When I think of vacation, I think: “relaxation,” “stress-free,” “beach reading,” “no cooking,” “laughter,” “Dutch Blitz,” “lack of responsibility.”
Granted, my vacation this last week had nothing to do with sun and sand, and responsibility was merely shifted from attention on one thing to another. I spent lots of time hiking Mt. Laundry, digging out from beneath Mt. Dishes, roaming through tent-forts with Mt. Kids, and trekking Mt. Cleaning.
While I enjoyed the break from writing, I learned some things about myself.
1.) I stink at the whole not-writing thing.
I spent the week staring at my laptop. It sat like a wounded dog in the corner of my living room, and call me crazy, but I think it actually called to me. I’m lonely, it said. My keys need punching, it said. I need a screen-dusting, it said. And worst of all: You miss me.
It’s true. I did miss it. Not the laptop so much (as it’s a piece of… cheap equipment that on the best of days, wheezes through half an hour of saving a manuscript), but I missed allowing my mind to feed my fingers as I took a break from Mt. Laundry and Mt. Dishes and Mt. Kids and Mt. Responsibility.
2.) I can’t see the forest for all of the trees.
I’ve spent three years doing little but writing, now and then flooding social media with ads for my books because that’s what an indie author does. I focused so much attention on creating my stories that I sort of lived in denial about the competition an author has. When I stopped writing this past week, my gaze went from focusing on a single tiny point of an epic screen to dropping my jaw at the massive, overwhelming height, depth, and breadth of the “market.”
By day two of my vacation, I’d convinced myself that I was, as Don Quixote put it, “dreaming the impossible dream.” I took a good hard look at my work and came to this conclusion. It’s quality work, thanks in part to constant practice and the hiring of a professional editor, but even quality work will lose itself in an ocean of a billion other writers. By day three, I was ready to toss my laptop in the nearest dumpster and return to a life of the mundane with nary a dream to live for, because what was the point? I’d go bury myself behind a cubicle somewhere, sludging my way through a normal life with a normal paycheck and normal expectations.
It was a deep and fast plunge. Depression ensued, and the edges of my existence turned gray very quickly.
3.) I have friends who help me find my priorities.
On day three, soon after I’d made this decision, I had several conversations with friends. One reminded me that perhaps I focused so much on writing that I was missing signposts that may have been saying that I could write AND.
Write AND edit.
Write AND find a part time job.
Write AND volunteer somewhere.
Another reminded me that I’d lost focus on the thing that really matters. If I am truly happy writing (and I am), then why am I so worried about how my books are selling? Most of you know I hold a deep faith in God, and this friend reminded me that I could let go of worry, of wondering about finances, publicity, marketing, etc, leaving that all in more capable hands than mine, and focus on what makes me happy–my faith, my family, my friends, and my writing.
Other friends did nothing but flood my social media outlets with encouragement. They poured messages into my inbox that erased my flagging spirits. They pulled me out of the morbid pit I’d dug, reminding me that I wasn’t alone, that all of us go through similar struggles. One friend took me to see a movie–time completely free from the give and take of writing and marketing.
4.) I miss my characters when I don’t spend time with them every day.
It’s true. I’ve gotten to know my characters so intimately that spending a day without their quirks and thoughts and ideas sometimes seems lonely.
Call me a recluse, but it’s not true. I have hundreds of friends, at least half of them literary.
5.) I hate Facebook. I love Facebook.
Somehow, I convinced myself that while I was on writing vacation, I would not spend as much time on Facebook either. This is not true. If anything, I spent even more time on it–probably because I wasn’t writing, but I also discovered something. A lot of my circle of friends also use Facebook. And I realized that Facebook isn’t just something that I use to post cute pics of my kids and funny Just For Laughs videos. It’s created close online relationships that have deepened into in-real-life friendships. Some of my closest friends, I’ve met online. Craziness.
A year ago, I found some writerly-type people on Facebook, who became dear friends, one of whom invited several of us to her home today, where I found this treasure.
How could I not be grateful for how my life has been enriched since becoming an author?
It’s been a crazy week. Even though I didn’t write a word, I learned a lot about myself as a writer, as a mother, as a wife, and as a friend.
Overall, I think I kinda like what I’ve found.