I enjoy listening to sisters Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft’s Happier podcast, based upon Gretchen’s book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, a book I highly recommend. One “Try this at home” tip was to come up with one word to describe your focus/goal/direction for 2016.
I didn’t come up with a word immediately (yeah, like it’s June already, but you can listen to a podcast at anytime, people). It bothered me. I want almost more than anything to have another book under contract, to be messing around with revisions and galley proofs. Okay, technically, I did have a manuscript under contract, a piece in an anthology, but it’s been under contract a long time, and my part’s all done. But you can’t will yourself to be published or for editors to respond faster.
I so get that the only thing under my control is the writing.
I was still out of sorts, grouchy even. I supposed that because I couldn’t come up with a word that it meant that I was out of touch with my essential mission. I also had had a horrible virus, which robbed me of essential brain power.
This morning, though, the word appeared—not quite like an angelic host holding up a glowing neon sign, but pretty close.
The day before I had been cleaning out the closet in my office, and while I recycled LOTS of paper, I realized I was performing an archaeological dig of my writing career. Glancing at correspondence from 2003(!), I realized that some of the fun I had had with writing—bantering with editors, agents, and writing friends—doesn’t exist anymore.
Where had the fun gone? Then, when I looked around my office, I thought this isn’t a fun place to be, or in which to create. It’s too cluttered. I have too many manuscript drafts all over the place. I haven’t filed papers that need filing, and the piles are making me feel guilty. No wonder I’m having trouble focusing. Also, here’s a tip for you: always date your manuscripts, so you know which version you’re reviewing. That way you can file your drafts in order of creation, from oldest to newest.
People don’t talk much in public about what happens to a writing career that seems to have stalled out, or worse.
But maybe I needed to. My word is “reboot.” Following closely are “reimagine” and “revision.”
This is perfect for me. I’m at that mid-life stage—not old, not young, but solidly in-between.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what is within my power to change, and what brings me up instead of dragging me down.
Some of the things I realize is that social media doesn’t substitute for real life relationships—for writing friends who get that you are struggling. Social media has a way of painting bright shiny pictures, when we all have our ups and downs, and mostly, people just share the ups. And usually, I’m that upbeat, eternal optimist.
So I did stuff. I went to Kindling Words West—I missed last year. I hadn’t made enough money to justify forking out the cash, so my pride kept me from going. This year, I did make the money to attend, but it hasn’t been from my seriously funny children’s books. I started ghostwriting—think company blog posts and content marketing. It was something different, some writing muscles I hadn’t flexed in a long time, and mostly it has been fun, so whatever I do during my reboot, it will no doubt include more articles for a grown-up audience.
And I applied for and accepted a work for hire project to do a children’s nonfiction book, so that’s under contract. It turned out to be a challenge with a steep learning curve, but I did it, and now I’m waiting for revision comments to show up in my in-box.
I’m still that upbeat, eternal optimist, and I’m working in my decluttered office right now, and liking it, even though I have a few more file cabinet drawers to clean out, and perhaps one file cabinet to donate entirely—or give to a local writer—when I’m done.
You know that’s a nice word, too.
©2016 Jennifer J. Stewart