Tag Archive: writing

On mental clutter

I recently finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo after it was highly recommended by my lovely friend and CP. The wildly popular book operates on the principle that we should only keep things that spark joy, and discard the rest, which is simple in theory but extremely difficult in practice. As I read, I became uneasy thinking about the amount of things I own that spark zero joy. In fact, since I have so much stuff and not enough storage, a lot of things end up sparking the antithesis of joy– anxiety. While I still haven’t gone on a full decluttering spree using the categories the book suggests, I started by going through my closets and found a surprising amount of clothes and shoes that I could easily part with. As soon as I filled up the garbage bags for donation, I felt lighter and less burdened.

Beautifully uncluttered.

That got me thinking about clutter. Not just physical clutter– the clothes jammed into my closet, sometimes sharing hangers, or the piles of paperwork building up on my desk– but all the mental junk building up in my brain, accumulated not through shopping sprees but time spent online, mindlessly reaching for my phone and scrolling through social media any time I’m sitting still. I suddenly realized I don’t really know how to be alone with my thoughts anymore, because any opportunity I have for boredom to set in– when I’m in line at the grocery store, waiting in my car to meet a friend, when a commercial comes on– I’m apt to whip out my phone and open Twitter or Instagram, or catch up on celebrity gossip. My brain doesn’t get a chance to rest because it gets busy again with what’s going on in other people’s lives. Sometimes I think my brain doesn’t even know how to rest anymore– my first instinct when I can’t sleep at four a.m. is to grab my phone and open an app.

There’s nothing wrong with pulling out your phone when you’re bored. If you look around, most people are doing the exact same thing. But what I want to be aware of is exactly how much those few minutes here and there add up to hours spent absorbing random and unnecessary information instead of creating something. I want to be okay with knowing what boredom feels like, because with boredom comes imagination. And while it seems natural to use the two minutes you’re waiting for your coffee order at Starbucks to click a bunch of hearts on Instagram, those two minutes snowball into the ten minutes on your break at work and the five minutes you spend waiting for a pot of water to boil while cooking dinner. It’s all time you don’t get back.

It’s not as straightforward to declutter your mind as it is to get rid of physical possessions by putting them in garbage bags and hauling them off to Goodwill. You can’t just dump the contents that aren’t serving you anymore. You can’t pick through your brain and pull out the useless information, separating it from the important content. But I’m going to start by just becoming more mindful about how I spend those minutes where I have “nothing” to do. I don’t want my imagination to be muffled under a blanket of news feeds and timelines. I want to learn how to be fully present, instead of constantly distracted with my attention pulled in several directions. I want to be okay with boredom again and work on sweeping out the details my brain doesn’t need, leaving room for new thoughts– and ideas– to take up the space they need to grow.

The time I almost quit

We give a lot of glory to the big milestones in this business. Finishing a draft, getting an agent, going on sub, announcing a book deal. The smaller wins get love too– things like writing each day, starting a new book on craft, or meeting a reading goal are celebrated. But sometimes what we fail to talk about as a community are those moments when we come close to giving up. The gritty underbelly of all of the good things tends to get glazed over with a pretty dollop of success. When you do see somebody’s good news, you rarely think about what happened for that person to get to that point. You don’t see the near-misses or the almosts, the messy drafts that go nowhere or the tears. I share a lot of my own good news on social media– book deal announcements, photos of my neat and organized writing space, snippets from what I’m working on. But today, I felt compelled to talk about the side I don’t show as often. My own gritty underbelly, in the form of the day I almost quit writing entirely.

Shelved, but not forgotten.

It was spring of 2013. I was getting married in less than a month, so needless to say, my life was incredibly busy with wedding preparation. I had been querying a New Adult manuscript since December with some interest and several requests, but no offers. I was totally convinced that it was only a matter of finding the right agent for my project. And one day, I got an email regarding one of the full requests. They wanted to set up a time to talk to me about my book. On the phone. It was THE call, I was sure of it! Much flailing ensued. This was my moment, after six months of querying. Everything was coming together for me.

But the phone call wasn’t an offer. It was an R&R, which I pretended not to be disappointed about. I tried not to get my hopes up, and I diligently set about making the changes that the agency wanted to see. I pored over my manuscript, certain that I was making it so much better. I could practically envision the book deal announcement. When it was ready, I sent it back and kept my fingers crossed for good news.

