that One Big Realization we all should have remembered to begin with, and a world where it’s painfully essential to remember the absolute, true power of story for all of us. And you know, it REALLY IS OKAY TO SUCK AT WRITING, but most importantly, you must realize that doing what you love doesn’t mean you don’t work your ass off.

So, what the heck ARE average book sales? It’s probably not what you think. Also, sticking to your own uniqueness is vitally important if you want to feel truly successful. But one of the hardest things I learned this year is the danger of needing everyone to like you because, let’s face it, that has always been an issue for me. Since the day I was born. It’s something, that with the help of my lovely friend who wrote that post, I’m slowly learning how to eliminate.

Although 2013 wasn’t the first year I’ve been a published writer, I still learned that almost every published book is something not entirely immune to the seven stages of publishing grief (it happens to everyone who didn’t land in Magical Unicorn Publishing Land). Outside of publishing … dealing with the actual writing, here’s a piece of writing advice that saves me every time. Here’s the key to understanding why your books may be misunderstood, and why you’re doing it wrong if …

This is the best traditional vs. indie article I’ve ever read, and this is the best definition of writerly success I’ve ever read.

But probably the best thing I discovered in 2013 was Kristine Katherine Rusch’s blog. Okay, yes, she writes super long posts, but they are long for a reason, and they’re worth reading every single time. She’s so awesome that as soon as I have a little bit of extra money, I’ll be donating to her blog. Two of the most inspiring blog posts I read of hers this past year are highlighted below.

Like Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake and Robert B. Parker and oh so many others, I want to die with my boots on, facedown on my keyboard if possible, in the middle of a sentence. Which brings me back to this blog. I write from the perspective of a career writer, someone who started as a teenager and plan to finish when my heart stops pumping. I write about survival—long-term survival—in a business that discourages longevity. That’s my point, that’s always my point, in all of these blogs. ~ From Career Writers, Kristine Katherine Rusch
But most professional writers smile a little when they think about NaNoWriMo. Because we’re writing all the time. And improving our craft. And when our books don’t sell well, we wonder if we might be at fault—if we told a flawed story or if we chose a difficult subject matter. If we self-publish, we worry that we might have a bad cover (and we fix it). But mostly, we shrug off the unsuccessful novels and move on to the next novel. Because we’re not artists. We’re professionals. Most people don’t expect a gold star for showing up at their day job every day. They just expect a paycheck. The same with professional writers. Just because we wrote 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean we get a gold star or a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Hell, it doesn’t even mean we get a paycheck. It means that we better get ready to write another book next month. Because that’s what we do. We write. Join the ranks of professional writers. Stop treating writing like an event, and make it a part of your daily life ~ From Reality Check, Kristine Katherine Rusch.

Mostly, with the help of all I’ve shared in links today, 2013 was a time I reflected on what I really want and how I’m going to get it. I realized one very important thing: Writing a novel is not a goal. A writing career is not a goal. Writing is more of a system if it’s going to work in the long run. As long as I’m treating what I do professionally, seriously, and happily, it works. Books are not events. They should be part of a system, and sticking through the thick and thin, the ups and downs, over the long haul, is what matters most. I’m a pretty dang lucky person to be able to write whatever I want, when I want, and how I want. That’s the big awesomeness 2013 brought me. It’s more valuable than gold.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out some of the links above. I certainly didn’t choose them lightly! Happy 2014, everyone!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Best Posts for Writers, Think Positive, Writing Process

When Loved Ones Don’t Support — Or At Least Understand — Your Writing Career

“When are you going to get a real job?”

That is probably the harshest criticism any artist can ever get from anyone, especially people close to them — whether it comes with full understanding from the person asking, or it’s simply an honest, clueless question. I’ve seen it happen to several successful artists, writers, actors, and musicians in my life. I’ve felt it in my own life from strangers and loved ones alike. I’ve written before about friends and family not reading your work or when people love you and not your writing, but today I’m talking about something a little different — something that I’ve seen literally make some artists quit right in their tracks and do something else that they think will make others happier. In some ways, it’s the artist’s fault if they let others’ opinions pressure them to quit. After all, we are in charge of our own happiness and destinies, right?

