Stuck (pt. 1)

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. An emergency hospitalization of my grandmother (for whom I’m a caretaker) which required me to spend both nights there; followed by week-long bout with the flu (which I probably picked up from the hospital, but I digress) doesn’t bode well for the creative process. Even as my full recovery drew nearer, and I did my usual “write it in your head” part of my process, I faced a crisis that strikes fear in the heart of every creative:

I got stuck.

Once I was able to stop sleeping for long periods of time, and managed to stop coughing up a lung, I tried to work on the rewrite of next book in my Bastille Family Chronicle series, which is Dominic’s story. I made major changes to his love interest, which required more research (shoutout to Cynthia and Ekaterina for the gamer info!)–which required a recalibration of the plot, especially after I added some different tension points to the love interest. But the flow still wouldn’t come.

Then I pulled up the first draft of the novel I started for National Novel Writing Month 2012. This was a more serious book (the BFC series are contemporary romances), which take longer for me to write. Tinkered with that some, made some progress. But I felt guilty because I wasn’t working on the BFC book, which my readers are looking for by spring.

Then I managed to write a science/speculative fiction/fantasy (SFF) short story for submission to a magazine. The story was based on an SFF book I started back in…2006, or somewhere around there. Anyway, that was kind of fun, and made me think about revisiting that book again. And the guilt over writing another BFC book took over.

I had to ask myself why I felt so guilty. Was the thrill gone from the series already (I’ve only published the first one, and have five more to go)? If so, why? I’ve gotten positive word-of-mouth feedback from readers so far, and the excerpt seemed to work toward introducing me to a broader audience of fans. My readers are looking forward to the next five books, as well as a stand-alone spinoff. The book is selling, again via word-of-mouth. So what’s the problem?

I thought long and hard about it, and my conclusion wasn’t pretty. And I have The Ninja to thank for it.

More on this in a later post. Thanks for stopping by.

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On Clarity

In 2013 (or rather, early 2014), I wrote a two-page letter to myself outlining what I wanted to accomplish in 2014. I sealed it in an envelope and wrote across the flap that I should not open until Dec. 31, 2014.
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Some things got accomplished, like self-publishing two books (although not the two books I’d envisioned), improving my health via more exercise, and paying down some debt. Others, like getting a beagle; finding (and keeping) my Mr. Right-For-Me; and meeting some of my favorite authors like Steven Barnes, Nikki Giovanni, and Marcus Samuelsson–not so much.

As I read through the letter and alternately chuckled and grimaced at my stated goals, I noticed one thing: it was rather vague, overall. While I wrote in declarative sentences, I didn’t feel that same sense of confidence. The letter came across as a bit too “wish upon a star”-ish, instead of “let’s get this done”. Which brings me to reiteration of this point: you can wish and hope all you want, but you’d better be really clear on what you want to accomplish; roll up your sleeves and make it happen; and you’d better believe, deep down, that you will make it happen.

When I wrote this 2013 letter, I was in a different head space. I’d just relocated from another state to help care for my ill mother & grandmother (who were more ill than they’d let on). I’d taken on a new position with a former company that granted more responsibility and, given the nature of the job, required a lot of hustle. I was now living in a place to which I had never planned on returning on a long-term basis, with a job in a company that had once only existed to me as a fond memory, to step into a caregiver role that I thought I’d finished when my other set of grandparents died over ten years ago. To say I was discombobulated was an understatement, and my “goals” letter reflected that undercurrent of uncertainty.

This year, I got back to my practical roots and simply wrote three pages of a “to-do” list for 2015 (the pages were only 6″×9″–about the size of a large paperback book–and I wrote on one side of each page, lest you think I’m even more of an overachiever LOL). As I wrote, I felt a sense of confidence that was missing from last year’s letter. Perhaps because I had achieved personal/professional milestones. Perhaps because I became more confident in my craft, and finding new ways to navigate the seismic shift the industry is undergoing. Perhaps because I found tribes in the most unlikely places, where I can be both nurtured and challenged to be my best self, both personally and professionally.

Perhaps the greatest thing I gained in 2014 was clarity, and I am forever grateful.

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s get it in the 1-5.

Thanks for stopping by.