But it wasn’t good news. There was an email passing on the project less than a week later, on a Friday night when I was binging on Shark Tank in my pajamas. I’d like to say I took the news well, but I remember crying in my apartment. I had an opportunity and I fell short. What if another opportunity never came? I wasn’t good enough. My manuscript wasn’t good enough. Every single doubt I had ever cast on myself bloomed around me, sucking me into a dark cloud. I didn’t even want to look at my computer, and suddenly the dream of being a published writer was ridiculous and unfathomable. I was glad only a few people in my life knew that it was my goal to become a published author, because it was less embarrassing to only fail in front of my immediate family. With that one rejection– one person’s opinion– I convinced myself that I should just give up entirely.

And I did give up. For one week, two weeks, three weeks, a month. I didn’t open a Word doc or create anything new. I focused on all of the other good things in my life. My wedding. My mini-moon. My friends and family. My dog. Summer weather and patio season and long walks and barbeques. I think I needed that break, needed to let myself be upset over something that really hurt. I needed to let myself feel the sting instead of glossing over it the way I usually did. I needed that time away from writing.

I told myself that life was easier without the rejection and judgment that comes with being a writer, or trying to be. And it was easier. But it wasn’t me. I was happy, but I wasn’t creatively fulfilled, and for me, the two are tied together in a knot that can’t really come undone.

Picking myself up and trying again was not easy to do. But I did it, slowly at first. I sent more queries, knowing that they might end the same way, with rejection. But I also knew if I didn’t send them, my book would never see the light of day. I became more active on Twitter, despite my shyness, and I started entering contests. I worked on a different New Adult manuscript and let myself believe that it was my best work yet. I truly believe that the art of creating that book might have saved me from quitting entirely. (This is part of the reason why I believe always working on the next thing is so important!)

That new manuscript? I didn’t query it very widely before a new idea lodged itself in my head and wouldn’t leave. That book was Firsts, and I wrote it over a furious and magical three-week period. Then I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars, and my life was forever changed.

Not finding an agent with that second book really didn’t sting at all. It was a totally different experience then the first time around. All of my expectations weren’t hinged on one manuscript. I was so excited about Firsts and getting into YA writing that I felt a sense of possibility, like anything could happen. And a couple months after Pitch wars ended, my dream of getting an agent did happen, and then I dared to think even bigger and let myself believe the book would sell. After it did, I dared to believe I could keep selling books. And I have.

The truth is, my dreams didn’t change from when I wrote that first book. But my expectations did. I went from feeling like I would fail if a book didn’t get me an agent or published to being okay with any given book not being the one. Because I can always write more. The words won’t dry up if I write too many. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The more I write, the more efficient I get, and the less I get attached to any one darling. My advice? Get comfortable with whatever you’re working on not being “the one.” Don’t consider any writing you do a waste of time, because it never is. And let yourself mourn the losses. Admit that it sucks to be rejected. When you’re done grieving, I promise you’ll come out on the other side stronger than ever.

My first two books are currently trunked, but they were some of the best use of my time. Maybe I’ll go back to them someday. Maybe not. But they’re the foundation upon which everything else was built, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

Finding yourself without a map

Sometimes memories strike at random. Maybe it’s a smell or a taste or an article of clothing or a photo that Facebook shares with you that morning. And sometimes, memories are brought on by thinking about where you were, and who you were, ____ years ago.

Graduation night from Journalism school, thinking I had life figured out.

I was recently thinking about a time in my life that was almost 10 years ago exactly. I was waitressing full time, bobbing from one social event to the next, changing my hairstyle as often as I changed my clothes, and feeling like I was getting deeper and deeper in a meaningless rut. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life, and I knew I needed to change.

Enter the idea of Journalism school. There was something about going back to school that signified a fresh start in a sharper and more concise way than almost anything else I could think of. School meant direction and purpose. School meant action. So I applied, was accepted, and as the summer drew to a close, I moved out of my apartment and started packing my life into boxes (and into a U-Haul, which would promptly go to my new apartment, in a different city nearly two hours away).