I’ll be brutally honest and say right now that I’ve felt negative pressure for a long time now from the world in general, and not just because of my writing. I happened to marry an actor who has chosen to pursue a career in acting and combat choreography. He’s still in school and it’s taking a long time to get through. He has a day job that pays our bills, but he’s also actively pursuing his dream, and he’s not letting anything get in his way. In this way, my husband has been one of the most shining examples of happiness and sources of inspiration for me and my own choice to chase after a dream that many people simply don’t seem to understand. Why would we both choose to pursue artistic careers and limit our own comfort and happiness? That seems to be the question — phrased in so many unspoken ways — that we get asked on a consistent basis, whether people mean it negatively or not.

Why would we choose to limit our own comfort and happiness? Well, the simple answer is that we aren’t. When I married my husband and he decided, after some very trying experiences for both of us, to follow his dreams and do what he loves, I told him that I’d rather be poor and rent for the rest of our lives than see him follow any other career path that will make him regret leaving behind what he knows he was meant to do. Several years later, I decided to chase after my own artistic dream, and well, here we are. We’re both close to our mid-thirties and in a lot of debt. We don’t own a home. Sometimes we can’t buy groceries or shampoo or toilet paper, and sometimes I wonder how we’re going to make it every month, but we always seem to push through and move on. The most important thing is that we are happy with what we’re doing — and we haven’t given up.

I do have to admit that one of the hardest blows for me just happened recently when my publisher closed their doors and I was left with what felt like absolutely nothing. I had to start all over again, it felt like. Finally, though, I realized that I have more than I thought I did, and I’m now picking up the pieces around me and moving forward just as I was before. I may not sell as much as I did with a publisher, and I know for a fact that I’ll get even more of what feels like disapproval for my chosen career path, but the truth is, I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I’m a mother, which I happen to feel is the number one most important job in my life right now. Yes, more important than writing, obviously. My daughter is one of my top priorities, but guess what? We went to a parent teacher conference the other day, and her teacher said, “So your daughter tells me you’re a writer. I think that is fantastic.” A really great conversation about writing and teaching and my daughter’s own pursuits ensued. My heart melted. My daughter knows I am doing what I love to do. She sees that I am happy, and that makes her happy, and I hope one day she will have the courage to follow her own dreams no matter how difficult and impossible they may seem — because her parents did just that.

Many, many people in my life do support, appreciate, respect, and at least try to understand what both my husband and I are doing with our lives. For that, I am truly grateful. I figure that if someone doesn’t approve of what we’re doing, that is not our problem and we shouldn’t waste any time letting it affect us. So, I suppose next time I get the “when are you going to get a real job?” vibe from someone, I can make it quite clear that we’re perfectly happy where we are, and I hope they are too. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate more people who are chasing after their dreams like we are. None of it is easy, and most of it takes a massive amount of patience to see any satisfying financial results. For some reason, the world seems to measure success with the amount of money you’re making, which I find very sad. It would be nice, yes, if my husband could quit his day job because he found financial success with his acting and stage combat/choreography. He does make money at it so far, and I make money at my writing, as well, but we don’t make enough to completely support us. Yet. One day, though, I believe we will — as long as we don’t give up.

“When are you going to get a real job?”

“When you stop reading books, watching movies and television, looking at art, going to plays, and listening to music.”

End of conversation.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive

IWSG October 2013 — I Am Surviving!

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeMy last post was pretty depressing. Sorry about that. I like to freak out, and sometimes it leaks out into posts and social networks. For the most part, I try to keep these freakouts to myself. It’s best for everyone, I think. The truth is, I’m surviving! Before I bore you with details, I’ll entice you with the news that I’ll be announcing a new book release date very, very soon. Double yay! Then, once that is out of the way, things will calm down and I’ll get to drafting my next novel.

