Thursday, December 1, 2011

This Year

I’ve made several references about how this has been a year of change for me. I wasn’t ready to talk about it prior to now (I can’t publicly talk about details regardless), but I think I’ve made it to a point where I’m really happy and can open up a bit.

I had reached a point at the beginning of the year where I was dissatisfied. NOT about my real life. NOT about the people with whom I chose to surround myself. It was about things that I couldn’t control, namely my writing career, or lack thereof.

I began to internalize things. Everything that went wrong would be a reflection on me. Stupid things that people would say, situations that didn’t work out, I took the weight of the negativity on my shoulders.

Writing, that had once been fun and had been my place of peace, had morphed into a painful exercise for me. Every time I’d sit at my computer, the internal monologue would start. How I wasn’t good enough and would never be good enough, because – see? – another thing didn’t work out.

I was raised in a family that has a very strong work ethic. We’re achievers. We set a goal, we work, and we get what we want. The fact that I couldn’t make this work ran so much deeper than disappointment. It began to cut at the heart of who I was.

I was frustrated that no matter what I did, it never worked out. EVER.

I think a lot of my dissatisfaction had to do with the fact that I didn’t feel like a contributor to my family. My kids are older and in school all day, I have a degree and, yet, I wasn’t working. My “work” still has no definable reality. If I had sold, well yes, THEN I could say that my pursuit was worthwhile.

Not that my husband EVER said this to me. He is supportive (I think over the top sometimes, because he thinks I can do anything) of whatever I do.

It was all me, me, me. I was the one making myself miserable.

I walked away from writing. Not forever, just… for then. I needed a sabbatical, time to regroup and recharge.

I walked away from agent #2 (for several reasons that really don’t matter to this post), and also, from what I was writing. This was a huge move. Essentially everything I’d worked on up to that point, the NUMEROUS books that are completed and not shopped, were all being set aside. It wasn’t a direction I knew would make me happy.

There I was mid-March with NOTHING. Not one page of writing that I was happy with and not represented. AGAIN.

It was the right decision. The sense of relief was tremendous. I knew it then, and I feel it now. I don’t think I could have made the journey to who I am at this point without a clean break and accepting that a lot of my frustration has stemmed from being on the wrong path.

I turned to photography to connect back to me. Photography didn’t have that hurt that I’d begun to associate with writing. I hadn’t tied myself up emotionally with it. I used it to figure out who I wanted to be as an artist. I DO consider myself an artist. No matter what medium I choose, writing or photography, it’s about creating a piece of art that I can be proud of.

I look back at that post and I cringe a little because – GAH! – the white balance on those pictures is off. I hadn’t mastered WB yet, let alone shot in RAW at that point. I bring this up because it’s reflective of my writing. It’s why I can chose to walk away from what I’ve written in the past. Is it good? Yes, to some it’s fantastic. It was to me at the time. But it isn’t where I want to be in the end. I’m on a journey and I get better every day.

It’s easy to skip steps. It’s just as easy to self-publish, as it is to buy a DSLR and set up a photography business, without working on your craft first.

The question is: What kind of artist do you want to be? – This question is what I have focused this year on, figuring who I want to be.

Is it wrong to self-publish? Of course not!

I’m simply making the argument that sometimes there can be a great learning experience to walking away from something. Yes, you love it. Yes, it’s good. But often it’s not as great as it could/should/will be if given time.

I admit, I’m scared of failing again – and look, I said “failing” even though I haven’t failed! I continue the self-doubt and internalizing things that are not in my control. It’s an insidious thing that makes me unhappy and takes away from the REAL things I do have and love.

This is probably why I have several new projects finished and, yet, not queryable. Because I can’t bring myself to get them to that point. I will be there soon.

Why am I writing this now? Well, because I’m in a really good place. I haven’t worked on my book in two weeks and I’m okay with it. Progress.

Steven worked mid-shift today. He went in at noon and will be home sometime late tonight. This morning I got up with the kids, got them off to school, and then crawled back in bed with my husband and snuggled, sleeping the morning away.

I was not in the least guilty about it. I would have felt guilty for the last number of years. There I was, sleeping away time that I could have focused on writing, on GETTING SOMEWHERE.

What really mattered this morning? Spending time with Steven. Everything else is secondary.

I smiled at him when I woke up and said, “I love my life. Sleeping all day, it really is easy.”

He laughed, kissed me, said he loved me, and then slapped my butt and told me to go bake him cookies. :) This was, of course, before he walked into the kitchen to start coffee for me (love that man!).

I guess this whole post is to say: In the scheme of life, a year sabbatical is not a bad thing. You don’t have to quit, you don’t have to give up, but there is no shame in saying, “I’m not satisfied anymore and I refuse to live my life that way.” Then take steps to GET HAPPY.

My goals for next year are going to be different. I think I’ve hidden long enough. It’s time to start trying again, this time with joy.

4 comments:

  1. I loved reading this and the insight you have given on your year off. I can relate to your journey this past year in so many ways. I am glad you took some time to find your right path and to rediscover why you love writing. I can't wait to hear your goals for next year!

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  2. Thanks for this brave and inspiring post. I'm near the beginning of my own writing-while-mostly-supported-by-my-husband adventure, and depending how it goes I may really need this reminder. We all need to step back or change direction sometimes, and it seems like you've put yourself back on the right path for you. Best of luck.

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  3. I can relate to this on SOOO many levels. Writing a book is HARD work! It pulls you away from your family, and for someone who has precious little spare time as it is, its involves sacrifice. I wrote my first one as a dare to myself, just to see if I could do it. I wrote the second one with the intention of seeking publication. Going any further, without some kind of validation that my efforts are worthwhile, isn't likely. That validation can take many forms...but its the key.

    I'm glad that you're HAPPY!

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