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from Journalism school. Maybe I was looking for the metaphorical flashing sign, some inner voice telling me that I had found my calling. I think part of me expected that since I had made such a big change in my life, the universe would go the rest of the way and let me know that what I was doing was the right path for me. But that’s not what I got. What I got was the bone deep knowledge that I was not doing what I wanted to do with my life, big change or not. I had simply veered from one lifestyle that wasn’t right for me in another wrong direction.

I wanted to quit. I recall a tearful conversation with my mom wherein I entertained the idea of dropping out because I knew the program wasn’t for me. But that didn’t feel right either. I wasn’t a quitter. I didn’t want to be one of those people who only ever saw how green the grass was on the other side.

So I stuck it out. And I actually grew to like it, at least some of the courses I took and things I learned. I convinced myself that I liked it enough to move to Toronto and take an unpaid internship that would hopefully lead to a job. Even though I knew my heart was somewhere else, I felt a sense of satisfaction at having chosen a life path. I felt like an adult for maybe the first time ever.

Fast forward a few months after school ended. I was living in Toronto, doing two different internships. My life had routine and a purpose. I should have felt good about that, but the truth was, I felt more lost than ever. What if I continued along this path and never found out what I wanted to do? Or what if I already knew, but lacked the guts to admit it to myself? 

Then a recession happened with the economy. Entire departments were cut and my internships did not lead to jobs. If I believed in signs, the universe might as well have lit that one in flashing fluorescent bulbs. I made the decision to move back home, and back in with my parents. I felt like I had failed. At that point, although I never would have said it out loud, I knew that writing books was what I wanted to do with my life, but I had no idea how to go about it. So what did I do instead? I signed up for more school, this time an honours specialization in English literature. I convinced myself that throwing myself back into academia would lead to the answer I was looking for.

It took me a couple more years to figure out that my checkerboard lifestyle actually followed a very decisive pattern. I was excellent at looking for distractions and finding reasons to convince myself why I would fail at writing before I could even get a word on the page. I was excellent at talking myself into things I wasn’t passionate about and talking myself out of my dreams. 

To be honest, I’m not sure what changed this. I’m not sure what made me finally open a Word document and start typing. I’m not sure what made me stick with it when I felt like a total hack and when I was sure nothing would actually come of it. There wasn’t one specific moment in time that made me realize I needed to write. There was no bell in my head, no glaring sign from the universe. I think it was the thousand small moments that finally built walls around me and ensconced me in my truth.

It has now been almost five years since I finished that first novel, which is now rightfully trunked. It’s now several hundreds of thousands of words later, some of which are published or will be published, and some of which will only ever be seen by me. But they all mean something to me. They mean I sat down and wrote that day. They mean I had guts. They mean I didn’t let my fear of failure stop me from being the person I want to be.

I still struggle with the fear of failure. I still get intimidated when I open a new Word document. But the difference is, I hold myself accountable. I don’t let fear stop me. If I could go back in time and give the version of me clinging to the idea of Journalism school a piece of advice, it would be to spend less time looking for signs and more time listening to my own instincts. I would tell that girl that she would never regret a single day spent with her butt in the chair and characters in her head. I would tell her that it doesn’t matter what other people think. I would tell her not to talk herself out of her dreams.

Last of all, I would give her a big hug and tell her to be kind to herself, because finding yourself sometimes requires a map that doesn’t exist.

On being a girl’s mom

Baby’s first photo shoot! Photo credit to the talented Shirley Konu of SVH Designs!

Hi everyone! I’m taking a brief hiatus from my monthly update posts for a reason tiny in size but monumental in importance… the birth of my beautiful daughter, Astrid Doreen Lucille Flynn! She was born at 2:00 am on May 26, and the days since have been a total whirlwind. Everyone says time goes by crazy fast when you have a child, and I’m realizing that it’s not just a cliché… it’s very true. Astrid is almost four weeks old now and I have no idea how that happened already!

It’s not usually hard for me to write about anything (generally, it’s the opposite… I have too many words and too many ideas and not enough minutes in the day or space on a page to express them all)! But writing about Astrid and how she has already changed me is difficult to do. I had no idea it was possible to form such an instant, immediate, fierce love and devotion for another person. I had no idea that an adorably gummy little smile would bring tears to my eyes, or that I would wake up in the night just to stare at her and make sure she’s okay, or that rocking her to sleep would be such a feeling of comfort, or that changing a diaper and using less than ten wipes would be a big accomplishment. I had no idea I could function and be productive on so little sleep. (To think I used to need at least eight hours a night… ha!)