So, my insecurity for this month? The wonderful thing is that I feel less insecure right now than I have in a long time. Not sure why, but it’s a great feeling. My family is happy and healthy, the weather has been beautiful (despite the fact that we have snow in the forecast for this Friday), and I’m feeling confident about my writing. Let’s hope all of this lasts! My encouragement to others is to hang in there and keep your sights focused on what is most important to you. Things almost always sort themselves out, maybe not in the ways you expect, but sorted nonetheless. More than likely, I’ll have something huge to be insecure about next month, but I’m hanging tight for now. I hope you are too! Let me know what is good in your life right now, even if it all seems bad. Find one good thing and share if you can.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

What I Used to Care About

If you had asked me four years ago what was important to me in my publishing career, my list would have been very different from what it is now. Seeing my books in a bookstore was deeply important to me. Almost nothing else mattered, in all honesty. If my book was on a bookstore shelf, that meant I was important, respected, and seen. It meant I had “made it”, even though I’m not sure I knew what “made it” even meant. Back then, I had a very different vision of where I wanted my career to go and how it would change my life. It might be silly of me to talk about this now, only a few years later, but I’ve been through a lot in those few years. It wasn’t until my publisher closed their doors a few weeks ago that I fell flat on my butt and could see where I had been and … for the very first time … where I wanted to go. This clarity is a big deal. In fact, I can safely say it’s the biggest deal that has happened in my writing career so far, mainly because I believe it will positively influence everything from here on out.

The truth is, for a little while, I allowed myself to quit. I really was going to walk away from everything. I didn’t tell anybody this, but giving myself permission to make that choice opened up everything to me. When I got back up from that, I realized I’d either have to republish my books or shelve them once my rights were handed over, I knew there were some big decisions to make. So I made them. What has happened after that has been completely unexpected. I feel … happy. And not just a relieved sort of happy because I’ve made a decision, but really happy. Almost giddy. At first I wasn’t sure why. I thought it was because I would now have complete control over everything concerning my books. I also thought it might be because I had so many people supporting my decision, but even though all of that is wonderful, it’s not any of those things. It’s because out of nowhere, I suddenly don’t care about things that have plagued me for years. They are gone because it’s now clear what I want.

I used to stress about validation around every corner. I worried about my books getting into bookstores and libraries. I worried endlessly about whether or not I would be able to book a signing at a real bookstore. I used to fret about what all my friends thought about my publisher and whether or not I was respected and judged to be a good writer and person because of it. I used to die a little inside every time someone talked about their agent or announced a book deal and posted their Publishers Weekly announcement. I used to worry about what people would think of me if I told them I published my own books.

Now?

I care about telling stories, writing better every time I sit my butt down in my chair, producing quality books, and interacting with my fan base. That’s it. Everything else is just the little fringes on the outside of what really matters. Those other things can be important, sure, but there is no right way to publish, only what is right for you at the moment. I don’t care if I decide to publish my stories differently somewhere down the road. I just don’t care! The only thing that matters is that I’m happy with my writing. Everything else stems from that. I don’t know if I can explain how I feel now, but the best way I can explain it is that I’ve kicked down a wall and I can see the sky for the first time. I know there will always be storms down the road, but for now it’s a beautiful day.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive

How Taking Two Days Off a Week Has Helped Me Write Faster and Better

Clear back in January, I made a decision that has changed the way I work and play. By the time I graduated college almost 10 years ago, I was burned out. My second-to-last semester, I measured the stack of books I had to read … it was literally two feet tall. I never did make it through all of them (I cheated and used Cliffs Notes for some *cough*). So it’s no wonder I couldn’t bring myself to open any novels (aside from Harry Potter) for five full years. My creativity took a nosedive. I wrote two whole poems in that five years. Par-tayyy! Needless to say, I really did think my dream of becoming a writer had crashed and burned and died a fantastic, tragic death. Especially since I had gone to college so I could write. I was pretty depressed over it, so in 2008 I decided to pick up writing once again and began working on my old novel, The Breakaway, that I had completed in high school. Now, five years later, I have four novels published and I feel like I’m finally doing what I planned on doing all along. But … I realized last year in 2012 that I was quickly going to burn myself out again if I didn’t change something soon. That was when I made the decision to take every weekend and holiday off from writing. To me, that was a huge decision. The weekends were when I accomplished most of my work! They were when my husband was home (especially Sundays) and I could finally grab a few uninterrupted hours away from my child to work. So I didn’t make that decision lightly.