While I haven’t been writing much since Astrid arrived, I have been thinking about my writing, and how being the mom of a daughter will influence it. Shortly after Astrid was born and I was holding my baby girl, I realized how much I want to write stories for her, stories with strong female characters she can see herself in. Stories with girls who aren’t perfect, but who are real. Stories with girls who follow their hearts, who are fearless and unafraid of going after their dreams. I want to write stories that will inspire her (when she’s old enough to read them)! And I want to introduce her to books by so many of my talented author friends, who write some seriously authentic and memorable girls. I hope that books are a part of her life, the way they have been such a huge part of mine and helped me discover things about myself. I hope they make her realize there is no dream too big for her.

I’m an unapologetically girly girl. I have a closet devoted solely to dresses and skirts. I love purses and shoes and makeup and spa days, the color pink, girls’ nights spent drinking blush wine and watching Say Yes To The Dress. My lipstick collection is out of control. My Chihuahua owns several dresses that I make her wear. But I have another side. I’m also a daredevil. I also love hiking and being outside and if there’s a body of water to jump into, chances are I’ll be on the highest ledge, ready to dive in. If there’s a new trail to explore, I’m on it. I’ll try almost anything once. Girls don’t have to be one way or the other. Girls can do and be everything. I’m the mom of a girl who is now my everything. I want to show my everything that she can do and be anything. I can start by continuing to live my own dreams and set my own big goals, by not being afraid of that intimidating book idea or venturing outside of my comfort zone. I can live by example, as a strong woman who takes risks, so that she looks up to me.

And I can only hope that in the meantime, when she looks up at me, she keeps giving me those magnificent gummy smiles.

Some big news…

I’m so excited to announce the bookish news I have been dying to share with everyone! My next two YA books (both contemporary psychological thrillers) have sold to Erin Stein at Imprint (Macmillan), with a tentative release date of winter 2019 for the first book, which is called Last Girl Lied To. I’m really looking forward to working with Erin, who has brilliant ideas and such great insight, and I’m honored to join the Imprint family!

That’s the short version. The long version? Well, we’d have to go back to February 2014, just after Pitch Wars wrapped (I was a mentee for Firsts). An idea for a creepy YA thriller was taking shape in my head, and I wrote a first draft in just under a month, giving it the working title Heavy. But… it just wasn’t the story I envisioned in my head. I planned to revise it right away, but a lot of stuff happened at once. My husband and I bought our first house and moved in, and I received offers of representation for Firsts, ultimately signing with agent extraordinaire Kathleen Rushall. So my little draft was shoved to the side of my desk… or more like, buried among other Word documents. But out of sight was not out of mind, because it was still on my mind.

When I came back to revise the draft, I got frustrated. It wasn’t going to be easy, like how it felt with Firsts, where I intuitively knew what needed to be changed and could make a plan to address each issue. Each time I opened that Word document, I felt like I was in way over my head. Instead of just tackling it in pieces like I should have, I ignored it and cheated on it with other WIPs. But I always had this nagging sensation in my head that the thriller was the book I should be focusing on.

So finally, I did. And I didn’t just revise– I rewrote the whole book. Twice. Then I revised some more.

Portrait of an author being driven crazy.

The toughest part for me was actually plotting the book, not just flying by the seat of my pants like I usually do. Last Girl Lied To taught me a lesson: that every book follows a different process, and what worked with writing one book might not work at all with the next one. And there’s nothing wrong with that. At one point, I remember sitting on the floor of my office with different colored Post-Its stuck to my closet door and walls in an attempt to place scenes where they were supposed to go. I might have even told myself that I’d never write such a twisty book ever again. (Alas, that was a big fat lie!)

But then, after all the hand-wringing frustration that revision brought, something wonderful happened. I had… a book. A book I believed in, that I had poured my heart and soul into. I sent it off to my brilliant critique partner, Emily Martin, hoping she would like it. And she did. Then I sent it to Kathleen, and was a big ball of stress waiting for her response. I wanted so badly for her to love it. And she did. A happy dance ensued.

More revision happened with Kathleen, but I moved through that quickly and with a purpose. Knowing she stood behind the book really fueled me. Then, we went on submission. And waited. (If you’re a writer who has ever known the particular hell of being on sub, you know exactly what I’m talking about!) We waited some more. We received some great feedback and very kind passes, but hadn’t yet found the editor who would champion the book. In that time, Kathleen’s faith in the book (and in me) never wavered, and her support was constant. It’s my wish that every writer has an agent like that in their corner. Then, the book went to acquisitions at Imprint, and I got the call from Kathleen– we had an offer from Erin for a two-book deal!

In total, the book was on submission for over six months. (Don’t even ask me how often I checked my email during that time, because it’s a disturbingly high statistic per day. Oh, who am I kidding– per minute.) It took longer to sell than Firsts. At times, my writer insecurities got the best of me, and I was convinced it wouldn’t sell. Writers, if you’re in the same boat, do not give up hope on your work. It WILL find the right home, even if it doesn’t happen overnight.

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned from the process was not shying away from the writing when it got hard. Once in awhile, we’re lucky, and have books that write themselves. I got lucky like that with Firsts. But Last Girl Lied To was a different story, and has ultimately been the most rewarding writing experience of my life. The book is so important to me, and the fact that it took a lot of my blood, sweat, and tears (okay, maybe not any blood, but lots of frustrated tears), makes me that much more excited to know that it will soon be a book-shaped thing, on a shelf in bookstores. I wrote what scared me, what didn’t come easy. I forced myself to plow onwards, even when it would have been easier to give up and write something that didn’t give me so much grief. But I did not give myself permission to quit. And as a result, this book means more to me than anything else I’ve ever written. Writers often talk about the book of their heart. Well, so far, this one is mine.

Now, I am looking forward to the next steps. Edits and line edits and copyedits and cover reveals and ARCs (!!!). I truly cannot wait for this book to find its readers. If you like your YA twisty and dark, I hope you’ll enjoy Last Girl Lied To! A little bit about it? It’s about seventeen-year-old Fiona, whose best friend goes missing, after which Fiona is faced with the reality that the girl she knew better than anyone might have been a carefully constructed lie– and her disappearance might not be an accident at all. It’s set in a coastal town in California and is full of secrets and betrayal and regret and friendship and first love and damaged boys and broken hearts.

Thank you so much for all of your ongoing support. My readers mean the world to me, and I am so fortunate to share this journey with you all. It’s official: my second and third book babies are on the way! This is the part where I would normally crack open a bottle of champagne, but… sparkling juice it is, for now!

April, briefly

Photo credit to Shirley Konu of SVH Designs!

It feels like April was exactly that… brief. I know there are only 30 days in the month, but is it just me, or did those days fly by exponentially fast? We have been so lucky with the weather here (I even stored my winter coat away… touch wood), and it has been warm enough to go for walks in shorts and a tank top. It’s hard to believe that by this time next month, there’s a very strong possibility that I’ll be someone’s mother! (Unless he or she inherits my bad habit of always running late…) I’m getting so excited to meet this little one and find out who has been in there this whole time!

This month, I have been…

Working on: It has been all about the YA psychological thrillers this month. I’m using a corkboard and cue cards to track my progress (thanks, Save the Cat), and I feel like I have been more productive than usual as a result. My attention was very scattered and unfocused near the beginning of my pregnancy and I was having a hard time writing anything I liked, but things have changed in my third trimester and I’m motoring along at pretty much my pre-pregnancy speed. Maybe it’s because I know this is the last time I’ll be able to write without balancing writing and motherhood? I’m not sure, but either way, I’m taking advantage of it! (And I may be hitting you writing mommies up for advice about balance soon enough!)

Reading: I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Heather Ezell’s 2018 debut, Nothing Left to Burn, a book I have been excited about since seeing her book deal announcement in Publisher’s Weekly. Heather was a fellow Pitch Wars mentor last year, and not only is she an incredibly sweet person, but she is one hell of a writer. I absolutely adored her debut. It’s fast-paced, thrilling, and so different than anything else out there. I’m so excited for it to find readers!

I also read another book I had been highly anticipating– Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage. I was a huge fan of Kim’s debut, After the Woods (we were fellow Sweet Sixteen debut authors!), so her second book had long been on my radar. It definitely didn’t disappoint. Her writing is so gorgeous and evocative, and the story itself was full of mystery and intrigue and heartbreak.

Watching: My husband and I binge-watched two great series based on books this month. The first, 13 Reasons Why, had me completely captivated. Jay Asher’s book was one of the first YA books I read, and was very influential to me as an aspiring author. I thought the series did a fantastic job of bringing the book to life, and the actors were nothing short of amazing. The episodes were haunting and at times very hard to watch, but I think it’s such an important book and has opened a lot of dialogue between teens and adults alike.

We also watched Big Little Lies, which is based on the book by Liane Moriarty. I haven’t read the book yet, although it has been on my TBR for quite awhile, but the series was excellent (and now I want to read the book even more than I did before). Great acting by a brilliant cast of female actresses (especially Nicole Kidman), and such a twisty, surprising plot. There are only seven episodes, and I think we finished them in just a matter of days.

I hope all of you have had a great month! I have some big news I’ll be sharing this coming week, so stay tuned!

March, briefly

My curious little helper!

Well, it’s official… March has come and gone. I’m grateful that I have quite a bit of new writing to show for it (not to mention, a bigger baby bump)! All in all, it was a busy, productive month, and exciting things are happening that I hope to be able to share with you all very soon!

This month, I have been…

Working on: I had a creepy new idea for a YA thriller, so I started writing it, and a week later, had almost 50 pages. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here! (I think the key to my progress was writing at coffee shops a couple times instead of just at home, where I tend to get distracted very easily.) In the latter part of the month, I went back to revising last year’s NaNo book (also a YA thriller), and I’m still trying to untangle it and figure out what it’s really about. I have a feeling that revising in this case will involve a lot of rewriting, but that’s okay… the framework of the story is somewhat there, and I’m figuring the intricacies out as I go. It just feels great to have words flowing again after being in somewhat of a rut earlier this year, and I hope this momentum continues until baby gets here!

Reading: I read a seriously fantastic book that I’m still thinking about– Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Very quickly, I became pretty much obsessed with it. The writing, the intricate storyline and structure, the incredibly realistic characters… I was left with a book hangover for several days after I turned the last page. It’s gorgeous and evocative and so, so compelling, and I recommend it to everyone looking for a read that will really suck them in.

I also finished Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter, which is chilling and disturbing and twisty and compulsively readable. This was actually my first Karin Slaughter book, and I’ll definitely be looking into more of her thrillers going forward!

Watching: I owe a big thank you to the Lyon family of Empire for keeping me company when I had a horrific bout of the stomach flu early in the month. I was pretty much prone on the couch with crackers and Gatorade for a couple of days, and those Lyons kept me entertained! I’m on the third season now, and I seriously adore this show. If there’s a better screen couple than Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, I don’t know about it. My husband and I also watched the second season of Love on Netflix, which is such a quirky, funny show. (Gus is so adorably awkward!)

Now that April is just about here, I hope to finally be able to ditch my winter coat and boots for good! But in Canada, you never know…

Keeping the spark alive: how to conquer burnout

Burnout is something all writers face at some point in time. As much as we love what we do, sometimes it feels like the creative tank has been depleted. Either the ideas are lacking, or the motivation has dried up, or maybe both– either way, it can be a maddening cocktail of emotions.

I fell into an unmotivated spiral sometime last month. It was just after the New Year, when you’re supposed to make resolutions and feel energized and ready to tackle anything. Instead, I just felt tired. I chalked it up to the fact that growing a human takes a lot of energy, and it was normal for me to not feel like tackling writing projects with my usual aplomb. Plus, I had other things on my mind… decorating a nursery, creating a baby shower registry, looking at baby name books. But regardless, I was used to fitting writing in with everything else going on in my life, and couldn’t figure out what had changed.

It was only after talking to my husband about it one night that I figured out the root of what was going on. He helped me figure out what was missing, and why I wasn’t feeling as passionately about writing as I did before. A lot of it came down to how I was using my time. Part of the problem: I was wasting too much time mindlessly scrolling through social media (I’m sure we’ve all been there!), and comparing myself to other people. I wasn’t even aware I was doing this until I heard the words come out of my mouth. Sometimes, you have to actively remind yourself that what you see on social media is someone else’s highlight reel. We all have ups and downs, but we tend not to share the lows.

The other problem (which isn’t even a problem as much as a new situation) is that I didn’t have one project to focus all of my energy on and set deadlines for, but instead, was trying to work on several projects at once. I just didn’t know how to implement a schedule to work on all of them and be productive, and also remain interested in pursuing each one. I felt like my attention span had dwindled to that of a fruit fly– bouncing from one idea to the next, but never resting long enough to give it a chance to become something.

So how am I going to fix this? First, by admitting that it’s okay to take breaks sometimes. If you’re someone like me who tries to write every day, not writing can feel extremely detrimental, and like you’re going backwards instead of moving ahead. But this isn’t always the case. Forcing it can make it feel like a chore and not like something you love, and I never want to be in that position with writing.

I’m also stepping back from social media a bit, and choosing more set hours to be online, instead of being half-there a lot of the time. Often, after a weekend was over, I didn’t feel rested at all. I had spent a good chunk of it on my phone, responding to emails that weren’t urgent in nature just to get them out of my inbox (I’m a bit obsessive about never having any unread messages linger there). But the truth is, those emails and tweets can wait. I’m making the conscious decision to unplug and focus my energy in places that make me feel creatively replenished, not drained.

My main mission is to learn how to write unselfconsciously again, something that seems instinctive but really isn’t. I need to write for me and pursue ideas that excite me, even if they don’t go anywhere. Instead of thinking “what if” in a negative way: “what if this doesn’t sell? What if this is stupid? What if I’m wasting my time?” I’m trying to turn “what if” into a positive: “What if I love this and it turns into the best thing I’ve written?” Because I know from experience that even writing that goes nowhere is not a waste of time. It’s a learning experience– and those ideas that trail off, that don’t quite make it into books, are always something that can be pursued later.

I wanted to share all of this in case anyone else out there is feeling the same way… burned out, exhausted, uninspired. You’re not alone, and you haven’t lost your talent. You’re a writer, and these are the realities we struggle with. What we do– creating something out of nothing– takes a lot, and we don’t reward ourselves enough. Take a break. Read lots of books. Reorganize your office. Go back to your characters with excitement, not fear. And write your little heart out.

My new writing space

With the new addition to our family due at the end of May, some shifting around had to happen in our house to make room for a nursery. Luckily, our basement renovation had just been finished, so my husband moved his office downstairs, and I took over his old office location, which is right next door to the nursery. When baby sleeps, I will try to write! (Or something like that…)

I was excited to have a new office to decorate, but struggled a bit initially with the layout of the room. It’s longer and more rectangular than my old office, which was more of a square, and I didn’t want it to feel narrow. Thanks to my husband, who is a genius at furniture layout, I was able to make the most of the space, and I’m really happy with the end result! The walls are painted a blue-gray color that I love (it’s actually the same shade we chose for the nursery), and I have a better desk and new computer monitor, along with my beloved desk chair and bookshelf.

 

One mission I had before moving into my new office was purge some things I wasn’t using anymore. Decluttering is one of the greatest feelings– there’s something incredibly satisfying about admitting you’re not using/wearing/reading something and donating it to a local charity instead. So that’s exactly what I did. It took a lot longer than I thought it would (this is a common theme with projects I take on…), but I was determined to have a fresh start in my new space without any clutter bogging me down. Some was thrown out, a lot was donated, and I repurposed some things I completely forgot I even had. I organized all my swag items and mailing materials, and found a spot for my massive collection of notebooks. There’s a saying about how a cluttered workspace = a cluttered mind, and I think there’s some truth to that, at least for me. As a person who errs on the scatterbrained side (especially with baby brain, which I swear, is a real thing), I can use all the zen vibes a space can give me!

 

My plan for the wall over my desk is to have all my future book covers turned into plaques and hung up. Firsts is, obviously, the first one, and when I’m slogging through a draft that I feel is going nowhere, I can look up at it and remember that I do know how to write books after all.

Now that my office is finished, I’m excited to get back to my writing routine and spend some quality time there before baby arrives!

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