Surprised

I eased my way into this decision, starting in November 2012. By the time January 2013 rolled around, I was in full-swing of taking off two full days a week. Not only had I decided to take off Saturdays and Sundays, but I also decided to read a novel during those two days, as well. What happened blew my mind. I was not only reading one novel a weekend. Sometimes I was reading two. It was also a surprise to me that by the time spring hit, I was getting story ideas by the bucket loads. That has never happened to me! Only a few have stuck, but I certainly didn’t have to dig for them like I’ve had to dig in the past. It was like a creative switch was turned on inside the back of my mind. As of this past weekend, I have read 40 novels since January. I used to only read 15 novels a YEAR. Sometimes I don’t read a book on the weekend, but I don’t feel guilty about it. The weekends are to relax and refuel, whether that be through a novel or just playing.

The other thing that surprised me was that during the week, I was writing faster, better, and I didn’t feel nearly as drained as I used to. Even with deadlines, I have continued to take off Saturday and Sunday every single week. I also take off major holidays. I still hit all my deadlines and word counts. This still blows my mind.

Time to Help Others

The other thing I’ve noticed is that now I have some sort of schedule, when others ask me if I have time to beta-read their novel, I can tell them that I do, and not feel like it’s going to cut into my other work. At the most, it will take me two weekends to get through a novel for someone. It usually only takes me a weekend, though (if it’s free of other commitments). I also feel like I have time to host giveaways like full-novel critiques. I’ve done this once, and it was a fun success I plan to repeat.

Not Just Saturday and Sunday

Everyone’s schedule is different. For some friends of mine, their weekends are insanely busy with family stuff. For others, the weekend is the only break they have from their day job and it’s the only time they have to work on their writing, period. My schedule isn’t something I’d ever push on anyone. It works for me. What I do want to suggest is that no matter what your schedule, be aware of how hard you’re pushing yourself. Are you taking regular breaks? Are you taking time to read as well as write? I think both are essential for any writer. It was a difficult decision (and at the time, it felt like a sacrifice) to cut two entire days out of my work schedule, but I’m so happy I did it and that I’m still doing it. I’m now fitting more into my schedule. My writing time is more productive, and I’m happier overall.

In the end, what I’ve realized is that even if taking off two days a week ends up meaning I work a little more slowly in the long run (so far it hasn’t), it’s worth it. The biggest payoff has been how I feel overall. I feel ready to work again by Monday. If it takes me one month longer to finish a project, so be it. In the long run and the timeline of publishing, one or two months doesn’t make much of a difference. My happiness level does. 

Does two days a week sound like too much of a sacrifice to you? Have you felt burned out from working too long without breaks, like I did? I’m interested to know what other writers out there do when it comes to burnout and figuring out a schedule. 

 

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Writing Process

The Price of Perfection

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability from the perspective of an author — from someone who chooses to write from the heart and then put that work out there for people to read, mock, love, hate, etc. I make myself vulnerable on a daily basis, but after listening to a TED talk shown below, I realized I’m missing a key element to vulnerability, and that is I have not fully embraced it and made it okay. I haven’t accepted that what makes me beautiful is my imperfection. 

I feel a lot of shame about things like my imperfect body, mistakes I’ve made, the way I forget so many things, the fact that I’m not a big bestseller.

But … it should be (although it isn’t yet) … my too-fat thighs? They’re imperfect. They make me me. That zit on my forehead? It means I’m human and alive. The first book I published and all those things I’d write better now that I have more experience under my belt? It’s imperfect. It’s who I was then and makes me now. The mistakes I’ve made? They have molded me into who I am.

The price of invulnerability, i.e, believing — we must be perfect, we must have it all or we are worthless, we must get an agent and sell big or writing isn’t worth it, we must lose weight to feel accepted and worthy and beautiful, we must have control, we must know what will happen — the price of living that way is a great price indeed. Watch this video to learn what that price is. It’s worth the time. Like her, it might take me years and a long fight to get to where I need to be. Where are you in your acceptance of imperfection?

Thank you to Linda Cassidy Lewis for sharing this video with me.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive